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A Perilous Secret by Charles Reade

Part 2 out of 7

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"Ploughing and sowing don't pay, but brains and money pay wherever found
together."

"What, on a farm?"

"Why not, sir? You have only to go with the times. Observe the condition
of produce: grain too cheap for a farmer because continents can export
grain with little loss; fruit dear; meat dear, because cattle can not be
driven and sailed without risk of life and loss of weight; agricultural
labor rising, and in winter unproductive, because to farm means to plough
and sow, and reap and mow, and lose money. But meet those conditions.
Breed cattle, sheep, and horses, and make the farm their feeding-ground.
Give fifty acres to fruit; have a little factory on the land for winter
use, and so utilize all your farm hands and the village women, who are
cheaper laborers than town brats, and I think you will make a little
money in the form of money, besides what you make in gratuitous eggs,
poultry, fruit, horses to ride, and cart things for the house--items
which seldom figure in a farmer's books as money, but we stricter
accountants know they are."

"I'll do it," said Bartley, "if you'll be my neighbor, and work it with
me, and watch the share market at home and abroad."

Hope acquiesced joyfully to be near his daughter; and they found a farm
in Sussex, with hills for the sheep, short grass for colts, plenty of
water, enough arable land and artificial grasses for their purpose, and a
grand sunny slope for their fruit trees, fruit bushes, and strawberries,
with which last alone they paid the rent.

"Then," said Hope, "farm laborers drink an ocean of beer. Now look at the
retail price of beer: eighty per cent. over its cost, and yet
deleterious, which tells against your labor. As an employer of labor, the
main expense of a farm, you want beer to be slightly nourishing, and very
inspiriting, not somniferous."

So they set up a malt-house and a brew-house, and supplied all their own
hands with genuine liquor on the truck system at a moderate but
remunerative price, and the grains helped to feed their pigs. Hope's
principle was this: Sell no produce in its primitive form; if you change
its form you make two profits. Do you grow barley? Malt it, and infuse
it, and sell the liquor for two small profits, one on the grain, and one
on the infusion. Do you grow grass? Turn it into flesh, and sell for two
small profits, one on the herb, and one on the animal.

And really, when backed by money, the results seemed to justify his
principle.

Hope lived by himself, but not far from his child, and often, when she
went abroad, his loving eyes watched her every movement through his
binocular, which might be described as an opera-glass ten inches long,
with a small field, but telescopic power.

Grace Hope, whom we will now call Mary Bartley, since everybody but her
father, who generally avoided _her name_, called her so, was a well-grown
girl of thirteen, healthy, happy, beautiful, and accomplished. She was
the germ of a woman, and could detect who loved her. She saw in Hope an
affection she thought extraordinary, but instinct told her it was not
like a young man's love, and she accepted it with complacency, and
returned it quietly, with now and then a gush, for she could gush, and
why not? "Far from us and from our friends be the frigid philosophy"--of
a girl who can't gush.

Hope himself was loyal and guarded, and kept his affection within bounds;
and a sore struggle it was. He never allowed himself to kiss her, though
he was sore tempted one day, when he bought her a cream-colored pony, and
she flung her arms round his neck before Mr. Bartley and kissed him
eagerly; but he was so bashful that the girl laughed at him, and said,
half pertly, "Excuse the liberty, but if you will be such a duck, why,
you must take the consequences."

Said Bartley, pompously, "You must not expect middle-aged men to be as
demonstrative as very young ladies; but he has as much real affection
for you as you have for him."

"Then he has a good deal, papa," said she, sweetly. Both the men
were silent, and Mary looked to one and the other, and seemed a
little puzzled.

The great analysts that have dealt microscopically with commonplace
situations would revel in this one, and give you a curious volume of
small incidents like the above, and vivisect the father's heart with
patient skill. But we poor dramatists, taught by impatient audiences to
move on, and taught by those great professors of verbosity, our female
novelists and nine-tenths of our male, that it is just possible for
"masterly inactivity," _alias_ sluggish narrative, creeping through sorry
flags and rushes with one lily in ten pages, to become a bore, are driven
on to salient facts, and must trust a little to our reader's intelligence
to ponder on the singular situation of Mary Bartley and her two fathers.

One morning Mary Bartley and her governess walked to a neighboring town
and enjoyed the sacred delight of shopping. They came back by a
short-cut, which made it necessary to cross a certain brook, or rivulet,
called the Lyn. This was a rapid stream, and in places pretty deep; but
in one particular part it was shallow, and crossed by large
stepping-stones, two-thirds of which were generally above-water. The
village girls, including Mary Bartley, used all to trip over these
stones, and think nothing of it, though the brook went past at a fine
rate, and gradually widened and deepened as it flowed, till it reached a
downright fall; after that, running no longer down a decline, it became
rather a languid stream.

Mary and her governess came to this ford and found it swollen by recent
rains, and foaming and curling round the stepping-stones, and their tops
only were out of the water now.

The governess objected to pass this current.

"Well, but," said Mary, "the other way is a mile round, and papa expects
us to be punctual at meals, and I am, oh, so hungry! Dear Miss Everett, I
have crossed it a hundred times."

"But the water is so deep."

"It is deeper than usual; but see, it is only up to my knee. I could
cross it without the stones. You go round, dear, and I'll explain against
you come home."

"Not until I've seen you safe over."

"That you will soon see," said the girl, and, fearing a more
authoritative interference, she gathered up her skirts and planted one
dainty foot on the first stepping-stone, another on the next, and so on
to the fourth; and if she had been a boy she would have cleared them all.
But holding her skirts instead of keeping her arms to balance herself,
and wearing idiotic shoes, her heels slipped on the fifth stone, which
was rather slimy, and she fell into the middle of the current with a
little scream.

To her amazement she found that the stream, though shallow, carried her
off her feet, and though she recovered them, she could not keep them, but
was alternately up and down, and driven along, all the time floundering.
Oh, then she screamed with terror, and the poor governess ran screaming
too, and making idle clutches from the bank, but powerless to aid.

Then, as the current deepened, the poor girl lost her feet altogether,
and was carried on toward the deep water, flinging her arms high and
screaming, but powerless. At first she was buoyed up by her clothes, and
particularly by a petticoat of some material that did not drink water.
But as her other clothes became soaked and heavy, she sank to her chin,
and death stared her in the face.

She lost hope, and being no common spirit, she gained resignation; she
left screaming, and said to Everett, "Pray for me."

But the next moment hope revived, and fear with it--this is a law of
nature--for a man, bare-headed and his hair flying, came galloping on a
bare-backed pony, shouting and screaming with terror louder than both the
women. He urged the pony furiously to the stream; then the beast planted
his feet together, and with the impulse thus given Hope threw himself
over the pony's head into the water, and had his arm round his child in a
moment. He lashed out with the other hand across the stream. But it was
so powerful now as it neared the lasher that they made far more way
onward to destruction than they did across the stream; still they did
near the bank a little. But the lasher roared nearer and nearer, and the
stream pulled them to it with iron force. They were close to it now. Then
a willow bough gave them one chance. Hope grasped it, and pulled with
iron strength. From the bough he got to a branch, and finally clutched
the stem of the tree, just as his feet were lifted up by the rushing
water, and both lives hung upon that willow-tree. The girl was on his
left arm, and his right arm round the willow.

"Grace," said he, feigning calmness. "Put your arm around my neck, Mary."

"Yes, dear," said she, firmly.

"Now don't hurry yourself--_there's no danger_; move slowly across me,
and hold my right arm very tight."

She did so.

"Now take hold of the bank with your left hand; but don't let go of me."

"Yes, dear," said the little heroine, whose fear was gone now she had
Hope to take care of her.

Then Hope clutched the tree with his left hand, pushed Mary on shore with
his right, and very soon had her in his arms on _terra firma_.

But now came a change that confounded Mary Bartley, to whom a man was a
very superior being; only not always intelligible.

The brave man fell to shaking like an aspen leaf; the strong man
to sobbing and gasping, and kissing the girl wildly. "Oh, my child!
my child!"

Then Mary, of course, must gulp and cry a little for sympathy; but her
quick-changing spirit soon shook it off, and she patted his cheek and
kissed him, and then began to comfort him, if you please. "Good, dear,
kind Mr. Hope," said she. "La! don't go on like that. You were so brave
in the water, and now the danger is over. I've had a ducking, that is
all. Ha! ha! ha!" and the little wretch began to laugh.

Hope looked amazed; neither his heart nor his sex would let him change
his mood so swiftly.

"Oh, my child," said he, "how can you laugh? You have been near eternity,
and if you had been lost, what should I--O God!"

Mary turned very grave. "Yes," said she, "I have been near eternity. It
would not have mattered to you--you are such a good man--but I should
have caught it for disobedience. But, dear Mr. Hope, let me tell you that
the moment you put your arm round me I felt just as safe in the water as
on dry land; so you see I have had longer to get over it than you have;
that accounts for my laughing. No, it doesn't; I am a giddy, giggling
girl, with _no depth of character_, and not worthy of all this affection.
Why does everybody love _me_? They ought to be ashamed of themselves."

Hope told her she was a little angel, and everybody was right to love
her; indeed, they deserved to be hanged if they did not.

Mary fixed on the word angel. "If I was an angel," she said, "I shouldn't
be hungry, and I am, awfully. Oh, please come home; papa is so punctual.
Mr. Hope, are you going to tell papa? Because if you _are_, just you take
me and throw me in again. I'd rather be drowned than scolded." (This with
a defiant attitude and flashing eyes.)

