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read in his other hand ; and on these oc- that cherished her, and her own ineffable casions Innocent turned to him with a safety from all evil — smiling when her smile, in which a faint dawning sense of husband laid his hand upon her shoulder. amusement at his solicitude mingled with There have been scenes of more exalted, natural dreamy sweetness. She was more profound emotion; but none more dressed in a gown made of white cash, soft, more safe, more peaceful, serene, mere, somewhat more akin to the fashion and sure than this afternoon than was her wont, yet falling in the soft, Longueville. clinging folds peculiar to the material, They were disturbed by the sounds of with a grace which modern fashion scarce- wheels ringing sharply upon the gravel ly permits — and a little cloak of pale blue of the avenue, and dispersing the pebbles velvet, gray-blue, with a bloom upon it on all sides, as if some one in hot haste such as painters love, made after the fash- was on his way to the Hall. The avenue ion of the old cloak which had been her was invisible from the terrace ; but this constant wrap in Pisa. It was Sir Alexis harsh sound offended Sir Alexis. It was who had disinterred the ancient garment, no carriage, but some impertinent twoand had learned the associations it had to wheeled thing like a dog-cart which made her. He was a man who thought of such this ado- he could tell as much by the trifles, and he had himself chosen with sound. His brow puckered with impagreat trouble the colour of the material in tience; he stopped reading. Something which it was reproduced. Her hair had of the look which had made Innocent been allowed to fall down, as of old, on think he was angry” – a sharp anxiety, her shoulders. Nobody could be more a sudden pallor, came over his face. strenuous on the point of appearance than “ It is some cockney, party, to see was Sir Alexis on state occasions, but he Longueville, no doubt," he said, in a liked to see his young wife look as child- voice which sounded harsh to Innocent. like as when he saw her first. Thus she “ But, thank heaven, they will be disapstrayed along by his side, a child, yet pointed to-day.” with the mysterious maturity of wifehood The sound ceased, but he could not in her eyes --- a gentle vagrant in a world resume his reading all at once. not half realized, yet one whose simple “ That is the nuisance of having a feet had already trod through mysteries handsome house,” he said ; "all the fools and wonders of life and death — the sim- in the country think they have a right to plest of girls, yet a great lady -sovereign come and see it. No doubt these imin a breadth of country as great as many pertinent intruders will go away quite a principality, and with power for good angry that we choose to keep our house or evil over many a soul unborn. The to ourselves. I do not know what the evening sun slanted down upon her un- world is coming to. But whom have we covered head, the princely house held all here ?" its windows open behind her, the after- Two men were approaching following noon bees, ready to fly home, sucked the butler, who was a very solemn pertheir last at the hyacinths with drowsy sonage, looking like a bishop at the least, hum, and the soft grass felt warm under but who, this time, was pale and scared, her feet. There was not a cloud upon with a curious look of warning and alarm. the sky, save those which had already be- The men who followed at first only congun to perform the final ceremonial of the veyed to the beholder the impression that sunset in the west. How peaceful the they were "not gentlemen.” As, howscene ! Tranquil happiness in the air, soft ever, they advanced closer an indefinable sunshine, nothing impassioned, lofty, ec- air about them began to take effect upon static, but a gentle perfection of well- Sir Alexis, as it had upon his servant. being ; every line of those trees, every The paleness of his face increased till it blade of the growing grass, seemed to grew ashen-grey, bear its part in the peaceful fulness of “Had you not better go in, Innocent?” enjoyment, which was almost too still he said, hoarsely, laying his hand once and soft to be called by that name. more on her shoulder ; but his voice was
“ The Miller's Daughter!” Our poet strange, not like the gentle tone in which was not the great poet we know when he he usually gave her his instructions; and wrote that soft and youthful pastoral. Innocent kept her place by him, falling a There was nothing in it too deep for Inno- step behind him, but showing no other cent. She listened, with her heart gently appearance of embarrassment or shyness. stirred, with a sense of all the peace sur- She was not looking at them, but saw rounding her, and the grave calm love vaguely that the new-comers were not in
teresting to her. She waited because “If I must say it in so many words," her husband waited, to see what they said the officer, “ I have come for my wanted.
