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A Fair Barbarian by Francis Hodgson Burnett

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He was silent. He did not enjoy being amusing at all, and he made no
pretence of appearing to submit to the indignity calmly.

She bent forward a little.

"Ah!" she exclaimed, "you are mad again--I mean, you are vexed. I am
always vexing you."

There was a hint of appeal in her voice, which rather pleased him; but he
had no intention of relenting at once.

"I confess I am at a loss to know why you laughed," he said.

"Are you," she asked, "really?" letting her eyes rest upon him anxiously
for a moment. Then she actually gave vent to a little sigh. "We look at
things so differently, that's it," she said.

"I suppose it is," he responded, still chillingly.

In spite of this, she suddenly assumed a comparatively cheerful aspect. A
happy thought occurred to her.

"Lucia would beg your pardon," she said. "I am learning good manners from
Lucia. Suppose I beg your pardon."

"It is quite unnecessary," he replied.

"Lucia wouldn't think so," she said. "And why shouldn't I be as
well-behaved as Lucia? I beg your pardon."

He felt rather absurd, and yet somewhat mollified. She had a way of
looking at him, sometimes, when she had been unpleasant, which rather
soothed him. In fact, he had found of late, a little to his private
annoyance, that it was very easy for her either to soothe or disturb him.

And now, just as Octavia had settled down into one of the prettiest and
least difficult of her moods, there came a knock at the front door,
which, being answered by Mary Anne, was found to announce the curate of
St. James.

Enter, consequently, the Rev. Arthur Poppleton,--blushing, a trifle
timorous perhaps, but happy beyond measure to find himself in Miss
Belinda's parlor again, with Miss Belinda's niece.

Perhaps the least possible shade of his joyousness died out when he
caught sight of Mr. Francis Barold, and certainly Mr. Francis Barold was
not at all delighted to see him.

"What does the fellow want?" that gentleman was saying inwardly. "What
does he come simpering and turning pink here for? Why doesn't he go and
see some of his old women, and read tracts to them? That's _his_
business." Octavia's manner toward her visitor formed a fresh
grievance for Barold. She treated the curate very well indeed. She
seemed glad to see him, she was wholly at her ease with him, she made no
trying remarks to him, she never stopped to fix her eyes upon him in
that inexplicable style, and she did not laugh when there seemed nothing
to laugh at. She was so gay and good-humored that the Rev. Arthur
Poppleton beamed and flourished under her treatment, and forgot to
change color, and even ventured to talk a good deal, and make divers
quite presentable little jokes.

"I should like to know," thought Barold, growing sulkier as the others
grew merrier,--"I should like to know what she finds so interesting in
him, and why she chooses to treat him better than she treats me; for she
certainly does treat him better."

It was hardly fair, however, that he should complain; for, at times, he
was treated extremely well, and his intimacy with Octavia progressed
quite rapidly. Perhaps, if the truth were told, it was always himself who
was the first means of checking it, by some suddenly prudent instinct
which led him to feel that perhaps he was in rather a delicate position,
and had better not indulge in too much of a good thing. He had not been
an eligible and unimpeachable desirable _parti_ for ten years without
acquiring some of that discretion which is said to be the better part of
valor. The matter-of-fact air with which Octavia accepted his attentions
caused him to pull himself up sometimes. If he had been Brown, or Jones,
or even Robinson, she could not have appeared to regard them as more
entirely natural. When--he had gone so far, once or twice--he had deigned
to make a more than usually agreeable speech to her, it was received with
none of that charming sensitive tremor to which he was accustomed.
Octavia neither blushed, nor dropped her eyes.

It did not add to Barold's satisfaction to find her as cheerful and ready
to be amused by a mild little curate, who blushed and stammered, and was
neither brilliant, graceful, nor distinguished. Could not Octavia see the
wide difference between the two? Regarding the matter in this light, and
watching Octavia as she encouraged her visitor, and laughed at his jokes,
and never once tripped him up by asking him a startling question, did
not, as already has been said, improve Mr. Francis Barold's temper; and,
by the time his visit was over, he had lapsed into his coldest and most
haughty manner. As soon as Miss Belinda entered, and engaged Mr.
Poppleton for a moment, he rose, and crossed the little room to Octavia's
side.

"I must bid you good-afternoon," he said.

Octavia did not rise.

"Sit down a minute, while aunt Belinda is talking about red-flannel
nightcaps and lumbago," she said. "I wanted to ask you something. By the
way, what _is_ lumbago?"

"Is that what you wished to ask me?" he inquired stiffly.

"No. I just thought of that. Have you ever had it? and what is it like?
All the old people in Slowbridge have it, and they tell you all about it
when you go to see them. Aunt Belinda says so. What I wanted to ask you
was different"--

"Possibly Miss Bassett might be able to tell you," he remarked.

"About the lumbago? Well, perhaps she might. I'll ask her. Do you think
it bad taste in _me_ to wear diamonds?"

She said this with the most delightful seriousness, fixing her eyes upon
him with her very prettiest look of candid appeal, as if it were the most
natural thing in the world that she should apply to him for information.
He felt himself faltering again. How white that bit of forehead was! How
soft that blonde, waving fringe of hair! What a lovely shape her eyes
were, and how large and clear as she raised them!

"Why do you ask _me_?" he inquired.

"Because I think you are an unprejudiced person. Lady Theobald is not. I
have confidence in you. Tell me."

There was a slight pause.

"Really," he said, after it, "I can scarcely believe that my opinion can
be of any value in your eyes. I am--can only tell you that it is hardly
customary in--an--in England for young people to wear a profusion of
ornament."

"I wonder if I wear a profusion."

"You don't need any," he condescended. "You are too young, and--all that
sort of thing."

She glanced down at her slim, unringed hands for a moment, her expression
quite thoughtful.

"Lucia and I almost quarrelled the other day," she said--"at least, I
almost quarrelled. It isn't so nice to be told of things, after all. I
must say I don't like it as much as I thought I should."

He kept his seat longer than, he had intended; and, when he rose to go,
the Rev. Arthur Poppleton was shaking hands with Miss Belinda, and so it
fell out that they left the house together.

"You know Miss Octavia Bassett well, I suppose," remarked Barold, with
condescension, as they passed through the gate. "You clergymen are
fortunate fellows."

"I wish that others knew her as well, sir," said the little gentleman,
kindling. "I wish they knew her--her generosity and kindness of heart and
ready sympathy with misfortune!"

"Ah!" commented Mr. Barold, twisting his mustache with somewhat of an
incredulous air. This was not at all the sort of thing he had expected to
hear. For his own part, it would not have occurred to him to suspect her
of the possession of such desirable and orthodox qualities.

"There are those who--misunderstand her," cried the curate, warming with
his subject, "who misunderstand, and--yes, and apply harsh terms to her
innocent gayety and freedom of speech: if they knew her as I do, they
would cease to do so."

"I should scarcely have thought"--began Barold.

"There are many who scarcely think it,--if you will pardon my
interrupting you," said the curate. "I think they would scarcely believe
it if I felt at liberty to tell them, which I regret to say I do not. I
am almost breaking my word in saying what I cannot help saying to
yourself. The poor under my care are better off since she came, and there
are some who have seen her more than once, though she did not go as a
teacher or to reprove them for faults; and her way of doing what she did
was new to them, and perhaps much less serious than they were accustomed
to, and they liked it all the better."

"Ah!" commented Barold again. "Flannel under-garments, and--that sort
of thing."