"No, no," said Hope. "I will not tell him, to vex him, and get
you scolded."

"Then let us run home."

She took his hand, and he ran with her like a playmate, and oh! the
father's heart leaped and glowed at this sweet companionship after danger
and terror.

When they got near the house Mary Bartley began to walk and think. She
had a very thinking countenance at times, and Hope watched her, and
wondered what were her thoughts. She was very grave, so probably she was
thinking how very near she had been to the other world.

Standing on the door-step, whilst he stood on the gravel, she let him
know her thoughts. All her life, and even at this tender age, she had
very searching eyes; they were gray now, though they had been blue.
She put her hands to her waist, and bent those searching eyes on
William Hope.

"Mr. Hope," said she, in a resolute sort of way.

"My dear," said he, eagerly.

"YOU LOVE ME BETTER THAN PAPA DOES, THAT'S ALL."

And having administered this information as a dry fact that might be
worth looking into at leisure, she passed thoughtfully into the house.

CHAPTER VI.

SHARP PRACTICE.

Hope paid a visit to his native place in Derbyshire, and his poor
relations shared his prosperity, and blessed him, and Mr. Bartley upon
his report; for Hope was one of those choice spirits who praise the
bridge that carries them safe over the stream of adversity.

He returned to Sussex with all the news, and, amongst the rest, that
Colonel Clifford had a farm coming vacant. Walter Clifford had
insisted on a higher rent at the conclusion of the term, but the
tenant had demurred.

Bartley paid little attention at the time; but by-and-by he said, "Did
you not see signs of coal on Colonel Clifford's property?"

"That I did, and on this very farm, and told him so. But he is behind the
age. I have no patience with him. Take one of those old iron ramrods that
used to load the old musket, and cover that ramrod with prejudices a foot
and a half deep, and there you have Colonel Clifford."

"Well, but a tenant would not be bound by his prejudices."

"A tenant! A tenant takes no right to mine, under a farm lease; he would
have to propose a special contract, or to ask leave, and Colonel Clifford
would never grant it."

There the conversation dropped. But the matter rankled in Bartley's mind.
Without saying any more to Hope, he consulted a sharp attorney.

The result was that he took Mary Bartley with him into Derbyshire.

He put up at a little inn, and called at Clifford Hall.

He found Colonel Clifford at home, and was received stiffly, but
graciously. He gave Colonel Clifford to understand that he had
left business.

"All the better," said Colonel Clifford, sharply.

"And taken to farming."

"Ugh!" said the other, with his favorite snort.

At this moment, who should walk into the room but Walter Clifford.

Bartley started and stared. Walter started and stared.

"Mr. Bolton," said Bartley, scarcely above a whisper.

But Colonel Clifford heard it, and said, brusquely: "Bolton! No. Why,
this is Walter Clifford, my son, and my man of business.--Walter, this is
Mr. Bartley."

"Proud to make your acquaintance, sir," said the astute Bartley,
ignoring the past.

Walter was glad he took this line before Colonel Clifford: not that he
forgave Mr. Bartley that old affront the reader knows of.

The judicious Bartley read his face, and, as a first step toward
propitiation, introduced him to his daughter. Walter was amazed at her
beauty and grace, coming from such a stock. He welcomed her courteously,
but shyly. She replied with rare affability, and that entire absence of
mock-modesty which was already a feature in her character. To be sure,
she was little more than fifteen, though she was full grown, and looked
nearer twenty.

Bartley began to feel his way with Colonel Clifford about the farm. He
told him he was pretty successful in agriculture, thanks to the
assistance of an experienced friend, and then he said, half carelessly,
"By-the-bye, they tell me you have one to let. Is that so?"

"Walter," said Colonel Clifford, "have you a farm to let?"

"Not at present, sir; but one will be vacant in a month, unless the
present tenant consents to pay thirty per cent. more than he has done."

"Might I see that farm, Mr. Walter?" asked Bartley.

"Certainly," said Walter; "I shall be happy to show you over it." Then he
turned to Mary. "I am afraid it would be no compliment to you. Ladies are
not interested in farms."

"Oh, but _I_ am, since papa is, and Mr. Hope: and then on _our_ farm
there are so many dear little young things: little calves, little lambs,
and little pigs. Little pigs are ducks--_very_ little ones, I mean; and
there is nearly always a young colt about, that eats out of my hand. Not
like a farm? The idea!"

"Then I will show you all over ours, you and your papa," said Walter,
warmly. He then asked Mr. Bartley where he was to be found; and when
Bartley told him at the "Dun Cow," he looked at Mary and said, "Oh!"

Mary understood in a moment, and laughed and said: "We are very
comfortable, I assure you. We have the parlor all to ourselves, and
there are samplers hung up, and oh! such funny pictures, and the landlady
is beginning to spoil me already."

"Nobody can spoil you, Mary," said Mr. Bartley.

"You ought to know, papa, for you have been trying a good many years."

"Not very many, Miss Bartley," said Colonel Clifford, graciously. Then he
gave half a start and said: "Here am I calling her miss when she is my
own niece, and, now I think of it, she can't be half as old as she looks.
I remember the very day she was born. My dear, you are an impostor."

Bartley changed color at this chance shaft. But Colonel Clifford
explained:

"You pass for twenty, and you can't be more than--Let me see."

"I am fifteen and four months," said Mary, "and I do take people
in--_cruelly_."

"Well," said Colonel Clifford, "you see you can't take me in. I know your
date. So come and give your old ruffian of an uncle a kiss."

"That I will," cried Mary, and flew at Colonel Clifford, and flung both
arms round his neck and kissed him. "Oh, papa," said she, "I have got an
uncle now. A hero, too; and me that is so fond of heroes! Only this is my
first--out of books."

"Mary, my dear," said Bartley, "you are too impetuous. Please excuse her,
Colonel Clifford. Now, my dear, shake hands with your cousin, for we must
be going."

Mary complied; but not at all impetuously. She lowered her long lashes,
and put out her hand timidly, and said, "Good-by, Cousin Walter."

He held her hand a moment, and that made her color directly. "You will
come over the farm. Can you ride? Have you your habit?"

"No, cousin; but never mind that. I can put on a long skirt."

"A skirt! But, after all, it does not matter a straw what _you_ wear."

Mary was such a novice that she did not catch the meaning of this on the
spot, but half-way to the inn, and in the middle of a conversation, her
cheeks were suddenly suffused with blushes. A young man had admired her
and _said_ so. Very likely that was the way with young men. _No_ doubt
they were bolder than young women; but somehow it was not so very
objectionable _in them_.

That short interview was a little era in Mary's young life. Walter had
fixed his eyes on her with delight, had held her hand some seconds, and
admired her to her face. She began to wonder a little, and flutter a
little, and to put off childhood.

Next day, punctual to the minute, Walter drove up to the door in an open
carriage drawn by two fast steppers. He found Mr. Bartley alone, and why?
because, at sight of Walter, Mary, for the first time in her life, had
flown upstairs to look at herself in the glass before facing the visitor,
and to smooth her hair, and retouch a bow, etc., underrating, as usual,
the power of beauty, and overrating nullities. Bartley took this
opportunity, and said to young Clifford:

"I owe you an apology, and a most earnest one. Can you ever forgive me?"

Walter changed color. Even this humble allusion to so great an insult was
wormwood to him. He bit his lip, and said:

"No man can do more than say he is sorry. I will try to forget it, sir."

"That is as much as I can expect," said Bartley, humbly. "But if you only
knew the art, the cunning, the apparent evidence, with which that villain
Monckton deluded me--"

"That I can believe."

"And permit me one observation before we drop this unhappy subject
forever. If you had done me the honor to come to me as Walter Clifford,
why, then, strong and misleading as the evidence was, I should have said,
'Appearances are deceitful, but no Clifford was ever disloyal.'"

This artful speech conquered Walter Clifford. He blushed, and bowed a
little haughtily at the compliment to the Cliffords. But his sense of
justice was aroused.

"You are right," said he. "I must try and see both sides. If a man
sails under false colors, he mustn't howl if he is mistaken for a
pirate. Let us dismiss the subject forever. I am Walter Clifford
now--at your service."

At that moment Mary Bartley came in, beaming with youth and beauty, and
illumined the room. The cousins shook hands, and Walter's eyes glowed
with admiration.

After a few words of greeting he handed Mary into the drag. Her father
followed, and he was about to drive off, when Mary cried out, "Oh, I
forgot my skirt, if I am to ride."

The skirt was brought down, and the horses, that were beginning to fret,
dashed off. A smart little groom rode behind, and on reaching the farm
they found another with two saddle-horses, one of them, a small, gentle
Arab gelding, had a side-saddle. They rode all over the farm, and
inspected the buildings, which were in excellent repair, thanks to
Walter's supervision. Bartley inquired the number of acres and the rent
demanded. Walter told him. Bartley said it seemed to him a fair rent;
still, he should like to know why the present tenant declined.

"Perhaps you had better ask him," said Walter. "I should wish you to hear
both sides."

"That is like you," said Bartley; "but where does the shoe pinch, in
your opinion?"

"Well, he tells me, in sober earnest, that he loses money by it as it is;
but when he is drunk he tells his boon companions he has made seven
thousand pounds here. He has one or two grass fields that want draining,
but I offer him the pipes; he has only got to lay them and cut the
drains. My opinion is that he is the slave of habit; he is so used to
make an unfair profit out of these acres that he can not break himself of
it and be content with a fair one."