Lady Longueville. Here's my warrant. “ Two – gentlemen, Sir Alexis – to It's all in the paper.—'Innocent, wife of speak with you,” said the butler, standing Sir Alexis Longueville, Bart aside with an air of fright. He did not “ For what? Good heavens!” go away when he announced them in this How vain it was to ask!- as if since simple way, but stood like a man par- ever he saw these men, the certainty of it, alyzed, not seeming to know he the shame, the misery, the horrible possidid.
bilities which might follow, had not risen Shabby men — not such men as had like a picture, pale against a lurid backany right to penetrate there, - into that ground of suffering, before his eyes. region of refinement and splendour. They “For the murder of Amanda Eastwood, kept very close to each other. One of at Sterborne, on the 21st of October them, the shabbiest of the two, kept so last —" close on his companion's track that their For the first time Innocent was fully shadows fell into one along the grass. I roused. She uttered a low cry — she The other cleared his throat, shifted from turned to her husband with a wild look one foot to another, took out his hand- of appeal. kerchief, and wiped his face. He was " You said it would all be made right embarrassed and uncertain.
all right!” she said, clasping her help“ Is there anything in which I can serve less hands, appealing against her sudden you, gentlemen ?” said Sir Alexis, with a misery to heaven and earth. voice so strangely altered by restrained excitement that even Innocent looked up
CHAPTER XLV. at him wondering.
THE FIRST DESERTER. “ I don't want to do nothing disagreeable,” said the foremost,“ or to make any The next morning after this event, unpleasantness as can be spared. It is Ernest Molyneux, with a newspaper in an 'orrible business, make the best of it his hand, jumped out of a Hansom at the as you can. We won't give no trouble door of the Elms, and rushed into the as we can help, Sir Alexis. She may go house. The door was open ; a certain in her own carriage, and you may go air of agitation and excitement was about along with her, if you please. But I can't the place, some trunks stood in the hall, disguise from you as my lady must come corded and labelled as for a journey. He with us. I don't know how much you told Brownlow, who came out of the knows about it — and I don't doubt as dining-room at the sound of his arrival, one way or other she'll get off
to send Miss Eastwood to him directly, “ What is the meaning of this ?” said and made his way into the drawing-room, Longueville. Oh God? how well he which was empty. Empty, arranged with knew what it meant! He made a step all its usual peaceful order and grace, full forward in front of his wife by instinct; l of sunshine, sweet with the flowers which then stopped short in the confusion of looked in brightly through the round impotence, knowing that he could do window-door of the conservatory, — with nothing, and that his own policy was to novels from Mudie's on the table, Mrs. submit.