"No," with much spirit, "not at all, sir; but what, as I said, they liked
much better. It is not often they meet a beautiful creature who comes
among them with open hands, and the natural, ungrudging way of giving
which she has. Sometimes they are at a loss to understand, as well as the
rest. They have been used to what is narrower and more--more exacting."

"They have been used to Lady Theobald," observed Barold, with a faint
smile.

"It would not become me to--to mention Lady Theobald in any disparaging
manner," replied the curate: "but the best and most charitable among us
do not always carry out our good intentions in the best way. I dare say
Lady Theobald would consider Miss Octavia Bassett too readily influenced
and too lavish."

"She is as generous with her money as with her diamonds perhaps," said
Barold. "Possibly the quality is peculiar to Nevada. We part here, Mr.
Poppleton, I believe. Good-morning."

CHAPTER XXI.

LORD LANSDOWNE.

One morning in the following week Mrs. Burnham attired herself in her
second-best black silk, and, leaving the Misses Burnham practising
diligently, turned her steps toward Oldclough Hall. Arriving there, she
was ushered into the blue drawing-room by Dobson, in his character of
footman; and in a few minutes Lucia appeared.

When Mrs. Burnham saw her, she assumed a slight air of surprise.

"Why, my dear," she said, as she shook hands, "I should scarcely have
known you."

And, though this was something of an exaggeration, there was some excuse
for the exclamation. Lucia was looking very charming, and several changes
might be noted in her attire and appearance. The ugly twist had
disappeared from her delicate head; and in its place were soft, loose
waves and light puffs; she had even ventured on allowing a few ringed
locks to stray on to her forehead; her white morning-dress no longer wore
the trade-mark of Miss Chickie, but had been remodelled by some one of
more taste.

"What a pretty gown, my dear!" said Mrs. Burnham, glancing at it
curiously. "A Watteau plait down the back--isn't it a Watteau plait?--and
little ruffles down the front, and pale pink bows. It is quite like some
of Miss Octavia Bassett's dresses, only not so over-trimmed."

"I do not think Octavia's dresses would seem over-trimmed if she wore
them in London or Paris," said Lucia bravely. "It is only because we are
so very quiet, and dress so little in Slowbridge, that they seem so."

"And your hair!" remarked Mrs. Burnham. "You drew your idea of that from
some style of hers, I suppose. Very becoming, indeed. Well, well! And how
does Lady Theobald like all this, my dear?"

"I am not sure that"--Lucia was beginning, when her ladyship interrupted
her by entering.

"My dear Lady Theobald," cried her visitor, rising, "I hope you are well.
I have just been complimenting Lucia upon her pretty dress, and her new
style of dressing her hair. Miss Octavia Bassett has been giving her the
benefit of her experience, it appears. We have not been doing her
justice. Who would have believed that she had come from Nevada to improve
us?"

"Miss Octavia Bassett," said my lady sonorously, "has come from Nevada to
teach our young people a great many things,--new fashions in duty, and
demeanor, and respect for their elders. Let us hope they will be
benefited."

"If you will excuse me, grandmamma," said Lucia, speaking in a soft,
steady voice, "I will go and write the letters you wished written."

"Go," said my lady with majesty; and, having bidden Mrs. Burnham
good-morning, Lucia went.

If Mrs. Burnham had expected any explanation of her ladyship's evident
displeasure, she was doomed to disappointment. That excellent and
rigorous gentlewoman had a stern sense of dignity, which forbade her
condescending to the confidential weakness of mere ordinary mortals.
Instead of referring to Lucia, she broached a more commonplace topic.

"I hope your rheumatism does not threaten you again, Mrs. Burnham,"
she remarked.

"I am very well, thank you, my dear," said Mrs. Burnham; "so well, that I
am thinking quite seriously of taking the dear girls to the garden-party,
when it comes off."

"To the garden-party!" repeated her ladyship. "May I ask who thinks of
giving a garden-party in Slowbridge?"

"It is no one in Slowbridge," replied this lady cheerfully. "Some one who
lives a little out of Slowbridge,--Mr. Burmistone, my dear Lady Theobald,
at his new place."

"Mr. Burmistone!"

"Yes, my dear; and a most charming affair it is to be, if we are to
believe all we hear. Surely you have heard something of it from Mr.
Barold."

"Mr. Barold has not been to Oldclough for several days."

"Then, he will tell you when he comes; for I suppose he has as much to do
with it as Mr. Burmistone."

"I have heard before," announced my lady, "of men of Mr. Burmistone's
class securing the services of persons of established position in society
when they wished to spend their money upon entertainments; but I should
scarcely have imagined that Francis Barold would have allowed himself to
be made a party to such a transaction."

"But," put in Mrs. Burnham rather eagerly, "it appears that Mr.
Burmistone is not such an obscure person, after all. He is an Oxford man,
and came off with honors: he is quite a well-born man, and gives this
entertainment in honor of his friend and relation, Lord Lansdowne."

"Lord Lansdowne!" echoed her ladyship, sternly.

"Son of the Marquis of Lauderdale, whose wife was Lady Honora Erroll."

"Did Mr. Burmistone give you this information?" asked Lady Theobald with
ironic calmness.

Mrs. Burnham colored never so faintly.

"I--that is to say--there is a sort of acquaintance between one of my
maids and the butler at the Burmistone place; and, when the girl was
doing Lydia's hair, she told her the story. Lord Lansdowne and his father
are quite fond of Mr. Burmistone, it is said."

"It seems rather singular to my mind that we should not have known of
this before."

"But how should we learn? We none of us know Lord Lansdowne, or even the
marquis. I think he is only a second or third cousin. We are a
little--just a little _set_ in Slowbridge, you know, my dear: at least, I
have thought so sometimes lately."

"I must confess," remarked my lady, "that _I_ have not regarded the
matter in that light."

"That is because you have a better right to--to be a little set than the
rest of us," was the amiable response.

Lady Theobald did not disclaim the privilege. She felt the sentiment an
extremely correct one. But she was not very warm in her manner during the
remainder of the call; and, incongruous as such a statement may appear,
it must be confessed that she felt that Miss Octavia Bassett must have
something to do with, these defections on all sides, and that
garden-parties, and all such swervings from established Slowbridge
custom, were the natural result of Nevada frivolity and freedom of
manners. It may be that she felt remotely that even Lord Lansdowne and
the Marquis of Lauderdale were to be referred to the same reprehensible
cause, and that, but for Octavia Bassett, Mr. Burmistone would not have
been educated at Oxford and have come off with honors, and have turned
out to be related to respectable people, but would have remained in
appropriate obscurity.

"I suppose," she said afterward to Lucia, "that your friend Miss Octavia
Bassett is in Mr. Burmistone's confidence, if no one else has been
permitted to have that honor. I have no doubt _she_ has known of this
approaching entertainment for some weeks."

"I do not know, grandmamma," replied Lucia, putting her letters together,
and gaining color as she bent over them. She was wondering, with inward
trepidation, what her ladyship would say if she knew the whole truth,--if
she knew that it was her granddaughter, and not Octavia Bassett, who
enjoyed Mr. Burmistone's confidence.

"Ah!" she thought, "how could I ever dare to tell her?"

The same day Francis Barold sauntered up to pay them a visit; and then,
as Mrs. Burnham had prophesied, Lady Theobald heard all she wished to
hear, and, indeed, a great deal more.

