Page images


“A GLORIOUS FINISH TO A DAY'S HUNTING.”, WELLINGFORD was a new house, one of those square, steadfast-looking buildings that give one a good opinion of the wealth and stability of the inmates; there were no carved mullions to the windows, no grotesque cockneyfied tiling, no gable ends mimicking the architecture of a byegone day, or pagoda-like bell towers. Wellingford had been built by a retired merchant, who thought more of his comfort than rendering the view from the railway line picturesque; he had afterwards failed in a grand speculation, and rented the house to Colonel Babbington, who, when the war broke out, had given up his idleness, half-pay, Spennithorne, and the hunt.

Lilly liked the south better than the north, for reasons which may have been made manifest ; and as Lilly's likes and dislikes ruled the tempers of those forming the household, Wellingford, being to let, was chosen, and Colonel Babbington had seen no reason to regret his choice ; the covers were well stocked, the shooting generally excellent, plenty of good hunting, and pleasant neighbours; moreover, Lilly was pleased, and that was everything.

Lilly had chosen for her own a side-room, looking down upon the spring garden. She had ornamented the walls after her own fashion with prints of a sporting cast; to tell the truth, four of them had been begged from Silvia, and had decorated Harry Wimborne's bed-room ; so, too, had a hunting whip, which hung amicably by a smart little gold headed riding switch, concerning which was a story, and which had cost Harry his pocket-money, while at Harrow, for one whole half. Lilly had never used the whip since that ride over the hill, upon the day she went to comfort and be comforted, but the handle had a daily brightening up, and no speck of dust lay upon the shiny surface. Roger had never been admitted in this sanctum, or he would not have been surprised at Lilly's outburst in the lane. Harry was everywhere in the room—even to the great engraving of Harrow School—and others of the cadets marching, drilling, and cricketing at Sandhurst, and the wellknown “ Eastward, Ho !” Simpson's beautiful sketches of the war in the Crimea had not appeared then, or there is no doubt they would have had their place of honour. But the most prized among them all, and surrounded by a costly frame, was a poor little drawing, such as schoolboys bring home. Don't you know the sort of thing, dear reader -have not you felt tremulous with anxious pride as the silver paper was removed by dear hands, and the beautifully mounted bridge, or boat, or rustic cottage, was held at arm's length to be admired ? There were tears in the happy eyes, I daresay; and now, as the vision comes back, it is blotted and blurred by tears—sad regretful tearsdrawn from hearts that, in their turn, have perhaps felt a parent's joy, and know, too late, how little they had sympathised with the joys of those they can recall no more.

How often had Lilly looked with tender loving eyes at the crooked old cottage and marvellous trees—the old man so wonderfully out of perspective, and the quadruped doing duty for a dog. Sometimes, as she sat there, the little picture, like the key-note of some tune of earlier days, awakened old memories. The sad thoughtful face would flush and flush, and a laugh break from the tremulous red lips, as she thought of what the broad-shouldered bearded man-old in trouble and sobered down by disappointment-would say to this same triumph of his boy. hood. Would he laugh at her if he knew the sort of fetish she had made of it? Lilly thought not; and I think Lilly was right.

The ride you remember Lilly started upon with her father in such wild spirits, did not seem to have answered her expectations ; she had come home long before night, and made numberless excuses against appearing at dinner. Clara, going to condole with her pleaded headache, found her lying upon a sofa, with her head buried in the pillow, where she obstinately kept it as long as she could, and when she had to look up, did so with eyes swollen by crying.

Clara had been thinking all day—when, at least, Reggy Belmont would let her think of anything more rational than himself—of the part Lilly had been playing regarding Harry Wimborne, and the more she thought of it, the less she liked it. Considering herself rather a strong-minded young person, she had patronised, petted, and loved Lilly very dearly, and a very great reason for this was that she thoroughly believed Lilly to be incapable of concealment, and to be altogether one of those fragile sort of characters who are obliged to cling continually to something stronger, and never have a word to advance upon any subject of importance-a very feminine and loveable character, and one which finds its way into the roughest heart, often, but utterly unfit for the every-day work of the world, and one which, if left to its own guidance, would assuredly drift helplessly on the wide ocean of life. Clara had been angry and disappointed when she knew how false this estimate of her friend had been ; she did not like being convinced against her will. Her penetration was at fault; and Clara, good and true as she was, had no mean opinion of her own abilities, and did not relish being, what she called in her first soreness, “outwitted by a baby like Lilly." Therefore, seeing Lilly given to tears, and having no explanation volunteered, Clara chose to ride her high horse, and pretending not to notice the red eyes or shaky voice, talked about various events of the day and plans for the morrow; and even when Lilly said she would not be well


enough to go to the meet, Clara only expressed regret, and kept the surprise she felt to feed the anger nursing up in her heart.

Lilly made no vain excuse when she said she had a headache next day, and the hunting party had been gone more than an hour before she ventured out of her bed-room. Mrs. Babbington had come to her daughter, but the conversation between the two had only led to more tears, and seeing that Lilly would be better left to herself, her mother had gone back to her guests, and left Lilly with the prospect of a long day all to herself.

Standing by the open window, letting the cool breeze blow upon her throbbing temples, Lilly caught sight of Roger's red coat as he left the copse, and before he reached the hall-door, had caught up a cloak, and was waiting to ask him if anything was the matter.

"Nothing but a lost shoe; your father was kind enough to offer me a re-mount ; they lost just now, near the farm of the large pond--I don't know the name; we had a clipping burst, I wish you had seen it ;" and then, remembering why she was supposed to be staying at home, he began to make tender inquiries about her health, all of which Lilly put aside, by saying

"I did not want to go, that was the cause I talked of my headache ; so don't say anything about it. I'll go round to the stable with you, and see what is there."