Eastwood's workbasket, and Nelly's “I beg your pardon, sir," said the man, knitting. Nothing can excuse untidiness moulding his hat in his hands with reals in an English house – the house-maid embarrassment. “I feels for you with must do her duty whether we live or die, all my heart. I have my warrant all in or even if things happen to us which are order. You shan't be deceived nohow — worse than life or death. Molyneux was and anything as we can do to make the confounded by the tranquil comfort, the blow less 'eavy and spare ill-convenience brightness and calm of this shrine of you may calculate upon. But I have to domestic life. It checked him in his do my duty
eagerness and heat; the horrible news in "Of course, you must do your duty,” the paper seemed to lose all appearance, said Sir Alexis, pale, and nerving him- all possibility of truth. He calmed down; self for the worst. “ But, my good | he asked himself what lie would have to fellow, here is evidently some mistake. say to Nelly after demanding her presWhat_” he paused, with an effort, forence in such hot haste if this rumour was his lips were parched—“what do you not true. A little shame, a little com. mean? - whom - do you seek here ?" punction came into his mind. He had
not come here to console, but to reproach. all the rest is true enough. They have He had to wait for some time before she put her in-Oh me! Oh me! how came, and in the meantime the absolute , can I say it? It is those dreadful people stillness of the house, the tranquillizing whom Frederick bound himself to, for a warmth and brightness of the sunshine, curse to us all.” worked upon him with the most curious. “ But,” said Molyneux — he was more effect. He became more and more bewildered than I can say to find himself ashamed of himself, and I do not know uncontradicted, to find that anything so what moral result might have been pro- ; incredible was really true. — “ But, those duced in the end had Nelly delayed her dreadful people, as you call them, could coming much lor.ger, or had her own not do this without some cause, somedemeanour carried out the effect of this thing to build upon. For God's sake scene. But Nelly came in, with red eyes tell me! How do they dare ? Is there and pale cheeks, in the simplest of trav- ! any foundation ?” elling dresses, with that look of mingled “ Mamma went down to inquire the excitement and exhaustion which more very day,” said Nelly, dreamily, repeating than anything else betrays "something the old story," she lost no time. She wrong g” in the history of a family. She came back saying it was sheer delusion, came in eagerly, almost running to him, nothing more. There was no foundation. with that instinctive and unconscious Every one was quite satisfied that Mrs. appeal which is conveyed by visible i Frederick died of heart-disease. Nobody; expectation, and which it is so difficult to except Innocent herself, ever dreamt of disappoint, her hands outstretched, her anything of the kind.” eyes ready to fill with tears. The sight But Innocent herself - what was it of her emotion, however, had an effect that she dreamt of? What was the deluupon Molyneux which totally counter- sion ?” acted the calm of the house. It restored “She had to give a sleeping draught, him to his position of criticism and su- and she gave - too much," said Nelly periority. He took her hands, it is true, simply. She was frightened to death. and even kissed her cheek, though with She left the house instantly, and came something of that indifference which home. Oh how well I recollect that comes with habit; but he made no dreadful morning. She came in accusing demonstration of sympathy. He said herself, and Jane heard what she said. hastily, “ Nelly, I am come to you for Ernest, could such evidence harm her? information. Have you seen what is in Is it possible? Her own wild idea, noththe papers ? Surely, surely, it cannot be ing more.” true !"
"I am bewildered by all this,” said The check and sudden revulsion which Molyneux. _“You have known it ever comes to all who expect too much came since Mrs. Frederick's death, and I have to Nelly. She withdrew her hands from been allowed to — You have never him. Her tears which were ready to fall, breathed a syllable to me." went back somehow. She retreated a “Oh, how could I?” cried Nelly. little from his side ; but her pride sup- “ Think, to put it into words was like givported her. At that moment and for ever ing some sanction to it; and you were Nelly closed the doors of her heart not fond of her as we were. It was on against her lover. It is true indeed, as my lips a hundred times. But, Ernest, the reader will perceive, that she threw you were not fond of her.” them open again, once, and once only, “No, thank Heaven !” he said walking not knowing that her decision had been up and down the room. The chief feelmade, and believing there was still a ing in his mind was anger, mingled with place of repentance; but, certainly, a certain satisfaction in the sense that he though she was not aware. of it, those had a right to be angry. “I hope, at doors closed now with a crash of sound | least, Longueville knew," he added after which rang in her ears and made her a pause, “I hope you think he, being deaf to everything else. She thought for fond of Innocent, had the right the moment, however, that the ringing in “ Ernest,” said Nelly piteously, moved her ears meant only weariness and pain, by one of those last relentings of love and sat down, to keep herself from faint- which cannot, for very pity, consent to its ing, in her mother's chair.
own extinction, “surely you have some • If you mean is it true that Innocent, feeling for us in our great trouble. It poor Innocent, has done what they say,' was because poor Innocent told him, ap—said Nelly, low and trembling í "but pealed to him, that they ever married at all. He was very, very kind, very good everything is black with storm. Ernest - to us all."
