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about an hour for her appearance, she suddenly dashed into the room, apparelled in riding trim-thereby disturbing what seemed a very interesting tête-à-tête between Clara and Reggy Belmont.

The major rose and walked over to the window, looking sheepish, while Clara-as is generally the case under similar circumstances, was much the more self-possessed of the two, albeit, not quite pleased.

“What on earth is the matter, Lilly? You come in like a thunderbolt.”

“Oh, I beg pardon !" laughed Lilly-glancing at Major Belmont's well-parted back hair, and making a grimace-I only came to tell you that you must settle your amusements for yourself to-day, because I am going to take a long ride with papa, and we won't be home till night, very likely. Papa said I was to tell you that the duke is to be at Portsmouth to-day, and that if you'd the least inclination to go down, mamma would be delighted to have the excuse to chaperone you ; you must settle it all with her. Good-bye !"

Away went Lilly; and Major Belmont, facing round as the door banged, drew a long breath.

"By Jove ! she takes one's breath away. What an excitable little thing it is! Shall you go to Portsmouth ?”

"No, certainly not,” said Clara ; " I've no patience with reviews."

“Oh, haven't you? Well, it would be a bore. I'm not like some fellows, never happy out of harness. Now, nothing I'd enjoy more than having a nice little farm, and a pretty cottage near a trout stream, within reach of a good pack of hounds, and"

Reggy paused, and looked at Clara. He was on the very verge of the precipice for about the hundredth time ; but Clara was laughing, and I defy a man to make a proposal when he sees the preface getting criticised and laughed at. So, biting his moustache, he left the next item blank, to be filled up when occasion served, and returned to his place by the window; past, which presently Lilly, her father, and groom rode; and Reggy, not having forgiven the look he had caught on Clara's face, remarked

“Ah, here's Lilly; what a bonny little flower she is ! By Jove ! the colonel's on the old war-horse; I thought he never mounted him except upon state occasions.”

Clara had come over to the window, and stood watching the riding party.

“He spoils Lilly completely,” she said, in reply to Major Belmont's remark. “What is that the groom is on ?”

"A splendid horse, isn't he? I've been breaking the tenth commandment ever since I saw him ; but the colonel-or rather Miss Lilly, for he's her property, won't part with him at any price. He was bought at Thornhill when your uncle's stud was sold, andVOL VI.

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“I thought I remembered him," said Clara, in a hushed voice. “He was a favourite of poor Harry's."

CHAPTER XXXIV.

ANOTHER FIRESIDE TALK.

“Roger has come home, mamma,” said Silvia, looking in at the door of her mother's room upon her way to bed. “He and Captain Elmes have just arrived, both very cold, and out of temper."

And, seeing her mother was sitting by the fire, Silvia went in, and established herself upon the hearth-rug.

“I thought they didn't intend coming until to-morrow." “Nor I; but just as I was coming upstairs, the dog-cart drove up."

“How late you are! I had no idea you meant to sit up all this time, or would have brought you away with me; it's not right for you to be sitting up to all hours of the night with Gerald, and you must not do it again.” “Mamma !” exclaimed Silvia, in a startled voice.

! “Of course there is no harm in my eyes, or yours, or his ; but it is what the world would say."

Her mother spoke hurriedly, as if she had predetermined upon what to say, and wished to get the duty over as quickly as possible.

And this, in very truth, was the case. Since Captain Elmes had arrived, Lady Wimborne had paid more attention to her daughter, and hence the discovery which had perplexed and even frightened her. At first, when the suspicion presented itself, she would not admit it to have any foundation ; but then the suspicion merged into conviction. Some trivial circumstance during the day that was just past had done this, and, under the circumstances, the knowledge was a very perplexing one. She felt how culpable she had been in exposing Silvia to the danger; but then no thought of any such danger existing had ever crossed her mind. It was the old story of “self.”

Gerald Guest had ridden to Chichester to get the telegraphed result of the day's racing, and, when he brought bad news to Mr. Weymouth, and that gentleman had retired to smoke off his despair, Lady Wimborne, unable to conceal the anxiety she felt, had pleaded a headache, and gone upstairs, thinking that in the quiet and loneliness of her own room she could think over the discovery she had made, and lay some plan for her future conduct; but it is not easy to think sometimes, and her ladyship's thoughts were headstrong at all times; then minor causes were at war with her, too. Her housekeeper had been lying in wait, and brought a whole budget of matters to be arranged ; then her maid, having heard a wonderful story about a mysterious gentleman who had

come courting Miss Babbington, repeated the same with many exaggerations and comments, all of which fell unheeded upon "my lady's" ear; indeed, except that there was something about Lilly Babbington and a lover, she knew or remembered nothing ; she had not been able to

; think, however, and was just settling to that, and had made up her mind to speak to Silvia to forbid these tête-d-tête walks and rides ; upon this in came the culprit, and, as we have seen, received the full charge.

But with what wonder and amazement she listened, by degrees dimly comprehending her mother's meaning, is beyond my power to describe. For a time after that one little outcry, remonstrance, or appeal, which. ever you may please to call it, coming as if to ward off a blow, she had spread her two hands over her face and remained silent, shivering now and then, but neither speaking nor giving any sign of emotion, and Lady Wimborne, having broken the ice and let forth the hidden current, was beginning to feel alarmed for the consequences. She had anticipated a burst of angry or petulant indignation, not this sudden silence, which frightened and awed her.

"Silvia, love, I did not mean to distress you.” A convulsive shudder was the girl's answer, and pressing her fingers closer, she crouched down until her face rested upon the sofa, and her head was beyond the reach of her mother's hand; then there was another silent interval, and Lady Wimborne tried a new tack.