"I dare say you have hit it," said Bartley. "Well, I am fond of farming;
but I don't live by it, and a moderate profit would content me."

Walter said nothing. The truth is, he did not want to let the farm
to Bartley.

Bartley saw this, and drew Mary aside.

"Should not you like to come here, my child?"

"Yes, papa, if you wish it; and you know it's dear Mr. Hope's
birth-place."

"Well, then, tell this young fellow so. I will give you an opportunity."

That was easily managed, and then Mary said, timidly, "Cousin Walter, we
should all three be so glad if we might have the farm."

"Three?" said he. "Who is the third?"

"Oh, somebody that everybody likes and I love. It is Mr. Hope. Such a
duck! I am sure you would like him."

"Hope! Is his name William?"

"Yes, it is. Do you know him?" asked Mary, eagerly.

"I have reason to know him: he did me a good turn once, and I shall never
forget it."

"Just like him!" cried Mary. "He is always doing people good turns. He
is the best, the truest, the cleverest, the dearest darling dear that
ever stepped, and a second father to me; and, cousin, this village is his
birth-place, and he didn't say much, but it was he who told us of this
farm, and he would be so pleased if I could write and say, 'We are to
have the farm--Cousin Walter says so.'"

She turned her lovely eyes, brimming with tenderness, toward her cousin
Walter, and he was done for.

"Of course you shall have it," he said, warmly. "Only you will not be
angry with me if I insist on the increased rent. You know, cousin, I
have a father, too, and I must be just to him."

"To be sure, you must, dear," said Mary, incautiously; and the word
penetrated Walter's heart as if a woman of twenty-five had said it all of
a sudden and for the first time.

When they got home, Mary told Mr. Bartley he was to have the farm if he
would pay the increased rent.

"That is all right," said Bartley. "Then to-morrow we can go home."

"So soon!" said Mary, sorrowfully.

"Yes," said Bartley, firmly; "the rest had better be done in writing.
Why, Mary, what is the use of staying on now? We are going to live here
in a month or two."

"I forgot that," said Mary, with a little sigh. It seemed so ungracious
to get what they wanted, and then turn their backs directly. She hinted
as much, very timidly.

But Bartley was inexorable, and they reached home next day.

Mary would have liked to write to Walter, and announce their safe
arrival, but nature withheld her. She was a child no longer.

Bartley went to the sharp solicitor, and had a long interview with him.
The result was that in about ten days he sent Walter Clifford a letter
and the draft of a lease, very favorable to the landlord on the whole,
but cannily inserting one unusual clause that looked inoffensive.

It came by post, and Walter read the letter, and told his father whom
it was from.

"What does the fellow say?" grunted Colonel Clifford.

"He says: 'We are doing very well here, but Hope says a bailiff can now
carry out our system; and he is evidently sweet on his native place, and
thinks the proposed rent is fair, and even moderate. As for me, my life
used to be so bustling that I require a change now and then; so I will be
your tenant. Hope says I am to pay the expense of the lease, so I have
requested Arrowsmith & Cox to draw it. I have no experience in leases.
They have drawn hundreds. I told them to make it fair. If they have not,
send it back with objections.'"

"Oh! oh!" said Colonel Clifford. "He draws the lease, does he? Then look
at it with a microscope."

Walter laughed.

"I should not like to encounter him on his own ground. But here he is a
fish out of water; he must be. However, I will pass my eye over it.
Where the farmer generally over-reaches us, if he draws the lease, is in
the clauses that protect him on leaving. He gets part possession for
months without paying rent, and he hampers and fleeces the incoming
tenant, so that you lose a year's rent or have to buy him out. Now, let
me see, that will be at the end of the document--No; it is exceedingly
fair, this one."

"Show it to our man of business, and let him study every line. Set an
attorney to catch an attorney."

"Of course I shall submit it to our solicitor," said Walter.

This was done, and the experienced practitioner read it very carefully.
He pronounced it unusually equitable for a farmer's lease.

"However," said he, "we might suggest that he does _all_ the repairs and
draining, and that you find the materials; and also that he insures all
the farm buildings. But you can hardly stand out for the insurance if he
objects. There's no harm trying. Stay! here is one clause that is
unusual: the tenant is to have the right to bore for water, or to
penetrate the surface of the soil, and take out gravel or chalk or
minerals, if any. I don't like that clause. He might quarry, and cut the
farm in pieces. Ah, there's a proviso, that any damage to the surface or
the agricultural value shall be fully compensated, the amount of such
injury to be settled by the landlord's valuer or surveyor. Oh, come, if
you can charge your own price, that can't kill you."

In short, the draft was approved, subject to certain corrections. These
were accepted. The lease was engrossed in duplicate, and in due course
signed and delivered. The old tenant left, abusing the Cliffords, and
saying it was unfair to bring in a stranger, for _he_ would have given
all the money.

Bartley took possession.

Walter welcomed Hope very warmly, and often came to see him. He took a
great interest in Hope's theories of farming, and often came to the farm
for lessons. But that interest was very much increased by the
opportunities it gave him of seeing and talking to sweet Mary Bartley.
Not that he was forward or indiscreet. She was not yet sixteen, and he
tried to remember she was a child.

Unfortunately for that theory she looked a ripe woman, and this very
Walter made her more and more womanly. Whenever Walter was near she had
new timidity, new blushes, fewer gushes, less impetuosity, more reserve.
Sweet innocent! She was set by Nature to catch the man by the surest way,
though she had no such design.

Oh, it was a pretty, subtle piece of nature, and each sex played its
part. Bold advances of the man, with internal fear to offend, mock
retreats of the girl, with internal throbs of complacency, and life
invested with a new and growing charm to both. Leaving this pretty little
pastime to glide along the flowery path that beautifies young lives to
its inevitable climax, we go to a matter more prosaic, yet one that
proved a source of strange and stormy events.

Hope had hardly started the farm when Bartley sent him off to Belgium--TO
STUDY COAL MINES.

CHAPTER VII.

THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE.

Mr. Hope left his powerful opera-glass with Mary Bartley. One day that
Walter called she was looking through it at the landscape, and handed it
to him. He admired its power. Mary told him it had saved her life once.

"Oh," said he, "how could that be?"

Then she told him how Hope had seen her drowning, a mile off, with it,
and ridden a bare-backed steed to her rescue.

"God bless him!" cried Walter. "He is our best friend. Might I borrow
this famous glass?"

"Oh," said Mary, "I am not going into any more streams; I am not so brave
now as I used to be."

"Please lend it me, for all that."

"Of course I will, if you wish it."

Strange to say, after this, whether Mary walked out or rode out, she very
often met Mr. Walter Clifford. He was always delighted and surprised. She
was surprised three times, and said so, and after that she came to lower
her lashes and blush, but not to start. Each meeting was a pure accident,
no doubt, only she foresaw the inevitable occurrence.

They talked about everything in the world except what was most on their
minds. Their soft tones and expressive eyes supplied that little
deficiency.

One day he caught her riding on her little Arab. The groom fell
behind directly. After they had ridden some distance in silence,
Walter broke out:

"How beautifully you ride!"

"Me!" cried Mary. "Why, I never had a lesson in my life."

"That accounts for it. Let a lady alone, and she does everything more
gracefully than a man; but let some cad undertake to teach her, she
distrusts herself and imitates the snob. If you could only see the women
in Hyde Park who have been taught to ride, and compare them with
yourself!"

"I should learn humility."

"No; it would make you vain, if anything could."

"You seem inclined to do me that good turn. Come, pray, what do these
poor ladies do to offend you so?"

"I'll tell you. They square their shoulders vulgarly; they hold the reins
in their hands as if they were driving, and they draw the reins to their
waists in a coarse, absurd way. They tighten both these reins equally,
and saw the poor devil's mouth with the curb and the snaffle at one time.
Now you know, Mary, the snaffle is a mild bit, and the curb is a sharp
one; so where is the sense of pulling away at the snaffle when you are
tugging at the curb? Why, it is like the fellow that made two holes at
the bottom of the door--a big one for the cat to come through and a
little one for the kitten. But the worst of all is they show the caddess
so plainly."

"Caddess! What is that; goddess you mean, I suppose?"

"No; I mean a cad of the feminine gender. They seem bursting with
affectation and elated consciousness that they are on horseback. That
shows they have only just made the acquaintance of that animal, and in a
London riding-school. Now you hold both reins lightly in the left hand,
the curb loose, since it is seldom wanted, the snaffle just feeling the
animal's mouth, and you look right and left at the people you are talking
to, and don't seem to invite one to observe that you are on a horse: that
is because you are a lady, and a horse is a matter of course to you, just
as the ground is when you walk upon it."

The sensible girl blushed at his praise, but she said, dryly, "How
meritorious! Cousin Walter, I have heard that flattery is poison. I won't
stay here to be poisoned--so." She finished the sentence in action; and
with a movement of her body she started her Arab steed, and turned her
challenging eye back on Walter, and gave him a hand-gallop of a mile on
the turf by the road-side. And when she drew bridle her cheeks glowed so
and her eyes glistened, that Walter was dazzled by her bright beauty,
and could do nothing but gaze at her for ever so long.

If Hope had been at home, Mary would have been looked after more
sharply. But if she was punctual at meals, that went a long way with
Robert Bartley.