shut himself as heaven itself seems to “ Apparently, then, everybody has been close sometimes upon the prayers of the considered worthy of your confidence but despairing. He stood obdurate, unmovmyself,” said Molyneux; but, notwith-ing, unmoved, looking at her with blank standing, the knowledge that Sir Alexis brows, answering with a hard abstinence knew made him think better of the busi- from all emotion the imploring look, the ness. Longueville, he thought, was not impassioned words. Nelly saw how it such a fool as to have married a girl was before she had ceased speaking ; but against whom there was real evidence of she repulsed the chill of certainty from such a tremendous character. “ It is a her heart, and prayed on with eyes and very good thing that you have Longue- gestures, even when she felt herself to ville to depend upon,” he said, after a be praying against hope. pause. “Of course it is chiefly his busi- At last he threw off, not roughly but ness ; of course, he has been making his crossly, her hand from his arm, and, as arrangements to meet the danger; he will he himself would have said, “put a stop get the best counsel — the best
to it." “ Ernest,” said Nelly, rising from her Nelly,” he said “are you mad ? What seat. She put her hands together uncon- do you mean? Longueville, you may be sciously, as she went up to him—“ Er- sure, has secured counsel already ; I supnest! We have often talked of what pose he has not been taken by surprise might be if something really worth your as I have been ? And supposing I could while should offer ; not mere troublesome do it, would you have me begin my career law business, but something that would under such unfavourable circumstances, really exercise your mind — something on the spur of the moment, for the sake worthy of you. And, Ernest, would it of mere family connection?' I have often not be all the more great, the more noble heard that women carried their feeling if it was to save an innocent creature from for their own family a very long way; destruction? You know her almost as but to prefer this girl and her folly to the well as we do," cried the girl, the big interests of your future husband —to ask tears running down her pale cheeks. me to commit myself —Are you mad, “ You have seen her grow from almost a Nelly? Why, my interests are yours child. You know how simple she is, how my character is yours. You should beg innocent, like her name. Perhaps she was me rather to keep out of it - you should slow at first to see that we loved her. keep out of it yourself for my sake. Perhaps we did not go the right way. What is Innocent to us? - a silly creaBut you have seen it all, Ernest; you ture, half idiot, an ungrateful little minx, have known her from the first -- from a fond of nobody but Frederick, and, I darechild. She never was anything but a say, capable of striking a bold stroke for child. And you are eloquent - you could him, as she seems to say she has done. bring any one through whose cause you Don't look at me as if you could eat me. took up. Oh, what a power it is — and I don't say she has done it. I know when you can use it to save the innocent, nothing but what you have told me.” Ernest! I do not say for my sake- Nelly shrank away from him to her
She stood before him more eloquent in mother's chair. A burning blush covered her tears than he, with all his cleverness her face ; her tears dried up as if by could ever have been, with one soft ap- scorching heat. Her eyes flashed and pealing hand on his arm, and the other shone; her whole aspect, her very figure raised in passionate entreaty. Her eyes seemed to change. were fixed upon him with a prayer as pas- “I may ask at least one thing of you,” sionate — all Nelly's heart, all her soul, she said ; "and that is to forget what I was in this appeal. It was for Innocent told you. I was very foolish to say so
- to save her; it was for Ernest, to save much. Women are prone to that, I suphim ; it was for herself, poor Nelly, to pose, as you say; but I may trust to your change her despairing into life and hope. honour to forget it? not to repeat it to Never was face more full of emotion than any one? I shall be very thankful if you the glowing, moving, tearful face, every will promise that.” line quivering, every feature inspired, “Why, Nelly ! ” he cried ; " I repeat which she turned upon him. Her very what you have said to me! You don't look was a prayer intense and passionate. take me for a scoundrel, I hope, because But opposite to this entreating face was I don't act upon everything you say one which lowered like the skies when She smiled faintly, and bowed her
head, accepting the assurance ; and then is not a time to discuss any one's clains. between these two, who had loved each what you cannot do for my sake, I will other, who were betrothed and bound to not do for yours. Good-bye."" each other, there ensued a pause. She “ Is this final ?” he cried, in rage and said nothing, she did not even look at dismay. him ; and he looking at her, feeling some- " It would be best so," said Nelly, genhow that greater things had happened tly. even than those which appeared, cast But she did not know how he went about in his mind to speak, and did away. She kept her composure, and apnot know what to say.
