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prospect of having an object in the house that would divert her from the ever-present sorrow of her son's absence. She even smiled at me as she exclaimed:

“When George comes home won't he be surprised to see a little stranger amongst us welcoming him!"

It was then arranged that the baby and its nurse-a Frenchwoman -should be despatched to Lorton on the following week.

“I shall visit it as often as I can,” Major Rivers said, as he rose to leave. "It is a long journey from Newtown to Lorton, but for all that you may depend upon seeing me often.”

As we stood together on the doorstep, he slipped a piece of paper in my hand. I opened it, and found it to be a bank-note for fifty pounds. I handed it back, exclaiming :

“It is not needful to bribe me into loving my sister's child.”

He refused to take it, eyeing me for some time in silence. Then he said :

“You have still much of the foppery of a country girl about you. It is a dense mist, through which your intelligence breaks only here and there. But the light that is emitted is bright and keen. Were it not for this mist you would see things in a clearer sense. You would certainly not refuse to make your brother-in-law's house your home.”

"That is not to the point,” I answered. “Please take back this bribe.”

“ Bribe!” he ejaculated. “Are you vicious yourself that you place evil constructions upon the simplest actions? You do not imagine that I was going to bequeath the care of my child to you as a pauper does his baby to the Foundling! I want my child to be independent of your aunt. Do you understand ?"

“ Yes. I understand.” “This money will keep it and pay the nurse for a few weeks. When we meet again I will arrange for a proper banking account, that you may draw for him as you think fit.”

I placed the note in my pocket without a word. He stood for a moment as if about to speak. Changing his mind, he squeezed my hand hastily and left the house. At the gate he stopped to cry, “ You will receive a letter from me telling you by what train the child will arrive,” and then vanished.

I re-entered the house. My aunt had returned to her bedroom ; I was therefore able to meditate a little without fear of disturbance.

What did I think of his manner, his language, his wishes ? Had I not loved him-loved him the more passionately because my relationship forbade my love—had I not fancied that I could detect in his manner towards me a meaning upon which my passion placed the construction that thrilled me with a joy as sweet and subtle as its cause, I should have said that his grief weighed but lightly on him. But on pardonne tant que l'on aime. I could easily find reasons for his sorrow not taking a more emphatical form, though I thought it truly sincere. I do not doubt even now that my sister's death had given him a great shock. But when I saw him the blow was already a thing of the past. He had had time to collect his energies, to fortify his mind against the further encroachments of his sorrow. Had I not loved him I do not think I should have misapprehended his motive in placing his child with me. It was plain that the infant stood in need of a protector. It was a delicate and a weighty responsibility on the father. He appreciated it rightly by consigning the helpless little sweet to the guardianship of me, the best fitted of any in the world to attend to it. Meanwhile

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ask how was it my grief, being sincere, deep-rooted as I profess it to have been, allowed me to experience any feeling beyond a reasonable one towards the husband of her whose loss I had mourned in many a bitter tear?—whose loss too was recent—upon whose ashen brows indeed the dews might not yet have dried ? I loved—I can say no more.

You know there is no enigma more insoluble than love-unless it be the existence of God, who is love Himself. The silent growth of the body, the limitless expanse of bending blue, the life of flowers—deep, sombre, awful as are such enigmas, yet they are trifles compared to that one enigma the Heartthat pulsating seat of hopes which delude, of dreams which madden, of influences which pain, of passions which kill.

Account for my feelings as best you may. For myself I look and see but darkness.

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CHAPTER IX.

I DULY received the letter from Major Rivers informing me as to the time I might expect the arrival of the nurse and baby, and on the day and hour named repaired alone to the railway station at Lorton. As I had left the house I was surprised to hear the Lorton church clock striking twelve, and consulting my watch I found that it had deceived me by twenty minutes. On gaining the station I learnt that the train had arrived and departed a full quarter of an hour. I hastened on to the platform, and there found the nurse—a very little woman with a dark yellow face and very black eyebrows—appealing with tears in her eyes to a porter, who stood by her with a hopeless expression of bewilderment on his face. Seeing me he came forward : Are you in search of a nurse and a baby, Miss ?” “ Yes.” “Oh, then, there they are,” said the man, brightening up. “I

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guessed she were waiting for some one; but though she talks a sort o' English, it's all her own, and don't belong to these parts.”

I advanced towards the little woman, who watched me with singular eagerness. On each side of her stood two large boxes, papered like the walls of a house, whilst in her arms she held a baby whose long clothes and bulky "wrap up” put her altogether out of proportion.

“Mam'selle Holmes ?” she asked interrogatively, but in a frightened manner, as if she dreaded a negative reply.

“Yes,” I answered," and you are Major Rivers' nurse? And this is the darling baby?"

Oui," she responded. And then in rapid French broke forth: “O mam’selle, I have been so terrified ! I came here, but found no one. I thought that I had mistaken the station. The porter was a coquin, who laughed at my tears. I was plunged into a situation of terrible solitariness.” “ Are these your boxes ?” I asked.

Yes,” she replied. Thereupon I called the porter, who consented to wheel the boxes on his truck to the house for two shillings. I led the way out of the station, followed by the nurse.

“I am dying to see my little nephew," I said, looking at the bundle, and endeavouring to pierce the thick white knitted veil that covered his face.