However, the accidental and frequent meetings of Walter and Mary, and
their delightful rides and walks, were interfered with just as they began
to grow into a habit. There arrived at Clifford Hall a formidable
person--in female eyes, especially--a beautiful heiress. Julia Clifford,
great-niece and ward of Colonel Clifford; very tall, graceful, with dark
gray eyes, and black eyebrows the size of a leech, that narrowed to a
point and met in finer lines upon the bridge of a nose that was gently
aquiline, but not too large, as such noses are apt to be. A large,
expressive mouth, with wonderful rows of ivory, and the prettiest little
black down, fine as a hair, on her upper lip, and a skin rather dark but
clear, and glowing with the warm blood beneath it, completed this noble
girl. She was nineteen years of age.

Colonel Clifford received her with warm affection and old-fashioned
courtesy; but as he was disabled by a violent fit of gout, he deputed
Walter to attend to her on foot and horseback.

Miss Clifford, accustomed to homage, laid Walter under contribution every
day. She was very active, and he had to take her a walk in the morning,
and a ride in the afternoon. He winced a little under this at first; it
kept him so much from Mary. But there was some compensation. Julia
Clifford was a lady-like rider, and also a bold and skillful one.

The first time he rode with her he asked her beforehand what sort of a
horse she would like.

"Oh, anything," said she, "that is not vicious nor slow."

"A hack or a hunter?"

"Oh, a hunter, if I _may_."

"Perhaps you will do me the honor to look at them and select."

"You are very kind, and I will."

He took her to the stables, and she selected a beautiful black mare, with
a coat like satin.

"There," said Walter, despondingly. "I was afraid you would fix on _her_.
She is impossible, I can't ride her myself."

"Vicious?"

"Not in the least."

"Well, then--"

Here an old groom touched his hat, and said, curtly, "Too hot and
fidgety, miss. I'd as lieve ride of a boiling kettle."

Walter explained: "The poor thing is the victim of nervousness."

"Which I call them as rides her the victims," suggested the
ancient groom.

"Be quiet, George. She would go sweetly in a steeple-chase, if she didn't
break her heart with impatience before the start. But on the road she is
impossible. If you make her walk, she is all over lather in five minutes,
and she'd spoil that sweet habit with flecks of foam. My lady has a way
of tossing her head, and covering you all over with white streaks."

"She wants soothing," suggested Miss Clifford.

"Nay, miss. She wants bleeding o' Sundays, and sweating over the fallows
till she drops o' week-days. But if she was mine I'd put her to work a
coal-cart for six months; that would larn her."

"I will ride her," said Miss Clifford, calmly; "her or none."

"Saddle her, George," said Walter, resignedly. "I'll ride Goliah. Black
Bess sha'n't plead a bad example. Goliah is as meek as Moses, Miss
Clifford. He is a gigantic mouse."

"I'd as lieve ride of a dead man," said the old groom.

"Mr. George," said the young lady, "you seem hard to please. May I ask
what sort of animal you do like to ride?"

"Well, miss, summat between them two. When I rides I likes to be at
peace. If I wants work, there's plenty in the yard. If I wants fretting
and fuming, I can go home: I'm a married man, ye know. But when I crosses
a horse I looks for a smart trot and a short stepper, or an easy canter
on a bit of turf, and not to be set to hard labor a-sticking my heels
into Goliah, nor getting a bloody nose every now and then from Black Bess
a-throwing back her uneasy head when I do but lean forward in the saddle.
I be an old man, miss, and I looks for peace on horseback if I can't get
it nowhere else."

All this was delivered whilst saddling Black Bess. When she was ready,
Miss Clifford asked leave to hold the bridle, and walk her out of the
premises. As she walked her she patted and caressed her, and talked to
her all the time--told her they all misunderstood her because she was
a female; but now she was not to be tormented and teased, but to have
her own way.

Then she asked George to hold the mare's head as gently as he could, and
Walter to put her up. She was in the saddle in a moment. The mare
fidgeted and pranced, but did not rear. Julia slackened the reins, and
patted and praised her, and let her go. She made a run, but was checked
by degrees with the snaffle. She had a beautiful mouth, and it was in
good hands at last.

When they had ridden a few miles they came to a very open country, and
Julia asked, demurely, if she might be allowed to try her off the road.
"All right," said Walter; and Miss Julia, with a smart decision that
contrasted greatly with the meekness of her proposal, put her straight at
the bank, and cleared it like a bird. They had a famous gallop, but this
judicious rider neither urged the mare nor greatly checked her. She
moderated her. Black Bess came home that day sweating properly, but with
a marked diminution of lather and foam. Miss Clifford asked leave to ride
her into the stable-yard, and after dismounting talked to her, and patted
her, and praised her. An hour later the pertinacious beauty asked for a
carrot from the garden, and fed Black Bess with it in the stable.

By these arts, a very light hand, and tact in riding, she soothed Black
Bess's nerves, so that at last the very touch of her habit skirt, or her
hand, or the sound of her voice, seemed to soothe the poor nervous
creature; and at last one day in the stable Bess protruded her great lips
and kissed her fair rider on the shoulder after her manner.

All this interested and amused Walter Clifford, but still he was
beginning to chafe at being kept from Miss Bartley, when one morning her
servant rode over with a note.

"DEAR COUSIN WALTER,--Will you kindly send me back my opera glass?
I want to see what is going on at Clifford Hall.

"Yours affectionately,

"MARY BARTLEY."

Walter wrote back directly that he would bring it himself, and tell her
what was going on at Clifford Hall.

So he rode over and told her of Julia Clifford's arrival, and how his
father had deputed him to attend on her, and she took up all his time. It
was beginning to be a bore.

"On the contrary," said Mary, "I dare say she is very handsome."

"That she is," said Walter.

"Please describe her."

"A very tall, dark girl, with wonderful eyebrows; and she has broken in
Black Bess, that some of us men could not ride in comfort."

Mary changed color. She murmured, "No wonder the Hall is more attractive
than the farm!" and the tears shone in her eyes.

"Oh, Mary," said Walter, reproachfully, "how can you say that? What is
Julia Clifford to me?"

"I can't tell," said Mary, dryly. "I never saw you together _through my
glasses, you know_."

Walter laughed at this innuendo.

"You shall see us together to-morrow, if you will bless one of us with
your company."

"I might be in the way."

"That is not very likely. Will you ride to Hammond Church to-morrow at
about ten, and finish your sketch of the tower? I will bring Miss
Clifford there, and introduce you to each other."

This was settled, and Mary was apparently quite intent on her sketch when
Walter and Julia rode up, and Walter said:

"That is my cousin, Mary Bartley. May I introduce her to you?"

"Of course. What a sweet face!"

So the ladies were introduced, and Julia praised Mary's sketch, and Mary
asked leave to add her to it, hanging, with pensive figure, over a
tombstone. Julia took an admirable pose, and Mary, with her quick and
facile fingers, had her on the paper in no time. Walter asked her, in a
whisper, what she thought of her model.

"I like her," said Mary. "She is rather pretty."

"Rather pretty! Why, she is an acknowledged beauty."

"A beauty? The idea! Long black thing!"

Then they rode all together to the farm. There Mary was all innocent
hospitality, and the obnoxious Julia kissed her at parting, and begged
her to come and see her at the Hall.

Mary did call, and found her with a young gentleman of short stature, who
was devouring her with his eyes, but did not overflow in discourse,
having a slight impediment in his speech. This was Mr. Percy Fitzroy.
Julia introduced him.

"And where are you staying, Percy?" inquired she.

"At the D--D--Dun Cow."

"What is that?"

Walter explained that it was a small hostelry, but one that was
occasionally honored by distinguished visitors. Miss Bartley staid there
three days.

"I h--hope to st--ay more than that," said little Percy, with an amorous
glance at Julia.

Miss Clifford took Mary to her room, and soon asked her what she thought
of him; then, anticipating criticism, she said there was not much of him,
but he was such a duck.

"He dresses beautifully," was Mary's guarded remark.

However, when Walter rode home with her, being now relieved of his
attendance on Julia, she was more communicative. Said she: "I never knew
before that a man could look like fresh cambric. Dear me! his head and
his face and his little whiskers, his white scarf, his white waistcoat,
and all his clothes, and himself, seem just washed and ironed and
starched. _I looked round for the bandbox_."

"Never mind," said Walter. "He is a great addition. My duties devolve on
him. And I shall be free to--How her eyes shone and her voice mellowed
when she spoke to him! Confess, now, love is a beautiful thing."

"I can not say. Not experienced in beautiful things." And Mary looked
mighty demure.

"Of course not. What am I thinking of? You are only a child."

"A little more than that, _please_."

"At all events, love beautified _her_."

"I saw no difference. She was always a lovely girl."

"Why, you said she was 'a long black thing.'"

"Oh, that was before--she looked engaged."

After this young Fitzroy was generally Miss Clifford's companion in her
many walks, and Walter Clifford had a delightful time with Mary Bartley.

Her nurse discovered how matters were going. But she said nothing. From
something Bartley let fall years ago she divined that Bartley was robbing
Walter Clifford by substituting Hope's child for his own, and she thought
the mischief could be repaired and the sin atoned for if he and Mary
became man and wife. So she held her tongue and watched.

The servants at the Hall watched the whole game, and saw how the young
people were pairing, and talked them over very freely.

The only person in the dark was Colonel Clifford. He was nearly always
confined to his room. However, one day he came down, and found Julia and
Percy together. She introduced Percy to him. The Colonel was curt, but
grumpy, and Percy soon beat a retreat.