"What is this I am told of Mr. Burmistone, Francis?" she inquired.
"That he intends to give a garden-party, and that Lord Lansdowne is to
be one of the guests, and that he has caused it to be circulated that
they are cousins."

"That Lansdowne has caused it to be circulated--or Burmistone?"

"It is scarcely likely that Lord Lansdowne"--

"Beg pardon," he interrupted, fixing his single glass dexterously in his
right eye, and gazing at her ladyship through it. "Can't see why
Lansdowne should object. Fact is, he is a great deal fonder of Burmistone
than relations usually are of each other. Now, I often find that kind of
thing a bore; but Lansdowne doesn't seem to. They were at school
together, it seems, and at Oxford too; and Burmistone is supposed to have
behaved pretty well towards Lansdowne at one time, when he was rather a
wild fellow--so the father and mother say. As to Burmistone 'causing it
to be circulated,' that sort of thing is rather absurd. The man isn't a
cad, you know."

"Pray don't say 'you know,' Francis," said her ladyship. "I know very
little but what I have chanced to see, and I must confess I have not
been prepossessed in Mr. Burmistone's favor. Why did he not choose to
inform us"--

"That he was Lord Lansdowne's second cousin, and knew the Marquis of
Lauderdale, grandmamma?" broke in Lucia, with very pretty spirit. "Would
that have prepossessed you in his favor? Would you have forgiven him for
building the mills, on Lord Lansdowne's account? I--I wish I was related
to a marquis," which was very bold indeed.

"May I ask," said her ladyship, in her most monumental manner, "when
_you_ became Mr. Burmistone's champion?"

CHAPTER XXII.

"YOU HAVE MADE IT LIVELIER."

When she had become Mr. Burmistone's champion, indeed! She could scarcely
have told when, unless, perhaps, she had fixed the date at the first time
she had heard his name introduced at a high tea, with every politely
opprobrious epithet affixed. She had defended him in her own mind then,
and felt sure that he deserved very little that was said against him, and
very likely nothing at all. And, the first time she had seen and spoken
to him, she had been convinced that she had not made a mistake, and that
he had been treated with cruel injustice. How kind he was, how manly, how
clever, and how well he bore himself under the popular adverse criticism!
She only wondered that anybody could be so blind and stupid and wilful as
to assail him.

And if this had been the case in those early days, imagine what she felt
now, when--ah, well!--when her friendship had had time and opportunity to
become a much deeper sentiment. Must it be confessed that she had seen
Mr. Burmistone even oftener than Octavia and Miss Belinda knew of? Of
course it had all been quite accidental; but it had happened that now and
then, when she had been taking a quiet walk in the lanes about Oldclough,
she had encountered a gentleman, who had dismounted, and led his horse by
the bridle, as he sauntered by her side. She had always been very timid
at such times, and had felt rather like a criminal; but Mr. Burmistone
had not been timid at all, and would, indeed, as soon have met Lady
Theobald as not, for which courage his companion admired him more than
ever. It was not very long before to be with this hero re-assured her,
and made her feel stronger and more self-reliant. She was never afraid to
open her soft little heart to him, and show him innocently all its
goodness, and ignorance of worldliness. She warmed and brightened under
his kindly influence, and was often surprised in secret at her own simple
readiness of wit and speech.

"It is odd that I am such a different girl when--when I am with you," she
said to him one day. "I even make little jokes. I never should think of
making even the tiniest joke before grandmamma. Somehow, she never seems
quite to understand jokes. She never laughs at them. You always laugh,
and I am sure it is very kind of you to encourage me so; but you must not
encourage me too much, or I might forget, and make a little joke at
dinner, and I think, if I did, she would choke over her soup."

Perhaps, when she dressed her hair, and adorned herself with pale pink
bows and like appurtenances, this artful young person had privately in
mind other beholders than Mrs. Burnham, and other commendation than that
to be bestowed by that most excellent matron.

"Do you mind my telling you that you have put on an enchanted garment?"
said Mr. Burmistone, the first time they met when she wore one of the
old-new gowns. "I thought I knew before how"--

"I don't mind it at all," said Lucia, blushing brilliantly. "I rather
like it. It rewards me for my industry. My hair is dressed in a new way.
I hope you like that too. Grandmamma does not."

It had been Lady Theobald's habit to treat Lucia severely from a sense of
duty. Her manner toward her had always rather the tone of implying that
she was naturally at fault, and yet her ladyship could not have told
wherein she wished the girl changed. In the good old school in which my
lady had been trained, it was customary to regard young people as weak,
foolish, and, if left to their own desires, frequently sinful. Lucia had
not been left to her own desires. She had been taught to view herself as
rather a bad case, and to feel that she was far from being what her
relatives had a right to expect. To be thrown with a person who did not
find her silly or dull or commonplace, was a new experience.

"If I had been clever," Lucia said once to Mr. Burmistone,--"if I had
been clever, perhaps grandmamma would have been more satisfied with me. I
have often wished I had been clever."

"If you had been a boy," replied Mr. Burmistone rather grimly, "and had
squandered her money, and run into debt, and bullied her, you would have
been her idol, and she would have pinched and starved herself to supply
your highness's extravagance."

When the garden-party rumor began to take definite form, and there was no
doubt as to Mr. Burmistone's intentions, a discussion arose at once, and
went on in every genteel parlor. Would Lady Theobald allow Lucia to go?
and, if she did not allow her, would not such a course appear very
pointed indeed? It was universally decided that it would appear pointed,
but that Lady Theobald would not mind that in the least, and perhaps
would rather enjoy it than otherwise; and it was thought Lucia would not
go. And it is very likely that Lucia would have remained at home, if it
had not been for the influence of Mr. Francis Barold.

Making a call at Oldclough, he found his august relative in a very
majestic mood, and she applied to him again for information.

"Perhaps," she said, "you may be able to tell me whether it is true that
Belinda Bassett--_Belinda Bassett_," with emphasis, "has been invited by
Mr. Burmistone to assist him to receive his guests."

"Yes, it is true," was the reply: "I think I advised it myself.
Burmistone is fond of her. They are great friends. Man needs a woman at
such times."

"And he chose Belinda Bassett?"

"In the first place, he is on friendly terms with her, as I said before,"
replied Barold; "in the second, she's just what he wants--well-bred,
kind-hearted, not likely to make rows, _et caetera_." There was a slight
pause before he finished, adding quietly, "He's not the man to submit to
being refused--Burmistone."

Lady Theobald did not reply, or raise her eyes from her work: she knew he
was looking at her with calm fixedness, through the glass he held in its
place so cleverly; and she detested this more than any thing else,
perhaps because she was invariably quelled by it, and found she had
nothing to say.

He did not address her again immediately, but turned to Lucia, dropping
the eyeglass, and resuming his normal condition.

"You will go, of course?" he said.

Lucia glanced across at my lady.

"I--do not know. Grandmamma"--

"Oh!" interposed Barold, "you must go. There is no reason for your
refusing the invitation, unless you wish to imply something
unpleasant--which is, of course, out of the question."

"But there may be reasons"--began her ladyship.

"Burmistone is my friend," put in Barold, in his coolest tone; "and I am
your relative, which would make my position in his house a delicate one,
if he has offended you."

When Lucia saw Octavia again, she was able to tell her that they had
received invitations to the _fete_, and that Lady Theobald had accepted
them.

"She has not spoken a word to me about it, but she has accepted them,"
said Lucia. "I don't quite understand her lately, Octavia. She must be
very fond of Francis Barold. He never gives way to her in the least, and
she always seems to submit to him. I know she would not have let me go,
if he had not insisted on it, in that taking-it-for-granted way of his."