Il dort, mam'selle ; and must not be aroused, or he would want the bottle, and I have none to give him. Oh, it is a terrible thing travelling with an infant in this country! I would have given ten francs for some hot water, but did not dare get out at any of the stations lest the train should go on without me. There would have been a situation !"

I plied her with numerous questions about the child as we walked briskly homeward. I knew enough of French to understand her, and she knew enough of English to understand me.

I found her a very intelligent little woman, easily dejected, highly nervous, fond of the child, and significantly French.

On reaching Ivy Lodge I led the way up to the nursery, poor Kate's old bedroom, in which burnt a cheerful fire. I had conferred with my aunt and had purchased a little cot, rightly judging that the nurse would come without one.

"Well commenced !-well prepared!” she exclaimed, looking around her. Then with singular rapidity she threw off her bonnet and shawl, and seating herself before the fire commenced to undress

the baby.

My aunt had entered the room, and stood by my side waiting for the veil to be removed to see the child.

A fair baby, as I thought it would be. But in this respect only

were my speculations as to the appearance of poor Kate's child realised. It was thin, delicate, pinched, and tiny. It had very little hair, although some months old. I noticed the wee hands, the little bent legs that would not straighten, above all the open blue eyes, which seemed fixed in an almost weird outlook. The nurse handled it delicately and skilfully. She seemed sensible of its frailty, and, though rapid in her motions, worked with the care of a glass-blower.

I was struck with its inactivity, and longed to hear it cry. Its composure was not to be ruffled. The bath, the grand enjoyment of the healthy baby, seemed in nowise to affect it; would it not plunge out with those thin little legs, and grasp the edge with its tiny fist? It lay with painful composure in the nurse's hand, and though I fancied that its fixed blue eyes sometimes followed me, I never could detect in its face the least change of the still marble-like expression.

“Does it never cry?" my aunt asked.

“Sometimes, madame," answered the nurse. “But it is a wonderfully good baby.”

I stooped and kissed the little fellow as he was lifted out of the bath, and when he was dressed the nurse gave him to me to hold whilst she prepared his food. My inexperienced arms soon made him restless, and in a very few moments he began to cry. So strange a cry !-it was like the echo of a dying baby's wail.

I leaned over him, watching him. I endeavoured to trace in the tiny early lineaments a resemblance to his parents; but could find

I might have fancied there was an expression of the mother in the mouth; but as I scrutinised the impression wore away. He seemed to me a weird little bairn. I would have given something for more babyhood about him.

His arrival however gave an impetus to time. The days rolled away more briskly than I ever remember them to have done. I soon got into the way of handling the little fellow; I sometimes dressed him, often walked out with him, to allow the active and mercurial little Frenchwoman to devote herself to dressmaking for the family, including herself. But though pretty well all my time was bestowed on the baby, my devotion was unrewarded by the faintest recognition. The stolid stare of his blue eyes looked no life; the little form lay as composed in my arms or in his cot as an invalid's; he seemed to receive no benefit whatever from the food he took, though he consumed enough, in my inexperienced sight, to satisfy a dozen babies; and with the exception of a small increase of hair, I could note no perceptible indications of growth whatever.

My inexperience saved me from anxiety, and the nurse's conduct corresponded with my notions that what appeared to me to be unnatural was in reality wholly incidental to babyhood. She was very

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much devoted to the child, coining a new endearing term for it every day. Had there been any grounds for anxiety I felt sure her solicitude would have betrayed them.

After some weeks Major Rivers came down to Lorton to see us. His manners towards his child were full of affection. He took the little creature in his arms; kissed it several times with almost impassioned gestures.

“Poor motherless mite!” he exclaimed, holding the baby up, and receiving its supernaturally steady gaze full upon his face. , parched thing—what makes thee so spare ? Art thou always thus to symbolise by thy weak wail, thy slow unconscious eyes, thy lean quiet limbs, the death that gave thee life, and the sorrow that thou didst bring with thee? Celestine,” he said to the nurse," see that he wants for nothing to make him fat. How does he sleep?"

“Very well, monsieur."
“ What is his age now ?”
“ Six months, monsieur.”
“Is he fond of his aunt?”
“He is too young,” I answered, “ to be fond.”
He looked at me earnestly, then abruptly turned to Celestine.

He remained in the nursery, playing with and caressing his child for some time. In his conduct towards me I noticed a kind of shyness that puzzled me to understand. Yet, though he directed his conversation largely to my aunt and to the nurse, I saw that pretty well every other sentence was levelled at me. For he would pause after his remarks, and give me a quick searching glance, as if noting the effect of his words.

I confess that I was perfectly happy in his society. His presence, which my love made sweet, was refined by the associations that hung about it of my dead sister. Her death was still very, very recent, and I had not yet sobbed out my lamentations, as the tear-stained cheeks of the baby, after I had been hanging over it, would sometimes testify. But the presence of Major Rivers, so far from recalling Kate to me with the bitter vividness that I might have expected, seemed to soothe, to diminish, even to obliterate nuy sorrow, by subordinating it, so to speak, to my passion. But how carefully I kept my love hidden from him! I felt that it was impossible for him to detect it. In my innocence I considered too that my refusal to share his home was a masterstroke; for, I thought, should he ever have had any reason to suspect my love, he will certainly have his suspicions shaken or put to flight by this resolute refusal of his offer.

On leaving, after this visit, he asked me if I had changed my mind. Now that I knew the baby, had learned to love it, would I not come and take care of it for him at Newtown?

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