The Colonel sent for Walter to his room. He did not come for some time,
because he was wooing Mary Bartley.

Colonel Clifford's first word was, "Who was that little stuttering dandy
I caught spooning _your_ Julia?"

"Only Percy Fitzroy."

"Only Percy Fitzroy! Never despise your rivals, sir. Always remember that
young women are full of vanity, and expect to be courted all day long. I
will thank you not to leave the field open a single day till you have
secured the prize."

"What prize, sir?"

"What prize, you ninny? Why, the beautiful girl that can buy back
Oddington and Drayton, peaches and fruit and all. They are both to be
sold at this moment. What prize? Why, the wife I have secured for you, if
you don't go and play the fool and neglect her."

Walter Clifford looked aghast.

"Julia Clifford!" said he. "Pray don't ask me to marry _her_."

"Not ask you?--but I do ask you; and what is more, I command you. Would
you revolt again against your father, who has forgiven you, and break my
heart, now I am enfeebled by disease? Julia Clifford is your wife, or you
are my son no more."

CHAPTER VIII.

THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE.

The next time Walter Clifford met Mary Bartley he was gloomy at
intervals. The observant girl saw he had something on his mind. She taxed
him with it, and asked him tenderly what it was.

"Oh, nothing," said he.

"Don't tell me!" said she. "Mind, nothing escapes my eye. Come, tell me,
or we are not friends."

"Oh, come, Mary. That is hard."

"Not in the least. I take an interest in you."

"Bless you for saying so!"

"And so, if you keep your troubles from me, we are not friends,
nor cousins."

"Mary!"

"Nor anything else."

"Well, dear Mary, sooner than not be anything else to you I will tell
you, and yet I don't like. Well, then, if I must, it is that dear old
wrong-headed father of mine. He wants me to marry Julia Clifford."

Mary turned pale directly. "I guessed as much," said she. "Well, she is
young and beautiful and rich, and it is your duty to obey your father."

"But I can't."

"Oh yes, you can, if you try."

"But I can't try."

"Why not?"

"Can't you guess?"

"No."

"Well, then, I love another girl. As opposite to her as light is to
darkness."

Mary blushed and looked down. "Complimentary to Julia," she said. "I pity
her opposite, for Julia is a fine, high-minded girl."

"Ah, Mary, you are too clever for me; of course I mean the opposite in
appearance."

"As ugly as she is pretty?"

"No; but she is a dark girl, and I don't like dark girls. It was a dark
girl that deceived me so heartlessly years ago."

"Ah!"

"And made me hate the whole sex."

"Or only the brunettes?"

"The whole lot."

"Cousin Walter, I thank you in the name of that small company."

"Until I saw you, and you converted me in one day."

"Only to the blondes?"

"Only to one of them. My sweet Mary, the situation is serious. You, whose
eye nothing escapes--you must have seen long ago how I love you."

"Never mind what I have seen, Walter," said Mary, whose bosom was
beginning to heave.

"Very well," said Walter; "then I will tell you as if you didn't know it.
I admired you at first sight; every time I was with you I admired you,
and loved you more and more. It is my heaven to see you and to hear you
speak. Whether you are grave or gay, saucy or tender, it is all one
charm, one witchcraft. I want you for my wife, and my child, and my
friend. Mary, my love, my darling, how could I marry any woman but you?
and you, could you marry any man but me, to break the heart that beats
only for you?"

This and the voice of love, now ardent, now broken with emotion, were
more than sweet, saucy Mary could trifle with; her head drooped slowly
upon his shoulder, and her arm went round his neck, and the tremor of her
yielding frame and the tears of tenderness that flowed slowly from her
fair eyes told Walter Clifford without a word that she was won.

He had the sense not to ask her for words. What words could be so
eloquent as this? He just held her to his manly bosom, and trembled with
love and joy and triumph.

She knew, too, that she had replied, and treated her own attitude like a
sentence in rather a droll way. "But _for all that_," said she, "I don't
mean to be a wicked girl if I can help. This is an age of wicked young
ladies. I soon found that out in the newspapers; that and science are the
two features. And I have made a solemn vow not to be one of
them"--(query, a science or a naughty girl)--"making mischief between
father and son."

"No more you shall, dear," said Walter. "Leave it to me. We must be
patient, and all will come right."

"Oh, I'll be true to you, dear, if that is all," said Mary.

"And if you would not mind just temporizing a little, for my sake, who
love you?"

"Temporize!" said Mary, eagerly. "With all my heart. I'll temporize till
we are all dead and buried."

"Oh, that will be too long for me," said Walter.

"Oh, never do things by halves," said the ready girl.

If his tongue had been as prompt as hers, he might have said that
"temporizing" was doing things by halves; but he let her have the
last word. And perhaps he lost nothing, for she would have had that
whether or no.

So this day was another era in their love. Girls after a time are not
content to see they are beloved; they must hear it too; and now Walter
had spoken out like a man, and Mary had replied like a woman. They were
happy, and walked hand in hand purring to one another, instead of
sparring any more.

On his return home Walter found Julia marching swiftly and haughtily up
and down upon the terrace of Clifford Hall, and he could not help
admiring the haughty magnificence of her walk. The reason soon appeared.
She was in a passion. She was always tall, but now she seemed lofty, and
to combine the supple panther with the erect peacock in her ireful march.
Such a fine woman as Julia really awes a man with her carriage at such a
time. The poor soul thinks he sees before him the indignation of the
just; when very likely it is only what in a man would be called
Petulance.

"Anything the matter, Miss Clifford?" said he, obsequiously.

"No, sir" (very stiffly).

"Can I be of any service?"

"No, you can not." And then, swifter than any weather-cock ever turned:
"You are a good creature: why should I be rude to you? I ought to be
ashamed of myself. It is that little wretch."

"Not our friend Fitzroy?"

"Why, what other little wretch is there about? We are all Grenadiers and
May-poles in this house except him. Well, let him go. I dare say somebody
else--hum--and Uncle Clifford has told me more than once I ought to look
higher. I couldn't well look lower than five feet nothing. Ha! ha! ha! I
told him so."

"That was cruel."

"Don't scold _me_. I won't be lectured by any of you. Of course it was,
_dear_. Poor little Percy. Oh! oh! oh!"

And after all this thunder there was a little rain, by a law that governs
Atmosphere and Woman impartially.

Seeing her softened, and having his own reasons for wishing to keep
Fitzroy to his duty, Walter begged leave to mediate, if possible, and
asked if she would do him the honor to confide the grievance to him.

"Of course I will," said Julia. "He is angry with Colonel Clifford for
not wishing him to stay here, and he is angry with me for not making
Uncle Clifford invite him. As if I _could_! I should be ashamed to
propose such a thing. The truth is, he is a luxurious little fellow, and
my society out-of-doors does not compensate him for the cookery at the
Dun Cow. There! let him go."

"But I want him to stay."

"Then that is very kind of you."

"Isn't it?" said Walter, slyly. "And I must make him stay somehow. Now
tell me, isn't he a little jealous?"

"A little jealous! Why, he is eaten up with it; he is _petrie de
jalousie_."

"Then," said Walter, timidly, and hesitating at every word, "you can't be
angry if I work on him a little. Would there be any great harm if I were
to say that nobody can see you without admiring you; that I have always
respected his rights, but that if he abandons them--"

Julia caught it in a moment. She blushed, and laughed heartily. "Oh, you
good, sly Thing!" said she; "and it is the truth, for I am as proud as he
is vain; and if he leaves me I will turn round that moment and make you
in love with me."

Walter looked queer. This was a turn he had not counted on.

"Do you think I couldn't, sir?" said she, sharply.

"It is not for me to limit the power of beauty," said Walter, meekly.

"Say the power of flattery. I could cajole any man in the world--if
I chose."

"Then you are a dangerous creature, and I will make Fitzroy my shield.
I'm off to the Dun Cow."

"You are a duck," said this impetuous beauty. "So there!" She took him
round the neck with both hands, and gave him a most delicious kiss.

"Why, he must be mad," replied the recipient, bluntly. She laughed at
that, and he went straight to the Dun Cow. He found young Fitzroy sitting
rather disconsolate, and opened his errand at once by asking him if it
was true that they were to lose him.

Percy replied stiffly that it was true.

"What a pity!" said Walter.

"I d--don't think I shall be m--much m--missed," said Percy,
rather sullenly.

"I know two people who will miss you."

"I d--don't know one."

"Two, I assure you--Miss Clifford and myself. Come, Mr. Fitzroy, I will
not beat about the bush. I am afraid you are mortified, and I must say,
justly mortified, at the coolness my father has shown to you. But I
assure you that it is not from any disrespect to you personally."

"Oh, indeed!" said Percy, ironically.

"No; quite the reverse--he is afraid of you."

"That is a g--g--good joke."

"No; let me explain. Fathers are curious people. If they are ever so
disinterested in their general conduct, they are sure to be a little
mercenary for their children. Now you know Miss Clifford is a beauty who
would adorn Clifford Hall, and an heiress whose money would purchase
certain properties that join ours. You understand?"

"Yes," said the little man, starting up in great wrath. "I understand,
and it's a--bom--inable. I th--thought you were my friend, and a m--man
of h--honor."