Naturally Mr. Burmistone's _fete_ caused great excitement. Miss Chickie
was never so busy in her life, and there were rumors that her feelings
had been outraged by the discovery that Mrs. Burnham had sent to
Harriford for costumes for her daughters.

"Slowbridge is changing, mem," said Miss Chickie. with brilliant sarcasm.
"Our ladies is led in their fashions by a Nevada young person. We're
improving most rapid--more rapid than I'd ever have dared to hope. Do you
prefer a frill, or a flounce, mem?"

Octavia was in great good spirits at the prospect of the gayeties in
question. She had been in remarkably good spirits for some weeks. She had
received letters from Nevada, containing good news she said. Shares had
gone up again; and her father had almost settled his affairs, and it
would not be long before he would come to England. She looked so
exhilarated over the matter, that Lucia felt a little aggrieved. "Will
you be so glad to leave us, Octavia?" she asked. "We shall not be so glad
to let you go. We have grown very fond of you."

"I shall be sorry to leave you, and aunt Belinda is going with us. You
don't expect me to be very fond of Slowbridge, do you, and to be sorry I
can't take Mrs. Burnham--and the rest?"

Barold was present when she made this speech, and it rather rankled.

"Am I one of 'the rest'?" he inquired, the first time he found himself
alone with her. He was sufficiently piqued to forget his usual _hauteur_
and discretion.

"Would you like to be?" she said.

"Oh! Very much--very much--naturally," he replied severely.

They were standing near a rose-bush in the garden; and she plucked a
rose, and regarded it with deep interest.

"Well," she said, next, "I must say I think I shouldn't have had such a
good time if you hadn't been here. You have made it livelier."

"Tha-anks," he remarked. "You are most kind."

"Oh!" she answered, "it's true. If it wasn't, I shouldn't say it. You and
Mr. Burmistone and Mr. Poppleton have certainly made it livelier."

He went home in such a bad humor that his host, who was rather happier
than usual, commented upon his grave aspect at dinner.

"You look as if you had heard ill news, old fellow," he said. "What's
up?"

"Oh, nothing!" he was answered sardonically; "nothing whatever--unless
that I have been rather snubbed by a young lady from Nevada."

"Ah!" with great seriousness: "that's rather cool, isn't it?"

"It's her little way," said Barold. "It seems to be one of the customs
of Nevada."

In fact, he was very savage indeed. He felt that he had condescended a
good deal lately. He seldom bestowed his time on women; and when he did
so, at rare intervals, he chose those who would do the most honor to his
taste at the least cost of trouble. And he was obliged to confess to
himself that he had broken his rule in this case. Upon analyzing his
motives and necessities, he found, that, after all, he must have extended
his visit simply because he chose to see more of this young woman from
Nevada, and that really, upon the whole, he had borne a good deal from
her. Sometimes he had been much pleased with her, and very well
entertained; but often enough--in fact, rather too often--she had made
him exceedingly uncomfortable. Her manners were not what he was
accustomed to: she did not consider that all men were not to be regarded
from the same point of view. Perhaps he did not put into definite words
the noble and patriotic sentiment that an Englishman was not to be
regarded from the same point of view as an American, and that, though all
this sort of thing might do with fellows in New York, it was scarcely
what an Englishman would stand. Perhaps, as I say, he had not put this
sentiment into words; but it is quite certain that it had been uppermost
in his mind upon more occasions than one. As he thought their
acquaintance over, this evening, he was rather severe upon Octavia. He
even was roused so far as to condescend to talk her over with Burmistone.

"If she had been well brought up," he said, "she would have been a
different creature."

"Very different, I have no doubt," said Burmistone thoughtfully. "When
you say well brought up, by the way, do you mean brought up like your
cousin, Miss Gaston?"

"There is a medium," said Barold loftily. "I regret to say Lady Theobald
has not hit upon it."

"Well, as you say," commented Mr. Burmistone, "I suppose there is a
medium."

"A charming wife she would make, for a man with a position to maintain,"
remarked Barold, with a short and somewhat savage laugh.

"Octavia Bassett?" queried Burmistone. "That's true. But I am afraid she
wouldn't enjoy it--if you are supposing the man to be an Englishman,
brought up in the regulation groove."

"Ah!" exclaimed Barold impatiently: "I was not looking at it from her
point of view, but from his."

Mr. Burmistone slipped his hands in his pockets, and jingled his keys
slightly, as he did once before in an earlier part of this narrative.

"Ah! from his," he repeated. "Not from hers. His point of view would
differ from hers--naturally."

Barold flashed a little, and took his cigar from his mouth to knock off
the ashes.

"A man is not necessarily a snob," he said, "because he is cool enough
not to lose his head where a woman is concerned. You can't marry a woman
who will make mistakes, and attract universal attention by her conduct."

"Has it struck you that Octavia Bassett would?" inquired Burmistone.

"She would do as she chose," said Barold petulantly. "She would do things
which were unusual; but I was not referring to her in particular. Why
should I?"

"Ah!" said Burmistone. "I only thought of her because it did not strike
me that one would ever feel she had exactly blundered. She is not easily
embarrassed. There is a _sang-froid_ about her which carries things off."

"Ah!" deigned Barold: "she has _sang-froid_ enough and to spare."

He was silent for some time afterward, and sat smoking later than usual.
When he was about to leave the room for the night, he made an
announcement for which his host was not altogether prepared.

"When the _fete_ is over, my dear fellow," he said, "I must go back to
London, and I shall be deucedly sorry to do it."

"Look here!" said Burmistone, "that's a new idea, isn't it?"

"No, an old one; but I have been putting the thing off from day to day.
By Jove! I did not think it likely that I should put it off, the day I
landed here."

And he laughed rather uneasily.

CHAPTER XXIII.

"MAY I GO?"

The very day after this, Octavia opened the fourth trunk. She had had it
brought down from the garret, when there came a summons on the door, and
Lucia Gaston appeared.

Lucia was very pale; and her large, soft eyes wore a decidedly frightened
look. She seemed to have walked fast, and was out of breath. Evidently
something had happened.

"Octavia," she said, "Mr. Dugald Binnie is at Oldclough."

"Who is he?"

"He is my grand-uncle," explained Lucia tremulously. "He has a great deal
of money. Grandmamma"--She stopped short, and colored, and drew her
slight figure up. "I do not quite understand grandmamma, Octavia," she
said. "Last night she came to my room to talk to me; and this morning she
came again, and--oh!" she broke out indignantly, "how could she speak to
me in such a manner!"

"What did she say?" inquired Octavia.

"She said a great many things," with great spirit. "It took her a long
time to say them, and I do not wonder at it. It would have taken me a
hundred years, if I had been in her place. I--I was wrong to say I did
not understand her: I did--before she had finished."

"What did you understand?"

"She was afraid to tell me in plain words.--I never saw her afraid
before, but she was afraid. She has been arranging my future for me, and
it does not occur to her that I dare object. That is because she knows I
am a coward, and despises me for it--and it is what I deserve. If I make
the marriage she chooses, she thinks Mr. Binnie will leave me his money.
I am to run after a man who does not care for me, and make myself
attractive, in the hope that he will condescend to marry me because Mr.
Binnie may leave me his money. Do you wonder that it took even Lady
Theobald a long time to say that?"

"Well," remarked Octavia, "you won't do it, I suppose. I wouldn't worry.
She wants you to marry Mr. Barold, I suppose."