" Has Gerald ever spoken to you of love ?"

"Mother, mother,” cried Silvia, taking her hands away, and showing her face crimson and shamed, “how could he ? He does not love me !"

Something in the girl's eyes held Lady Wimborne silent, and prevented her continuing the subject in the same way, so she fell back upon Charley Elmes.

"People are talking of your engagement to Captain Elmes as a settled thing; you will have to decide about him, he is evidently serious."

“I am very sorry."

"Then you do not intend to accept him. I thought you liked him, Silvia ?

She shook her head.

"Could you not learn to do so-he has everything to make you comfortable, and there can be no doubt as to the love he bears you ?”

"I never could marry him, mother."
“But when you love no one else better, could you not try.”

Silvia's face was turned, and it bore a puzzled inquiring expression. Was her mother serious ? her voice and tone were earnest, and Silvia, who thought she had betrayed herself, began to take courage.

“No, mother, I never could;" and, having said this, she relapsed into silence again, and with her hands clasped upon her lap, and her eyes gazing into the smouldering fire, she sat there, wondering whether her mother had suspected her secret, thinking how suddenly it had come upon her—for until those few words spoken so hurriedly by the fireside, she had never given her sense of happiness a name. She knew that the earth had suddenly grown fairer, the grass greener, the few pale buds upon the monthly roses brighter-she knew that the rides she had been taking with Gerald were always too soon over, that she could not sit down and read or write quietly, but that, directly she was alone, the words he had spoken, sometimes the very sound of his voice, would steal in, and page after page of the book would be turned, until, awaking from her dream, she would find that she had not really read one word ; then pettishly she would turn back, and presently find her experience repeated, so then the book would be thrown away, and she would fly off to some excuse for idleness in the shape of fancywork; but her fingers soon grew slower and slower in their manipulation—the needle and wool would drop idly on her knee.

She knew, too, that Gerald had treated her as a child until Charley Elmes came, and that then there had been a change in his manner. He had not been with her so much, nay, scarcely at all—until that daywhen he had seemed dull and unhappy; and when, glad to get one of their quiet walks again, she had asked him to go to some distant part of the parish with her, she had been disappointed when he rode into Chichester alone-but then, had not the long quiet evening made amends, when he had spoken to her of himself, and of his past life, as she had so often longed to hear him do ?

She had bidden him good-night when Morgan made his discreet interruption, and quite agreed in her heart as well as voice, that it was pleasant to have him there again, and then she had come into her mother's room; where she had learnt to call her happiness by its right name.

The light which had shone so suddenly had been too bright for a time, it had dazzled her, and it was difficult for her to understand how this great source of wonder, happiness, and perplexity could have fallen upon her, and not betrayed itself to her mother-how such a change could have come over her without communicating itself to her mother. She had covered her face to hide the wild tumult of surprise and joy she felt must be there ; she was trembling with nervous excitement, but when her mother left off the first subject, and began speaking of Captain Elmes, her vanishing self-command came back, and made her believe that she had not given up the newly-found secret. She was equally ready to set her doubts aside, and to find excuse for what had, at first, seemed weakness.

“I never could love him" (meaning Charley), she went on, sidling up to her mother, and laying her hands upon her knee. “He is so

different from what I think a man I could marry should be. Charley always gives in to me, and says he thinks just as I do, and that, you know, would never do—I must have some one who does not care a bit for my opinion, who will tell me whenI am wrong, and not change his judgment to please me—somebody who will be able to teach me as well as love me."

Silvia was thinking of Gerald Guest, of course, and so for that matter was Lady Wimborne, and she knew that Charley's fate was sealed.

“ Don't let Captain Elmes say anything to me, mother," began Silvia; “I should not know what to do ; I like him so much—but not that way, you know."

“I am very sorry, Silvia ; Charley would have made you a good husband. I will think about what I can do ; but go to bed now, it is very late.”

While this conversation had been going on upstairs, and Silvia had been getting enlightened as to the subtle working of the little blind god, a somewhat similar process had been begun in the drawing-room; where Roger was thawing himself inside and out, by the aid of brandy-andwater and a blazing fire, and where there was only Gerald and himself, Captain Elmes having betaken himself to his bedroom, after giving Gerald what might be termed a right and left shot.

“Charley's making a confounded fool of himself,” Roger had said, as the door closed behind the jealous captain, “besides being downright insulting to you; you're a good fellow to take him so quietly. I wish Sil would finish the business one way or another ; Clara has been pitching into me like the devil ; just as if I could tell him to propose, or my sister to accept him.”

“Miss Dinsdale is an advocate for Elmes, then ? "

“Oh, yes, he's an old lover of hers, I believe, and she wants him to be comforted ; like many other girls, when they cannot marry a fellow they've flirted themselves into liking, they turn him over to a friend, and keep him dangling about them on the double plea of old friend,' and old friend's husband.' Clara is just one of that sort, she's been off and on with Belmont for years, her people and his people want them to marry, and I suppose she's made up her mind to do it some day, and, as she cannot marry half-a-dozen fellows, she's parcelling them off among her friends, and poor little Sil is to be Charley's sop—he's a good fellow and very fond of her, or I'd have a row with ma belle cousine.

And Roger stirred the fire savagely; Gerald laughed, but he did not look merry, or even amused.

"She's been blowing you up, I suppose."

“ Clara ? Yes, she never misses a chance of doing that same; she favours everybody with her opinion of me, which isn't a good one ; and poor little Lilly Babbington has been coming in for it too, because she

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