peared, so far as he could make out, as “ Nelly,” he said, at last, clearing his resolute as she was calm ; but there is throat, “I see you are angry with me; a dimness in Nelly's eyes and a ringing and, though I think you are rather un- in her ears. The room seemed to swim reasonable, I am very sorry to vex you. about her, and his face, which flamed into I would do as much as most men for the sudden rage, then went out as it were, girl I love ; but I should be compromis- like an extinguished light. Gradually the ing your prospects, as well as my own, darkness that closed over everything were I to plunge into this business with- lightened again, and she found he had out reflection, as you tell me. I am sure, gone. She had not fainted or lost conwhen you are cool and able to think, you sciousness, but a mist had overspread will see the justice of what I say.” her soul and her thoughts, and all that Still Nelly made no
She was done and said. She sat still where could not trust herself to speak; her he left her, quite silent, coming to herheart beat too loudly, her breath came self. She forgot that she had things to too fast. But to him it seemed obdu- do, and that it would soon be time for racy, determined and conscious resist the train. She sat still, realizing what ance, like his own.
had happened, looking, as it were, at If this is how you take it, of course, I what she had done. She was not sorry can't help myself," he said ; “ but you are but stunned, wondering how she came to very unjust -- and unreasonable. A wo- do it - not grieved that she had done it. man may stretch her demands too far. I don't know how long she sat thus; it There is much that I would be glad to do seemed to her hours, but that, of course, for your sake; but, even for your sake, it was a mere impression. What roused is best that I should employ my own her at last was the entrance of another judgment; and I cannot do what that man, as much excited, as anxious, and judgment condemns
curious as Ernest had been. He came “ No," said Nelly, I did not to offer his services, to ask if he should say for my sake ; but if I had it would go at once, and put himself at the disponot have mattered. No, you must use sal of Sir Alexis ; and, in the second your own judgment. But will you excuse place -- only in the second place — to me, now,” she added, after a momentary ask what it meant. Nelly sat and lispause, “ if I say good-bye. We are go- tened to his. eager questions, and then ing - to Sterrington, directly, and I have burst into sudden tears. She gave him still some things to do."
no reason for them — why should she? " To Sterrington! To mix yourself up There were reasons enough and to spare, with Innocent, and trumpet your connec- without diving into her personal history, tion with her to all the world !"
for any outburst of sorrow. John Vane “ To stand by one of Mamma's chil-put no questions, but he had met Ernest dren in her trouble,” said Nelly, looking rushing in the opposite direction, and ! at him with tears shining in her eyes, and think he divined that some reflection of with a smile which increased his exas- a personal misery was in Nelly's paleness peration a hundred-fold. “I am sorry and agitation. But he asked her no you do not understand. Mamma's place questions, and he tried not to ask himis with Innocent, and mine with Mam- self any, which was harder still.
When Mrs. Eastwood came into the “This is folly, Nelly,” he cried, “abso- room, which she did very soon after, in lute folly. She has her husband to look her bonnet and cloak ready for the jourafter her. Have I no claims ? and for ney, Vane went up to her holding out his my sake you ought not to go.”
hand. She rose, holding out her hand to him, Forgive me,” he said, humbly, “ for still with that pale smile upon her face. having done you a temporary wrong in “Let us part friends,” she said. “ This my thoughts."