Lucia started.

"How did you guess?" she exclaimed.

"Oh! I always knew it. I didn't guess." And she smiled ever so faintly.
"That is one of the reasons why she loathes me so," she added.

Lucia thought deeply for a moment: she recognized, all at once, several
things she had been mystified by before.

"Oh, it is! It is!" she said. "And she has thought of it all the time,
when I never suspected her."

Octavia smiled a little again. Lucia sat thinking, her hands clasped
tightly.

"I am glad I came here," she said, at length. "I _am_ angry now, and I
see things more clearly. If she had only thought of it because Mr. Binnie
came, I could have forgiven her more easily; but she has been making
coarse plans all the time, and treating me with contempt. Octavia," she
added, turning upon her, with flushing cheeks and sparkling eyes, "I
think that, for the first time in my life, I am in a passion,--a real
passion. I think I shall never be afraid of her any more." Her delicate
nostrils were dilated, she held her head up, her breath came fast. There
was a hint of exultation in her tone. "Yes," she said, "I am in a
passion. And I am not afraid of her at all. I will go home and tell her
what I think."

And it is quite probable that she would have done so, but for a trifling
incident which occurred before she reached her ladyship.

She walked very fast, after she left the house. She wanted to reach
Oldclough before one whit of her anger cooled down; though, somehow, she
felt quite sure, that, even when her anger died out, her courage would
not take flight with it. Mr. Dugald Binnie had not proved to be a very
fascinating person. He was an acrid, dictatorial old man: he contradicted
Lady Theobald flatly every five minutes, and bullied his man-servant. But
it was not against him that Lucia's indignation was aroused. She felt
that Lady Theobald was quite capable of suggesting to him that Francis
Barold would be a good match for her; and, if she had done so, it was
scarcely his fault if he had accepted the idea. She understood now why
she had been allowed to visit Octavia, and why divers other things had
happened. She had been sent to walk with Francis Barold; he had been
almost reproached when he had not called; perhaps her ladyship had been
good enough to suggest to him that it was his duty to further her plans.
She was as capable of that as of any thing else which would assist her to
gain her point. The girl's cheeks grew hotter and hotter, her eyes
brighter, at every step, because every step brought some new thought: her
hands trembled, and her heart beat.

"I shall never be afraid of her again," she said, as she turned the
corner into the road. "Never! never!"

And at that very moment a gentleman stepped out of the wood at her right,
and stopped before her.

She started back, with a cry.

"Mr. Burmistone!" she said: "Mr. Burmistone!"

She wondered if he had heard her last words: she fancied he had. He took
hold of her shaking little hand, and looked down at her excited face.

"I am glad I waited for you," he said, in the quietest possible tone.
"Something is the matter."

She knew there would be no use in trying to conceal the truth, and she
was not in the mood to make the effort. She scarcely knew herself.

She gave quite a fierce little laugh.

"I am angry!" she said. "You have never seen me angry before. I am on my
way to my--to Lady Theobald."

He held her hand as calmly as before. He understood a great deal more
than she could have imagined.

"What are you going to say to her?" he asked. She laughed again.

"I am going to ask her what she means. I am going to tell her she has
made a mistake. I am going to prove to her that I am not such a coward,
after all. I am going to tell her that I dare disobey her,--_that_ is
what I am going to say to her," she concluded decisively.

He held her hand rather closer.

"Let us take a stroll in the copse, and talk it over," he said. "It is
deliciously cool there."

"I don't want to be cool," she said. But he drew her gently with him; and
a few steps took them into the shade of the young oaks and pines, and
there he paused.

"She has made you very angry?" he said.

And then, almost before she knew what she was doing, she was pouring
forth the whole of her story, even more of it than she had told Octavia.
She had not at all intended to do it; but she did it, nevertheless.

"I am to marry Mr. Francis Barold, if he will take me," she said, with a
bitter little smile,--"Mr. Francis Barold, who is so much in love with
me, as you know. His mother approves of the match, and sent him here to
make love to me, which he has done, as you have seen. I have no money of
my own; but, if I make a marriage which pleases him, Dugald Binnie will
probably leave me his--which it is thought will be an inducement to my
cousin, who needs one. If I marry him, or rather he marries me, Lady
Theobald thinks Mr. Binnie will be pleased. It does not even matter
whether Francis is pleased or not, and of course I am out of the
question; but it is hoped that it will please Mr. Binnie. The two ladies
have talked it over, and decided the matter. I dare say they have offered
me to Francis, who has very likely refused me, though perhaps he may be
persuaded to relent in time,--if I am very humble, and he is shown the
advantage of having Mr. Binnie's money added to his own,--but I have no
doubt I shall have to be very humble indeed. That is what I learned from
Lady Theobald last night, and it is what I am going to talk to her about.
Is it enough to make one angry, do you think? Is it enough?"

He did not tell her whether he thought it enough, or not. He looked at
her with steady eyes.

"Lucia," he said, "I wish you would let me go and talk with Lady
Theobald."

"You?" she said with a little start.

"Yes," he answered. "Let me go to her. Let me tell her, that, instead of
marrying Francis Barold, you will marry _me_. If you will say yes to
that, I think I can promise that you need never be afraid of her any
more." The fierce color died out of her cheeks, and the tears rushed to
her eyes. She raised her face with a pathetic look.

"Oh!" she whispered, "you must be very sorry for me. I think you have
been sorry for me from the first."

"I am desperately in love with you," he answered, in his quietest way. "I
have been desperately in love with you from the first. May I go?"

She looked at him for a moment, incredulously. Then she faltered,--

"Yes."

She still looked up at him; and then, in spite of her happiness, or
perhaps because of it, she suddenly began to cry softly, and forgot she
had been angry at all, as he took her into his strong, kind arms.

CHAPTER XXIV.

THE GARDEN-PARTY.

The morning of the garden-party arose bright and clear, and Slowbridge
awakened in a great state of excitement. Miss Chickie, having worked
until midnight that all her orders might be completed, was so overpowered
by her labors as to have to take her tea and toast in bed.

At Oldclough varied sentiments prevailed. Lady Theobald's manner was
chiefly distinguished by an implacable rigidity. She had chosen, as an
appropriate festal costume, a funereal-black _moire antique_, enlivened
by massive fringes and ornaments of jet; her jewelry being chains and
manacles of the latter, which rattled as she moved, with a sound somewhat
suggestive of bones.

Mr. Dugald Binnie, who had received an invitation, had as yet amiably
forborne to say whether he would accept it, or not. He had been out when
Mr. Burmistone called, and had not seen him.

When Lady Theobald descended to breakfast, she found him growling over
his newspaper; and he glanced up at her with a polite scowl.

"Going to a funeral?" he demanded.

"I accompany my granddaughter to this--this entertainment," her ladyship
responded. "It is scarcely a joyous occasion, to my mind."

"No need to dress yourself like that, if it isn't," ejaculated Mr.
Binnie. "Why don't you stay at home, if you don't want to go? Man's all
right, isn't he? Once knew a man by the name of Burmistone, myself. One
of the few decent fellows I've met. If I were sure this was the same man,
I'd go myself. When I find a fellow who's neither knave nor fool, I stick
to him. Believe I'll send to find out. Where's Lucia?"

What his opinion of Lucia was, it was difficult to discover. He had an
agreeable habit of staring at her over the top of his paper, and over his
dinner. The only time he had made any comment upon her, was the first
time he saw her in the dress she had copied from Octavia's. "Nice gown
that," he blurted out: "didn't get it here, I'll wager."