"So I am, and that is why I warn you in time. If you quarrel with Miss
Clifford, and leave this place in a pet, just see what risks we both run,
you and I. My father will be always at me, and I shall not be able to
insist on your prior claim; he will say you have abandoned it. Julia will
take the huff, and you know beautiful women will do strange things--mad
things--when once pique enters their hearts. She might turn round and
marry me."

"You forget, sir, you are a man of honor."

"But not a man of stone. Now, my dear Fitzroy, be reasonable. Suppose
that peerless creature went in for female revenge; why, the first thing
she would do would be to _make_ me love her, whether I chose or no. She
wouldn't give _me_ a voice in the matter. She would flatter me; she would
cajole me; she would transfix my too susceptible heart with glances of
fire and bewitching languor from those glorious eyes."

"D--d----! Ahem!" cried Percy, turning green.

Walter had no mercy. "I heard her say once she could make any man love
her if she chose."

"So she could," said Percy, ruefully. "She made me. I had an awful
p--p--prejudice against her, but there was no resisting."

"Then don't subject _me_ to such a trial. Stick to her like a man."

"So I will; b--but it is a m--m--mortifying position. I'm a man of
family. We came in with the C--Conquest, and are respected in our
c--county; and here I have to meet her on the sly, and live at the
D--Dun Cow."

"Where the _cuisine_ is wretched."

"A--b--b--bominable!"

Having thus impregnated his mind with that soothing sentiment, jealousy,
Walter told him he had a house to let on the estate--quite a gentleman's
house, only a little dilapidated, with a fine lawn and garden, only
neglected into a wilderness. "But all the better for you," said he. "You
have plenty of money, and no occupation. Perhaps that is what leads to
these little quarrels. It will amuse you to repair the crib and restore
the lawn. Why, there is a brook runs through it--it isn't every lawn has
that--and there used to be water-lilies floating, and peonies nodding
down at them from the bank: a paradise. She adores flowers, you know. Why
not rent that house from me? You will have constant occupation and
amusement. You will become a rival potentate to my governor. You will
take the shine out of him directly; you have only to give a ball, and
then all the girls will worship you, Julia Clifford especially, for she
could dance the devil to a stand-still."

Percy's eyes flashed. "When can I have the place?" said he, eagerly.

"In half an hour. I'll draw you a three months' agreement. Got any
paper? Of course not. Julia is so near. What are those? Playing-cards.
What do you play? 'Patience,' all by yourself. No wonder you are
quarrelsome! Nothing else to bestow your energy on."

Percy denied this imputation. The cards were for pistol practice. He shot
daily at the pips in the yard.

"It is the fiend _Ennui_ that loads your pistols, and your temper too.
Didn't I tell you so?"

Walter then demanded the ace of diamonds, and on its face let him the
house and premises on a repairing lease for three years, rent L5 a year:
which was a good bargain for both parties, since Percy was sure to lay
out a thousand pounds or two on the property, and to bind Julia more
closely to him, who was worth her weight in gold ten times over.

Walter had brought the keys with him, so he drove Percy over at once and
gave him possession, and, to do the little fellow justice, the moisture
of gratitude stood in his eyes when they parted.

Walter told Julia about it the same night, and her eyes were
eloquent too.

The next day he had a walk with Mary Bartley, and told her all about it.
She hung upon him, and gazed admiringly into his eyes all the time, and
they parted happy lovers.

Mr. Bartley met her at the gate, "Mary," said he, gravely, "who was that
I saw with you just now?"

"Cousin Walter."

"I feared so. You are too much with him."

Mary turned red and white by turns, but said nothing.

Bartley went on: "You are a good child, and I have always trusted you. I
am sure you mean no harm. But you must be more discreet. I have just
heard that you and that young man are looked upon as engaged lovers. They
say it is all over the village. Of course a father is the last to hear
these things. Does Mrs. Easton know of this?"

"Oh yes, papa, and approves it."

"Stupid old woman! She ought to be ashamed of herself."

"Oh, papa!" said Mary, in deep distress; "why, what objection can there
be to Cousin Walter?"

"None whatever as a cousin, but every objection to intimacy. Does he
court you?"

"I don't know, papa. I suppose he does."

"Does he seek your love?"

"He does not say so exactly."

"Come, Mary, you have never deceived me. Does he love you?"

"I am afraid he does; and if you reject him he will be very unhappy. And
so shall I."

"I am truly sorry to hear it, Mary, for there are reasons why I can not
consent to an engagement between him and you."

"What reasons, papa?"

"It would not be proper to disclose my reasons; but I hope, Mary, that it
will be enough to say that Colonel Clifford has other views for his son,
and I have other views for my daughter. Do you think a blessing will
attend you or him if you defy both fathers?"

"No, no," said poor Mary. "We have been hasty and very foolish. But, oh,
papa, have you not seen from the first? Oh, why did you not warn me in
time? Then I could have obeyed you easily. Now it will cost me the
happiness of my life. We are very unfortunate. Poor Walter! He left me so
full of hope. What shall I do? what shall I do?"

It was Mary Bartley's first grief. She thought all chance of happiness
was gone forever, and she wept bitterly for Walter and herself.

Bartley was not unmoved, but he could not change his nature. The sum he
had obtained by a crime was dearer to him than all his more honest gains.
He was kind on the surface, but hard as marble.

"Go to your room, my child," said he, "and try and compose yourself. I
am not angry with you. I ought to have watched you. But you are so young,
and I trusted to that woman."

Mary retired, sobbing, and he sent for Mrs. Easton.

"Mrs. Easton," said he, "for the first time in all these years I have a
fault to find with you."

"What is that, sir, if you please?"

"Young Clifford has been courting that child, and you have
encouraged it."

"Nay, sir," said the woman, "I have not done that. She never spoke to me,
nor I to her."

"Well, then, you never interfered."

"No, sir; no more than you did."

"Because I never observed it till to-day."

"How could I know that, sir? Everybody else observed it. Mr. Hope would
have been the first to see it, if he had been in your place." This sudden
thrust made Bartley wince, and showed him he had a tougher customer to
deal with than poor Mary.

"You can't bear to be found fault with, Easton," said he, craftily, "and
I don't wonder at it, after fourteen years' fidelity to me."

"I take no credit for that," said the woman, doggedly. "I have been
paid for it."

"No doubt. But I don't always get the thing I pay for. Then let by-gones
be by-gones; but just assist me now to cure the girl of this folly."

"Sir," said the woman, firmly, "it is not folly; it is wisest and best
for all; and I can't make up my mind to lift a finger against it."

"Do you mean to defy me, then?"

"No, sir. I don't want to go against you, nor yet against my own
conscience, what's left on't. I have seen a pretty while it must come to
this, and I have written to my sister Sally. She keeps a small hotel at
the lakes. She is ready to have me, and I'm not too old to be useful to
her. I'm worth my board. I'll go there this very day, if you please. I'm
as true to you as I can be, sir. For I see by Miss Mary crying so you
have spoken to her, and so now she is safe to come to me for comfort; and
if she does, I shall take her part, you may be sure, for I love her like
my own child." Here the dogged voice began to tremble; but she recovered
herself, and told him she would go at once to her sister Gilbert, that
lived only ten miles off, and next day she would go to the little hotel
at the lakes, and leave him to part two true lovers if he could and break
both their hearts; she should wash her hands of it.

Bartley asked a moment to consider.

"Shall we be friends still if you leave me like that? Surely, after all
these years, you will not tell your sister? You will not betray me?"

"Never, sir," said she. "What for? To bring those two together? Why, it
would part them forever. I wonder at you, a gentleman, and in business
all your life, yet you don't seem to see through the muddy water as I do
that is only a plain woman."

She then told him her clothes were nearly all packed, and she could start
in an hour.

"You shall have the break and the horses," said he, with great alacrity.

Everything transpires quickly in a small house, and just as she had
finished packing, in came Mary in violent distress. "What, is it true?
Are you going to leave me, now my heart is broken? Oh, nurse! nurse!"

This was too much even for stout-hearted Nancy Easton.

"Oh, my child! my child!" she cried, and sat down on her box sobbing
violently, Mary infolded in her arms, and then they sat crying and
rocking together.

"Papa does not love me as I do him," sobbed Mary, turning bitter for the
first time. "He breaks my heart, and sends you away the same day, for
fear you should comfort me."

"No, my dear," said Mrs. Easton; "you are wrong. He does not send me
away; I go by my own wish."

"Oh, nurse, you desert me! then you don't know what has happened."

"Oh yes, I do; I know all about it; and I'm leaving because I can't do
what he wishes. You see it is this way, Miss Mary--your father has been
very good to me, and I am his debtor. I must not stay here and help you
to thwart him--that would be ungrateful--and yet I can't take his side
against you. Master has got reasons why you should not marry Walter
Clifford, and--"

"He told me so himself," said Mary.

"Ah, but he didn't tell you his reasons."

"No."

"No more must I. But, Miss Mary, I'll tell you this. I know his reasons
well; his reasons why you should not marry Walter Clifford are my reasons
why you should marry no other man."

"Oh, nurse! oh, you dear, good angel!"

"So when friends differ like black and white, 'tis best to part. I'm
going to my sister Gilbert this afternoon, and to-morrow to my sister
Sally, at her hotel."

"Oh, nurse, must you? must you? I shall have not a friend to advise or
console me till Mr. Hope comes back. Oh, I hope that won't be long now."

Mrs. Easton dropped her hands upon her knees and looked at Mary Bartley.

"What, Miss Mary, would you go to Mr. Hope in such a matter as this?
Surely you would not have the face?"