“I'd rather stay and have a chat with you, Lilly, if you'll let me.”

Lilly looked suspiciously at him, with just a shade of colour rising to her face.

“Well, if I say yes, how do you intend to go home ?" “One of the lads can get my horse shod.”

“And you will actually give up the chance of another run to stay and talk to me. What will Clara say when she comes back ?”

"Hang Clara." Lilly laughed.

“How energetic you grow ; it is quite delightful to have found out something to rouse you. I can assure you Clara takes a great interest in you just at present; I fancy if you and poor Harry had to toss up, she would feel doubtful whether to cry heads or tails."

Roger made no answer. They were close at the stables, and he felt that he dare not then broach the subject that was so near his heart;

he must wait until they were safe from interruption.

When due directions had been given concerning the shoeing of his horse, Roger returned to the house ; Lilly, who had said very little for the last ten minutes, suddenly looked up.

"You've never been in my room, have you ?” “No, I was never so privileged.”

Oh, you are not singular there. I never admit men, except upon Vol. VI.


[ocr errors]

special occasions; we shall call this one, and you shall be so far honoured. There, go in,” she said, opening the door, I'll join you in a few minutes."

When she did join him, nearly ten minutes had elapsed. Roger was standing before the little drawing, and there was something very like tears on his eyelashes as he came to meet Lilly, and, taking her hands in both of his, said

Dear Lilly, I was a brute to say what I did to you ; I'll never doubt you again. My own dear little sister, please God, we'll see him back soon, and have a merry wedding !"

And Lilly threw her arms round Roger's neck, kissed him, and then, half laughing, began to cry.

Roger had never loved Lilly so truly as when, with her hand held fast in his, he made what he thought a very lame attempt at playing comforter ; but, dear as she was, he loved her all the better for Harry's sake, and there was no shadow of envy in his heart.

“Why didn't you recognise him that day? He's gone now—my poor Harry !-and he wouldn't let me go with him, though I prayed and prayed him to let me.”

"Gone, Lilly! Where to ?

“ To America. Papa would have it. Harry and he got quite angry, and then papa said such dreadful things about his hiding from you all, and Harry said he had done what he thought was right. Oh, Roger! Why is he to stay away, hiding like a thief? Why cannot he come home? What has he done to be treated that way ?”

And Lilly, whose talk had been broken in upon by many sobs, suddenly grew quiet, and her pretty face flushed with anger.

“He has done nothing but what was honourable, dear Lilly. If you tell me where to find him, he will come home. It is a family secret, Lilly; you'll hear it when you are one of us. Harry heard half a story, and—but he or my mother will tell you."

“Was it your fault, Roger ? Don't be angry with me, dear ; but you know people will say such cruel, cruel things, and there was a horrid story about a girl"

“ You mean Rhoda ?” said Roger, a little startled and uneasy.

“Yes, but you know it was not true; she never saw him until he was taken prisoner, and then, when she found him and told him her story, Harry could not send her home, although he did all he could to persuade her, and then he was taken ill of fever, and she nursed him."

Lilly's face was very hot, and her eyes sparkling, not altogether pleasantly or gratefully. Harry had told her all this, it was true, and she perfectly believed his explanation, but she was quite sure Rhoda loved Harry, and having made up her mind to that, she could not think, much less talk of the girl, without certain jealous twinges. Had

she not been with Harry for days and days, comforting and nursing him? And although he said his life had been saved by her care, Lilly's gratitude was strangely mixed up with envy; and then, too, Rhoda had given up everything to follow and minister to Harry's comforts; she had done what Lilly in her heart had longed-oh, so earnestly!--to do, but which she would as soon have thought of asking her father to cut off her head as allow her to do, and, fortunately, she had not courage or selfishness enough to put into execution the desire of her heart; nevertheless, she envied the girl who had taken the place she thought ought to have been her own, and was too much excited, even in talking of it, to notice how Roger behaved, or to wonder why he lifted her head froni his shoulder, and walked off to the window ; but she did start when Roger said

“ Did he tell you why Rhoda followed him ?”

Roger's back was turned towards her, but she knew there was something the matter; she had never heard him speak so sternly before.

“No; nothing but what I have told you. Why do you ask me ? Do you know anything more ?"

" I wish to God I did know !" “Roger!”

Lilly's voice, and the surprise expressed in it, recalled Roger to a sense of the inpropriety of making Lilly his confidant in such a matter, but the worst was, he seemed to have said too much not to be required to say more ; even if Lilly did not ask him to explain what he meant, would she not think of his rash words—and what construction would she put upon them? It was very stupid of him to have said what he did. What was the use of talking of Rhoda to Lilly, when she had just given him to understand that she knew all about his brother ? Determined to put the best possible face he could upon it, he came back to his seat by Lilly, who had ceased crying.

“You have not told me where Harry is. Has he actually sailed ?" “ Yes, to-day.”

“Don't cry again, Lilly ; give me the name of the ship, there's often a delay; perhaps something may have gone wrong. I may have time if I go directly. Cannot I get one of the up-trains ?"

“He was going from Liverpool,” gasped Lilly, who was catching Roger's excitement.

“What o'clock, Lilly? Quick, darling, we can telegraph! Oh, my God ! if we can only stop him."

“ Six o'clock, he said. Here is the letter he got from the agent.” Roger ran his eye over it, and tossed it up with a wild “ Hurrah !"

“Six o'clock, wind and weather permitting; that means seven, eight, nine-any hour before next morning. It's only three now, the exprese

« PreviousContinue »