"It's an old dress I remodelled," answered Lucia somewhat alarmed. "I
made it myself."

"Doesn't look like it," he said gruffly.

Lucia had touched up another dress, and was very happy in the prospect of
wearing it at the garden-party.

"Don't call on grandmamma until after Wednesday," she had said to Mr.
Burmistone: "perhaps she wouldn't let me go. She will be very angry,
I am sure."

"And you are not afraid?"

"No," she answered: "I am not afraid at all. I shall not be afraid
again."

In fact, she had perfectly confounded her ladyship by her demeanor. She
bore her fiercest glance without quailing in the least, or making any
effort to evade it: under her most scathing comments she was composed and
unmoved. On the first occasion of my lady's referring to her plans for
her future, she received a blow which fairly stunned her. The girl rose
from her chair, and looked her straight in the face unflinchingly, and
with a suggestion of _hauteur_ not easy to confront.

"I beg you will not speak to me of that again," she said: "I will not
listen." And turning about, she walked out of the room.

"This," her ladyship had said in sepulchral tones, when she recovered her
breath, "this is one of the results of Miss Octavia Bassett." And nothing
more had been said on the subject since.

No one in Slowbridge was in more brilliant spirits than Octavia herself
on the morning of the _fete_. Before breakfast Miss Belinda was startled
by the arrival of another telegram, which ran as follows:--

"Arrived to-day, per 'Russia.' Be with you tomorrow evening. Friend with
me.

"MARTIN BASSETT."

On reading this communication, Miss Belinda burst into floods of
delighted tears.

"Dear, dear Martin," she wept; "to think that we should meet again! _Why_
didn't he let us know he was on the way? I should have been so anxious
that I should not have slept at all."

"Well," remarked Octavia, "I suppose that would have been an advantage."

Suddenly she approached Miss Belinda, kissed her, and disappeared out of
the room as if by magic, not returning for a quarter of an hour, looking
rather soft and moist and brilliant about the eyes when she did return.

Octavia was a marked figure upon the grounds at that garden-party.

"Another dress, my dear," remarked Mrs. Burnham. "And what a charming
color she has, I declare! She is usually paler. Perhaps we owe this to
Lord Lansdowne."

"Her dress is becoming, at all events," privately remarked Miss Lydia
Burnham, whose tastes had not been consulted about her own.

"It is she who is becoming," said her sister: "it is not the dress so
much, though her clothes always have a _look_, some way. She's prettier
than ever to-day, and is enjoying herself."

She was enjoying herself. Mr. Francis Barold observed it rather gloomily
as he stood apart. She was enjoying herself so much, that she did not
seem to notice that he had avoided her, instead of going up to claim her
attention. Half a dozen men were standing about her, and making
themselves agreeable; and she was apparently quite equal to the
emergencies of the occasion. The young men from Broadoaks had at once
attached themselves to her train.

"I say, Barold," they had said to him, "why didn't you tell us about
this? Jolly good fellow you are, to come mooning here for a couple of
months, and keep it all to yourself."

And then had come Lord Lansdowne, who, in crossing the lawn to shake
hands with his host, had been observed to keep his eye fixed upon one
particular point.

"Burmistone," he said, after having spoken his first words, "who is that
tall girl in white?"

And in ten minutes Lady Theobald, Mrs. Burnham, Mr. Barold, and divers
others too numerous to mention, saw him standing at Octavia's side,
evidently with no intention of leaving it.

Not long after this Francis Barold found his way to Miss Belinda, who was
very busy and rather nervous.

"Your niece is evidently enjoying herself," he remarked.

"Octavia is most happy to-day," answered Miss Belinda. "Her father will
reach Slowbridge this evening. She has been looking forward to his coming
with great anxiety."

"Ah!" commented Barold.

"Very few people understand Octavia," said Miss Belinda. "I'm not sure
that I follow all her moods myself. She is more affectionate than people
fancy. She--she has very pretty ways. I am very fond of her. She is not
as frivolous as she appears to those who don't know her well."

Barold stood gnawing his mustache, and made no reply. He was not very
comfortable. He felt himself ill-used by Fate, and rather wished he had
returned to London from Broadoaks, instead of loitering in Slowbridge. He
had amused himself at first, but in time he had been surprised to find
his amusement lose something of its zest. He glowered across the lawn at
the group under a certain beech-tree; and, as he did so, Octavia turned
her face a little and saw him. She stood waving her fan slowly, and
smiling at him in a calm way, which reminded him very much of the time he
had first caught sight of her at Lady Theobald's high tea.

He condescended to saunter over the grass to where she stood. Once there,
he proceeded to make himself as disagreeable as possible, in a silent and
lofty way. He felt it only due to himself that he should. He did not
approve at all of the manner in which Lansdowne kept by her.

"It's deucedly bad form on his part," he said mentally. "What does he
mean by it?"

Octavia, on the contrary, did not ask what he meant by it. She chose to
seem rather well entertained, and did not notice that she was being
frowned down. There was no reason why she should not find Lord Lansdowne
entertaining: he was an agreeable young fellow, with an inexhaustible
fund of good spirits, and no nonsense about him.

He was fond of all pleasant novelty, and Octavia was a pleasant novelty.
He had been thinking of paying a visit to America; and he asked
innumerable questions concerning that country, all of which Octavia
answered.

"I know half a dozen fellows who have been there," he said. "And they all
enjoyed it tremendously."

"If you go to Nevada, you must visit the mines at Bloody Gulch," she
said.

"Where?" he ejaculated. "I say, what a name! Don't deride my youth and
ignorance, Miss Bassett."

"You can call it L'Argentville, if you would rather," she replied.

"I would rather try the other, thank you," he laughed. "It has a more
hilarious sound. Will they despise me at Bloody Gulch, Miss Bassett? I
never killed a man in my life."

Barold turned, and walked away, angry, and more melancholy than he could
have believed.

"It is time I went back to London," he chose to put it. "The place begins
to be deucedly dull."

"Mr. Francis Barold seems rather out of spirits," said Mrs. Burnham to
Lady Theobald. "Lord Lansdowne interferes with his pleasure."

"I had not observed it," answered her ladyship. "And it is scarcely
likely that Mr. Francis Barold would permit his pleasure to be interfered
with, even by the son of the Marquis of Lauderdale."

But she glared at Barold as he passed, and beckoned to him.

"Where is Lucia?" she demanded.--

"I saw her with Burmistone half an hour ago," he answered coldly. "Have
you any message for my mother? I shall return to London to-morrow,
leaving here early."

She turned quite pale. She had not counted upon this at all, and it was
extremely inopportune.

"What has happened?" she asked rigidly.

He looked slightly surprised.

"Nothing whatever," he replied. "I have remained here longer than I
intended."

She began to move the manacles on her right wrist. He made not the
smallest profession of reluctance to go. She said, at last, "If you will
find Lucia, you will oblige me." She was almost uncivil to Miss Pilcher,
who chanced to join her after he was gone. She had not the slightest
intention of allowing her plans to be frustrated, and was only roused to
fresh obstinacy by encountering indifference on one side and rebellion on
the other. She had not brought Lucia up under her own eye for nothing.
She had been disturbed of late, but by no means considered herself
baffled. With the assistance of Mr. Dugald Binnie, she could certainly
subdue Lucia, though Mr. Dugald Binnie had been of no great help so far.
She would do her duty unflinchingly. In fact, she chose to persuade
herself, that, if Lucia was brought to a proper frame of mind, there
could be no real trouble with Francis Barold.