"Not take my breaking heart to Mr. Hope!" cried Mary, with a sudden
flood of tears. "You might as well tell me not to lay my trouble before
my God. Dear, dear Mr. Hope, who saved my life in those deep waters, and
then cried over me, darling dear! I think more of that than of his
courage. Do you think I am blind? He loves me better than my own father
does; and it is not a young man's love; it is an angel's. Not cry to
_him_ when I am in the deep waters of affliction? I could not write of
such a thing to him for blushing, but the moment he returns I shall
find some way to let him know how happy I have been, how broken-hearted
I am, and that papa has reasons against _him_, and they are your reasons
for him, and that you are both afraid to let _me_ know these _curious_
reasons--me, the poor girl whose heart is being made a foot-ball of in
this house. Oh! oh! oh!"

"Don't cry, Miss Mary," said Nurse Easton, tenderly; "and pray don't
excite yourself so. Why, I never saw you like this before."

"Had I ever the same reason? You have only known the happy, thoughtless
child. They have made a woman of me now, and my peace is gone. I _must_
not defy my father, and I _will_ not break poor Walter's heart--the
truest heart that ever beat. Not tell dear Mr. Hope? I'll tell him
everything, if I'm cut in pieces for it." And her beautiful eyes flashed
lightning through her tears.

"Hum!" said Mrs. Easton, under her breath, and looking down at her own
feet.

"And pray what does 'hum' mean?" asked Mary, fixing her eyes with
prodigious keenness on the woman's face.

"Well, I don't suppose 'hum' means anything," said Mrs. Easton, still
looking down.

"Doesn't it?" said Mary. "With such a face as _that_ it means a volume.
And I'll make it my business to read that volume."

"Hum!"

"And Mr. Hope shall help me."

CHAPTER IX.

LOVERS PARTED.

Walter, little dreaming the blow his own love had received, made Percy
write Julia an apology, and an invitation to visit his new house if he
was forgiven. Julia said she could not forgive him, and would not go.
Walter said, "Put on your bonnet, and take a little drive with me."

"Oh, with pleasure," said Julia, slyly.

So then Walter drove her to the new house, without a word of remonstrance
on her part, and Fitzroy met her radiant, and Walter slipped away round a
corner, and when he came back the quarrel had dissolved. He had brought a
hamper with all the necessaries of life--table-cloth, napkins, knives,
forks, spoons, cold pie, salad, and champagne. They lunched beside the
brook on the lawn. The lovers drank his health, and Julia appointed him
solemnly to the post of "peace-maker," "for," said she, "you have shown
great talent that way, and I foresee we shall want one, for we shall be
always quarrelling; sha'n't we, Percy?"

"N--o; n--never again."

"Then you mustn't be jealous."

"I'm not. I d--despise j--jealousy. I'm above it."

"Oh, indeed," said Julia, dryly.

"Come, don't begin again, you two," said Walter, "or--no champagne."

"Now what a horrid threat!" said Julia. "I'll be good, for one."

In short they had a merry time, and Walter drove Julia home. Both were in
high spirits.

In the hall Walter found a short note from Mary Bartley:

"DEAR, DEAR WALTER,--I write with a bleeding heart to tell you that papa
has only just discovered our attachment, and I am grieved to say he
disapproves of it, and has forbidden me to encourage your love, that is
dearer to me than all the world. It is very hard. It seems so cruel. But
I must obey. Do not make obedience too difficult, dear Walter. And pray,
pray do not be as unhappy as I am. He says he has reasons, but he has not
told me what they are, except that your father has other views for you;
but, indeed, with both parents against us what can we do? Forgive me the
pain this will give you. Ask yourself whether it gives me any less. You
were all the world to me. Now everything is dull and distasteful. What a
change in one little day! We are very unfortunate. But it can not be
forever. And if you will be constant to me, you know I shall to you. I
_could not_ change. Ah, Walter, I little thought when I said I would
temporize, how soon I should be called on to do it. I can't write any
more for crying. I do nothing but cry ever since papa was so cruel; but I
must obey. Your loving, sorrowful

"MARY."

This letter was a chilling blow to poor Walter. He took it into his own
room and read it again and again. It brought the tears into his own eyes,
and discouraged him deeply for a time. But, of course, he was not so
disposed to succumb to authority as the weaker vessel was. He wrote back:

"My own Love,--Don't grieve for me. I don't care for anything so long as
you love me. I shall resist, of course. As for my father, I am going to
marry Julia to Percy Fitzroy, and so end my governor's nonsense. As for
your father, I do not despair of softening him. It is only a check; it is
not a defeat. Who on earth can part us if we are true to each other? God
bless you, dearest! I did not think you loved me so much. Your letter
gives me comfort forever, and only disappointment for a time. Don't fret,
sweet love. It will be all right in the end.

"Your grateful, hopeful love, till death, WALTER."

Mary opened this letter with a beating heart. She read it with tears and
smiles and utter amazement. She knew so little about the male character
that this way of receiving a knockdown blow astonished and charmed her.
She thought to herself, no wonder women look up to men. They _will_ have
their own way; they resist, _of course_. How sensible! We give in, right
or wrong. What a comfort I have got a man to back me, and not a poor
sorrowing, despairing, obeying thing like myself!

So she was comforted for the minute, and settled in her own mind that she
would be good and obedient, and Walter should do all the fighting. But
letters soon cease to satisfy the yearning hearts of lovers unnaturally
separated. Walter and Mary lived so near each other, yet now they never
met. Bartley took care of that. He told Mary she must not walk out
without a maid or ride without a servant; and he gave them both special
orders. He even obliged her with his own company, though that rather
bored him.

Under this severe restraint Mary's health and spirits suffered, and she
lost some of her beautiful color.

Walter's spirits were kept up only by anger. Julia Clifford saw he was in
trouble, and asked him what was the matter.

"Oh, nothing that would interest you," said he, rather sullenly.

"Excuse me," said she. "I am always interested in the troubles of my
friends, and you have been a good friend to me."

"It is very good of you to think so. Well, then, yes, I am unhappy. I am
crossed in love."

"Is it that fair girl you introduced me to when out riding?"

"Yes."

"She is lovely."

"Miss Clifford, she is an angel."

"Ha! ha! We are all angels till we are found out. Who is the man?"

"What man?"

"That she prefers to my good Walter. She deserves a good whipping,
your angel."

"Much obliged to you, Miss Clifford; but she prefers no man to your good
Walter, though I am not worthy to tie her shoes. Why, we are devoted to
each other."

"Well, you needn't fly out at _me_. I am your friend, as you will see.
Make me your confidante. Explain, please. How can you be crossed in love
if there's no other man?"

"It's her father. He has discovered our love, and forbids her to
speak to me."

"Her father!" said Julia, contemptuously. "Is that all? _That_ for her
father! You shall have her in spite of fifty fathers. If it had been a
lover, now."

"I should have talked to him, not to you," said Walter, with his
eyes flashing.

"Be quiet, Walter; as it is not a lover, nor even a mother, you shall
have the girl; and a very sweet girl she is. Will you accept me for
your ally? Women are wiser than men in these things, and understand
one another."

"Oh, Miss Clifford," said Walter, "this is good of you! Of course it will
be a great blessing to us both to have your sympathy and assistance."

"Well, then," said Julia, "begin by telling me--have you spoken to
her father?"

"No."

"Then that is the very first thing to be done. Come, order our horses. We
will ride over directly. I will call on _Miss_ Bartley, and you on
_Mister_. Now mind, you must ignore all that has passed, and just ask his
permission to court his daughter. Whilst you are closeted with him, the
young lady and I will learn each other's minds with a celerity you poor
slow things have no idea of."

"I see one thing," said Walter, "that I am a child in such matters
compared with you. What decision! what promptitude!"

"Then imitate it, young man. Order the horses directly;" and she stamped
her foot impatiently.

Walter turned to the stables without another word, and Julia flew
upstairs to put on her riding-habit.

* * * * *

Bartley was in his study with a map of the farm before him, and two
respectable but rather rough men in close conference over it. These were
practical men from the county of Durham, whom he had ferreted out by
means of an agent, men who knew a great deal about coal. They had already
surveyed the farm, and confirmed Hope's opinion that coal lay below the
surface of certain barren fields, and the question now was as to the
exact spot where it would be advisable to sink the first shaft.

Bartley was heart and soul in this, and elevated by love of gain far
above such puny considerations as the happiness of Mary Bartley and her
lover. She, poor girl, sat forlorn in her little drawing-room, and tried
to draw a bit, and tried to read a bit, and tried to reconcile a new
German symphony to her ear as well as to her judgment, which told her it
was too learned not to be harmonious, though it sounded very discordant.
But all these efforts ended in a sigh of despondency, and in brooding on
innocent delights forbidden, and a prospect which, to her youth and
inexperience, seemed a wilderness robbed of the sun.

Whilst she sat thus pensive and sad there came a sudden rush and clatter
of hoofs, and Miss Clifford and Walter Clifford reined up their horses
under the very window.

Mary started up delighted at the bare sight of Walter, but amazed and
puzzled. The next moment her quick intelligence told her this was some
daring manoeuvre or other, and her heart beat high.

Walter opened the door and stood beside it, affecting a cold ceremony.

"Miss Bartley, I have brought Miss Clifford to call on you at her
request. My own visit is to your father. Where shall I find him?"

"In his study," murmured Miss Bartley.