CHAPTER XXV.

"SOMEBODY ELSE."

But Barold did not make any very ardent search for Lucia. He stopped to
watch a game of lawn-tennis, in which Octavia and Lord Lansdowne had
joined, and finally forgot Lady Theobald's errand altogether.

For some time Octavia did not see him. She was playing with great spirit,
and Lord Lansdowne was following her delightedly.

Finally a chance of the game bringing her to him, she turned suddenly,
and found Barold's eyes fixed upon her.

"How long have you been there?" she asked.

"Some time," he answered. "When you are at liberty, I wish to speak to
you."

"Do you?" she said.

She seemed a little unprepared for the repressed energy of his manner,
which, he strove to cover by a greater amount of coldness than usual.

"Well," she said, after thinking a moment, "the game will soon be ended.
I am going through the conservatories with Lord Lansdowne in course of
time; but I dare say he can wait."

She went back, and finished her game, apparently enjoying it as much as
ever. When it was over, Barold made his way to her.

He had resented her remaining oblivious of his presence when he stood
near her, and he had resented her enjoyment of her surroundings; and now,
as he led her away, leaving Lord Lansdowne rather disconsolate, he
resented the fact that she did not seem nervous, or at all impressed by
his silence.

"What do you want to say to me?" she asked. "Let us go and sit down in
one of the arbors. I believe I am a little tired--not that I mind it,
though. I've been having a lovely time."

Then she began to talk about Lord Lansdowne.

"I like him ever so much," she said. "Do you think he will really go to
America? I wish he would; but if he does, I hope it won't be for a year
or so--I mean, until we go back from Europe. Still, it's rather uncertain
when we _shall_ go back. Did I tell you I had persuaded aunt Belinda to
travel with us? She's horribly frightened, but I mean to make her go.
She'll get over being frightened after a little while."

Suddenly she turned, and looked at him.

"Why don't you say something?" she demanded. "What's the matter?"

"It is not necessary for me to say any thing."

She laughed.

"Do you mean because I am saying every thing myself? Well, I suppose I
am. I am--awfully happy to-day, and can't help talking. It seems to make
the time go."

Her face had lighted up curiously. There was a delighted excitement in
her eyes, puzzling him.

"Are you so fond of your father as all that?"

She laughed again,--a clear, exultant laugh.

"Yes," she answered, "of course I am as fond of him as all that. It's
quite natural, isn't it?"

"I haven't observed the same degree of enthusiasm in all the young ladies
of my acquaintance," he returned dryly.

He thought such rapture disproportionate to the cause, and regarded it
grudgingly.

They turned into an arbor; and Octavia sat down, and leaned forward on
the rustic table. Then she turned her face up to look at the vines
covering the roof.

"It looks rather spidery, doesn't it?" she remarked. "I hope it isn't;
don't you?"

The light fell bewitchingly on her round little chin and white throat;
and a bar of sunlight struck on her upturned eyes, and the blonde rings
on her forehead.

"There is nothing I hate more than spiders," she said, with a little
shiver, "unless," seriously, "it's caterpillars--and caterpillars I
loathe."

Then she lowered her gaze, and gave her hat--a large white Rubens, all
soft, curling feathers and satin bows--a charming tip over her eyes.

"The brim is broad," she said. "If any thing drops, I hope it will drop
on it, instead of on me. Now, what did you want to say?" He had not sat
down, but stood leaning against the rustic wood-work. He looked pale, and
was evidently trying to be cooler than usual.

"I brought you here to ask you a question."

"Well," she remarked, "I hope it's an important one. You look serious
enough."

"It is important,--rather," he responded, with a tone of sarcasm. "You
will probably go away soon?"

"That isn't exactly a question," she commented, "and it's not as
important to you as to me."

He paused a moment, annoyed because he found it difficult to go on;
annoyed because she waited with such undisturbed serenity. But at length
he managed to begin again.

"I do not think you are expecting the question I am going to ask," he
said. "I--do not think I expected to ask it myself,--until to-day. I do
not know why--why I should ask it so awkwardly, and feel--at such a
disadvantage. I brought you here to ask you--to marry me."

He had scarcely spoken four words before all her airy manner had taken
flight, and she had settled herself down to listen. He had noticed this,
and had felt it quite natural. When he stopped, she was looking straight
into his face. Her eyes were singularly large and bright and clear.

"You did not expect to ask me to marry you?" she said. "Why didn't you?"

It was not at all what he had expected. He did not understand her manner
at all.

"I--must confess," he said stiffly, "that I felt at first that there
were--obstacles in the way of my doing so."

"What were the obstacles?"

He flushed, and drew himself up.

"I have been unfortunate in my mode of expressing myself," he said. "I
told you I was conscious of my own awkwardness."

"Yes," she said quietly: "you have been unfortunate. That is a good way
of putting it."

Then she let her eyes rest on the table a few seconds, and thought a
little.

"After all," she said, "I have the consolation of knowing that you must
have been very much in love with me. If you had not been very much in
love with me, you would never have asked me to marry you. You would have
considered the obstacles."

"I am very much in love with you," he said vehemently, his feelings
getting the better of his pride for once. "However badly I may have
expressed myself, I am very much in love with you. I have been wretched
for days."

"Was it because you felt obliged to ask me to marry you?" she inquired.

The delicate touch of spirit in her tone and words fired him to fresh
admiration, strange to say. It suggested to him possibilities he had not
suspected hitherto. He drew nearer to her.

"Don't be too severe on me," he said--quite humbly, considering all
things.

And he stretched out his hand, as if to take hers.

But she drew it back, smiling ever so faintly.

"Do you think I don't know what the obstacles are?" she said. "I will
tell you."

"My affection was strong enough to sweep them away," he said, "or I
should not be here."

She smiled slightly again.

"I know all about them, as well as you do," she said. "I rather laughed
at them at first, but I don't now. I suppose I'm 'impressed by their
seriousness,' as aunt Belinda says. I suppose they _are_ pretty
serious--to you."

"Nothing would be so serious to me as that you should let them interfere
with my happiness," he answered, thrown back upon himself, and bewildered
by her logical manner. "Let us forget them. I was a fool to speak as I
did. Won't you answer my question?"

She paused a second, and then answered,--

"You didn't expect to ask me to marry you," she said. "And I didn't
expect you to"--

"But now"--he broke in impatiently.

"Now--I wish you hadn't done it."

"You wish"--

"You don't want _me_," she said. "You want somebody meeker,--somebody
who would respect you very much, and obey you. I'm not used to obeying
people."

"Do you mean also that you would not respect me?" he inquired bitterly.

"Oh," she replied, "you haven't respected me much!"

"Excuse me"--he began, in his loftiest manner.

"You didn't respect me enough to think me worth marrying," she said. "I
was not the kind of girl you would have chosen of your own will."

"You are treating me unfairly!" he cried.

"You were going to give me a great deal, I suppose--looking at it in your
way," she went on; "but, if I _wasn't_ exactly what you wanted, I had
something to give too. I'm young enough to have a good many years to
live; and I should have to live them with you, if I married you. That's
something, you know."

He rose from his seat pale with wrath and wounded feeling.

"Does this mean that you refuse me?" he demanded, "that your answer is
'no'?"

She rose, too--not exultant, not confused, neither pale nor flushed. He
had never seen her prettier, more charming, or more natural.

"It would have been 'no,' even if there hadn't been any obstacle,"
she answered.

"Then," he said, "I need say no more. I see that I have--humiliated
myself in vain; and it is rather bitter, I must confess."

"It wasn't my fault," she remarked.

He stepped back, with a haughty wave of the hand, signifying that she
should pass out of the arbor before him.

She did so; but just as she reached the entrance, she turned, and stood
for a second, framed in by the swinging vines and their blossoms.

"There's another reason why it should be 'no,'" she said. "I suppose I
may as well tell you of it. I'm engaged to somebody else."

CHAPTER XXVI.

"JACK."

The first person they saw, when they reached the lawn, was Mr. Dugald
Binnie, who had deigned to present himself, and was talking to Mr.
Burmistone, Lucia, and Miss Belinda.

"I'll go to them," said Octavia. "Aunt Belinda will wonder where I have
been."

But, before they reached the group, they were intercepted by Lord
Lansdowne; and Barold had the pleasure of surrendering his charge, and
watching her, with some rather sharp pangs, as she was borne off to the
conservatories.

"What is the matter with Mr. Barold?" exclaimed Miss Pilcher. "Pray
look at him."

"He has been talking to Miss Octavia Bassett, in one of the arbors," put
in Miss Lydia Burnham. "Emily and I passed them a few minutes ago, and
they were so absorbed that they did not see us. There is no knowing what
has happened."

"Lydia!" exclaimed Mrs. Burnham, in stern reproof of such flippancy.

But, the next moment, she exchanged a glance with Miss Pilcher.

"Do you think"--she suggested. "Is it possible"--

"It really looks very like it," said Miss Pilcher; "though it is scarcely
to be credited. See how pale and angry he looks."

Mrs. Burnham glanced toward him, and then a slight smile illuminated her
countenance.

"How furious," she remarked cheerfully, "how furious Lady Theobald will
be!"

Naturally, it was not very long before the attention of numerous other
ladies was directed to Mr. Francis Barold. It was observed that he took
no share in the festivities, that he did not regain his natural air of
enviable indifference to his surroundings,--that he did not approach
Octavia Bassett until all was over, and she was on the point of going
home. What he said to her then, no one heard.

"I am going to London to-morrow. Good-by."

"Good-by," she answered, holding out her hand to him. Then she added
quickly, in an under-tone, "You oughtn't to think badly of me. You won't,
after a while."

As they drove homeward, she was rather silent, and Miss Belinda remarked
it.

"I am afraid you are tired, Octavia," she said. "It is a pity that Martin
should come, and find you tired."

"Oh! I'm not tired. I was only--thinking. It has been a queer day."

"A queer day, my dear!" ejaculated Miss Belinda. "I thought it a charming
day."

"So it has been," said Octavia, which Miss Belinda thought rather
inconsistent.

Both of them grew rather restless as they neared the house.

"To think," said Miss Belinda, "of my seeing poor Martin again!"

"Suppose," said Octavia nervously, as they drew up, "suppose they are
here--already."

"They?" exclaimed Miss Belinda. "Who"--but she got no farther. A cry
burst from Octavia,--a queer, soft little cry. "They are here," she
said: "they are! Jack--Jack!"

And she was out of the carriage; and Miss Belinda, following her
closely, was horrified to see her caught at once in the embrace of a
tall, bronzed young man, who, a moment after, drew her into the little
parlor, and shut the door.

Mr. Martin Bassett, who was big and sunburned, and prosperous-looking,
stood in the passage, smiling triumphantly.

"M--M--Martin!" gasped Miss Belinda. "What--oh, what does this mean?"

Martin Bassett led her to a seat, and smiled more triumphantly still.

"Never mind, Belinda," he said. "Don't be frightened. It's Jack
Belasys, and he's the finest fellow in the West. And she hasn't seen
him for two years."

"Martin," Miss Belinda fluttered, "it is not proper--it really isn't."

"Yes, it is," answered Mr. Bassett; "for he's going to marry her before
we go abroad."

It was an eventful day for all parties concerned. At its close Lady
Theobald found herself in an utterly bewildered and thunderstruck
condition. And to Mr. Dugald Binnie, more than to any one else, her
demoralization was due. That gentleman got into the carriage, in rather a
better humor than usual.

"Same man I used to know," he remarked. "Glad to see him. I knew him as
soon as I set eyes on him."

"Do you allude to Mr. Burmistone?"

"Yes. Had a long talk with him. He's coming to see you to-morrow. Told
him he might come, myself. Appears he's taken a fancy to Lucia. Wants to
talk it over. Suits me exactly, and suppose it suits her. Looks as if it
does. Glad she hasn't taken a fancy to some haw-haw fellow, like that
fool Barold. Girls generally do. Burmistone's worth ten of him."

Lucia, who had been looking steadily out of the carriage-window, turned,
with an amazed expression. Lady Theobald had received a shock which made
all her manacles rattle. She could scarcely support herself under it.

"Do I"--she said. "Am I to understand that Mr. Francis Barold does not
meet with your approval?" Mr. Binnie struck his stick sharply upon the
floor of the carriage.

"Yes, by George!" he said. "I'll have nothing to do with chaps like that.
If she'd taken up with him, she'd never have heard from _me_ again. Make
sure of that."

When they reached Oldclough, her ladyship followed Lucia to her room. She
stood before her, arranging the manacles on her wrists nervously.

"I begin to understand now," she said. "I find I was mistaken in my
impressions of Mr. Dugald Binnie's tastes--and in my impressions of
_you_. You are to marry Mr. Burmistone. My rule is over. Permit me to
congratulate you."

The tears rose to Lucia's eyes.

"Grandmamma," she said, her voice soft and broken, "I think I should have
been more frank, if--if you had been kinder sometimes."

"I have done my duty by you," said my lady.

Lucia looked at her pathetically.

"I have been ashamed to keep things from you," she hesitated. "And I have
often told myself that--that it was sly to do it--but I could not help
it."

"I trust," said my lady, "that you will be more candid with Mr.
Burmistone."

Lucia blushed guiltily.

"I--think I shall, grandmamma," she said.

It was the Rev. Alfred Poppleton who assisted the rector of St. James to
marry Jack Belasys and Octavia Bassett; and it was observed that he was
almost as pale as his surplice.

Slowbridge had never seen such a wedding, or such a bride as Octavia. It
was even admitted that Jack Belasys was a singularly handsome fellow, and
had a dashing, adventurous air, which carried all before it. There was a
rumor that he owned silver-mines himself, and had even done something in
diamonds, in Brazil, where he had spent the last two years. At all
events, it was ascertained beyond doubt, that, being at last a married
woman, and entitled to splendors of the kind, Octavia would not lack
them. Her present to Lucia, who was one of her bridesmaids, dazzled all
beholders. When she was borne away by the train, with her father and
husband, and Miss Belinda, whose bonnet-strings were bedewed with tears,
the Rev. Alfred Poppleton was the last man who shook hands with her. He
held in his hand a large bouquet, which Octavia herself had given him out
of her abundance. "Slowbridge will miss you, Miss--Mrs. Belasys," he
faltered. "I--I shall miss you. Perhaps we--may even meet again. I have
thought that, perhaps, I should like to go to America."

And, as the train puffed out of the station and disappeared, he stood
motionless for several seconds; and a large and brilliant drop of
moisture appeared on the calyx of the lily which formed the centre-piece
of his bouquet.

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