Walter returned, and the two ladies looked at each other steadily for one
moment, and took stock of one another's dress, looks, character, and
souls with supernatural rapidity. Then Mary smiled, and motioned her
visitor to a seat, and waited.

Miss Clifford made her approaches obliquely at first.

"I ought to apologize to you for not returning your call before this. At
any rate, here I am at last."

"You are most welcome, Miss Clifford," said Mary, warmly.

"Now the ice is broken, I want you to call me Julia."

"May I?"

"You may, and you must, if I call you Mary. Why, you know we are cousins;
at least I suppose so. We are both cousins of Walter Clifford, so we must
be cousins to each other."

And she fixed her eyes on her fair hostess in a very peculiar way.

Mary returned this fixed look with such keen intelligence that her gray
eyes actually scintillated.

"Mary, I seldom waste much time before I come to the point. Walter
Clifford is a good fellow; he has behaved well to me. I had a quarrel
with mine, and Walter played the peace-maker, and brought us together
again without wounding my pride. By-and-by I found out Walter himself was
in grief about you. It was my turn, wasn't it? I made him tell me all. He
wasn't very willing, but I would know. I see his love is making him
miserable, and so is yours, dear."

"Oh yes."

"So I took it on me to advise him. I have made him call on your father.
Fathers sometimes pooh-pooh their daughters' affections; but when the son
of Colonel Clifford comes with a formal proposal of marriage, Mr. Bartley
can not pooh-pooh _him_."

Mary clasped her hands, but said nothing.

Julia flowed on:

"And the next thing is to comfort you. You seem to want a good
cry, dear."

"Yes, I d--do."

"Then come here and take it."

No sooner said than done. Mary's head on Julia's shoulder, and Julia's
arm round Mary's waist.

"Are you better, dear?"

"Oh, so much."

"It is a comfort, isn't it? Well, now, listen to me. Fathers sometimes
delay a girl's happiness; but they don't often destroy it; they don't go
and break her heart as some mothers do. A mother that is resolved to have
her own way brings another man forward; fathers are too simple to see
that is the only way. And then a designing mother cajoles the poor girl
and deceives her, and does a number of things a man would call
villainies. Don't you fret your heart out for so small a thing as a
father's opposition. You are sure to tire him out if he loves you, and if
he doesn't love you, or loves money better, why, then, he is not a worthy
rival to my cousin Walter, for that man really loves you, and would marry
you if you had not a penny. So would Percy Fitzroy marry me. And that is
why I prefer him to the grenadiers and plungers with silky mustaches, and
half an eye on me and an eye and a half on my money."

Many other things passed between these two, but what we have endeavored
to repeat was the cream of Julia's discourse, and both her advice and
her sympathy were for the time a wonderful comfort to the love-sick,
solitary girl.

But our business is with Walter Clifford. As soon as he was announced,
Mr. Bartley dismissed his rugged visitors, and received Walter affably,
though a little stiffly.

Walter opened his business at once, and told him he had come to ask his
permission to court his daughter. He said he had admired her from the
first moment, and now his happiness depended on her, and he felt sure he
could make her happy; not, of course, by his money, but by his devotion.
Then as to making a proper provision for her--

Here Bartley stopped him.

"My young friend," said he, "there can be no objection either to your
person or your position. But there are difficulties, and at present they
are serious ones. Your father has other views."

"But, Mr. Bartley," said Walter, eagerly, "he must abandon them. The lady
is engaged."

"Well, then," said Bartley, "it will be time to come to me when he has
abandoned those views, and also overcome his prejudices against me and
mine. But there is another difficulty. My daughter is not old enough to
marry, and I object to long engagements. Everything, therefore, points to
delay, and on this I must insist."

Bartley having taken this moderate ground, remained immovable. He
promised to encourage no other suitor; but in return he said he had a
right to demand that Walter would not disturb his daughter's peace of
mind until the prospect was clearer. In short, instead of being taken by
surprise, the result showed Bartley quite prepared for this interview,
and he baffled the young man without offending him. He was cautious not
to do that, because he was going to mine for coal, and feared
remonstrances, and wanted Walter to take his part, or at least to be
neutral, knowing his love for Mary. So they parted good friends; but when
he retailed the result to Julia Clifford she shook her head, and said the
old fox had outwitted him. Soon after, knitting her brows in thought for
some time, she said, "She is very young, much younger than she looks. I
am afraid you will have to wait a little, and watch."

"But," said Walter, in dismay, "am I not to see her or speak to her all
the time I am waiting?"

"I'd see both fathers hanged first, if I was a man," said Julia.

In short, under the courageous advice of Julia Clifford, Walter began to
throw himself in Mary's way, and look disconsolate; that set Mary pining
directly, and Julia found her pale, and grieving for Walter, and
persuaded her to write him two or three lines of comfort; she did, and
that drew pages from him. Unfortunately he did not restrain himself, but
flung his whole heart upon paper, and raised a tumult in the innocent
heart of her who read his passionate longings.

She was so worked upon that at last one day she confided to Julia that
her old nurse was going to visit her sister, Mrs. Gilbert, who lived only
ten miles off, and she thought she should ride and see her.

"When?" asked Julia, carelessly.

"Oh, any day next week," said Mary, carelessly. "Wednesday, if it is
fine. She will not be there till Monday."

"Does she know?" asked Julia.

"Oh yes; and left because she could not agree with papa about it; and,
dear, she said a strange thing--a very strange thing: she knew papa's
reasons against him, and they were her reasons for him."

"Fancy that!" said Julia. "Your father told you what the reasons were?"

"No; he wouldn't. They both treat me like a child."

"You mean they pretend to," she added.

"I see one thing; there is some mystery behind this. I wonder what it
is?"

"Ten to one, it is money. I am only twenty, but already I have found out
that money governs the world. Let me see--your mother was a Clifford. She
must have had money. Did she settle any on you?"

"I am sure I don't know."

"Ten to one she did, and your father is your trustee; and when you
marry, he must show his accounts and cash up. There, that is where the
shoe pinches."

Mary was distressed.

"Oh, don't say so, dear. I can't bear to think that of papa. You make me
very unhappy."

"Forgive me, dear," said Julia. "I am too bitter and suspicious. Some
day I will tell you things in my own life that have soured me. Money--I
hate the very word," she said, clinching her teeth.

She urged her view no more, but in her own heart she felt sure that she
had read Mr. Bartley aright. Why, he was a trader, into the bargain.

As for Mary, when she came to think over this conversation, her own
subtle instinct told her that stronger pressure than ever would now be
brought on her. Her timidity, her maiden modesty, and her desire to do
right set her on her defense. She determined to have loving but impartial
advice, and so she overcame her shyness, and wrote to Mr. Hope. Even then
she was in no hurry to enter on such a subject by letter, so she must
commence by telling him that her father had set a great many people, most
of them strangers, to dig for coal. That cross old thing, Colonel
Clifford, had been heard to sneer at her dear father, and say unkind and
disrespectful things--that the love of money led to loss of money, and
that papa might just as well dig a well and throw his money into that.
She herself was sorry he had not waited for Mr. Hope's return before
undertaking so serious a speculation. Warmed by this preliminary, she
ventured into the delicate subject, and told him the substance of what we
have told the reader, only in a far more timid and suggestive way, and
implored him to advise her by return of post if possible--or why not
come home? Papa had said only yesterday, "I wish Hope was here." She got
an answer by return of post. It disappointed her, on the whole. Mr. Hope
realized the whole situation, though she had sketched it faintly instead
of painting it boldly. He was all sympathy, and he saw at once that he
could not himself imagine a better match for her than Walter Clifford.
But then he observed that Mr. Bartley himself offered no personal
objection, but wished the matter to be in abeyance until she was older,
and Colonel Clifford's objection to the connection should be removed or
softened. That might really be hoped for should Miss Clifford marry Mr.
Fitzroy; and really in the mean time he (Hope) could hardly take on him
to encourage her in impatience and disobedience. He should prefer to talk
to Bartley first. With him he should take a less hesitating line, and set
her happiness above everything. In short, he wrote cautiously. He
inwardly resolved to be on the spot very soon, whether Bartley wanted him
or not; but he did not tell Mary this.

Mary was disappointed. "How kind and wise he is!" she said to
Julia--"too wise."

Next Wednesday morning Mary Bartley rode to Mrs. Gilbert, and was
received by her with courtesy, but with a warm embrace by Mrs.
Easton. After a while the latter invited her into the parlor, saying
there is somebody there; but no one knows. This, however, though
hardly unexpected, set Mary's heart beating, and when the parlor
door was opened, Mrs. Easton stepped back, and Mary was alone with
Walter Clifford.

Then might those who oppose an honest and tender affection have learned a
lesson. It was no longer affection only. It was passion. Walter was pale,
agitated, eager; he kissed her hands impetuously, and drew her to his
bosom. She sobbed there; he poured inarticulate words over her, and still
held her, panting, to his beating heart. Even when the first gush of love
subsided a little he could not be so reasonable as he used to be. He was
wild against his own father, hers, and every obstacle, and implored her
to marry him at once by special license, and leave the old people to
untie the knot if they could.

Then Mary was astonished and hurt.

"A clandestine marriage, Mr. Clifford!" said she. "I thought you had
more respect for me than to mention such a thing."

Then he had to beg her pardon, and say the separation had driven him mad.

Then she forgave him.

Then he took advantage of her clemency, and proceeded calmly to show her

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