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And as they sat thus together, the oaken door at the end of the room opened, Eleanor's deer-hound bounded in, and in the doorway stood the dear old squire, with his silvery hair, and kindly face, and cordial smile, while
Illusion, alas! The door had opened—but it was the door of the parlour at Kenilworth, it was only “missus, who had sent up to say that the rain was over, as the lady wished to know.” So there was no more time for dreaming. The evening was closing in and they must make the best of their way home. But the spell was still on Paul; for when the horses came to the door and he had helped Eleanor to mount, he laid his hand suddenly on hers. “Are you very sorry it rained ?" he said, looking up at her.
“Not very!" Lady Torwood smiled, in some surprise.
And when, after a quick, silent ride back to Leamington, they entered Lady Torwood's drawing-room at the Regent, where poor Mrs. Campbell was anxiously expecting them, it was with almost his boyish gleeful manner that Paul exclaimed, going up to her, “Here she is, Mrs. Campbell-you see I've brought her safely home to you!” and shook the old lady by both hands in a manner that caused her to look up bewildered.
“What spirits Captain Fletcher is in, my dear?” Mrs. Campbell said, in an inquiring tone of voice, after he had made his exit in the same rather wild manner.
“Paul ?” said Lady Torwood; “yes, he is more like himself tonight.” And for a few minutes she leaned thoughtfully against the chimney-piece.
“ It was very thoughtless of Milly Heathcote to take the wrong road," Mrs. Campbell went on, indignantly.
“Very,” was Lady Torwood's complacent rejoinder.
“ Caroline told me when she came in that she followed them, of course thinking Mrs. Heathcote knew the way. You know she never sees anything; she doesn't even see that Mr. Noel evidently regards her with an eye of affection, but maintains that he is paying his addresses to Mrs. Heathcote. As if I couldn't judge,” Mrs. Campbell added, drawing herself up with a jerk. “It might have been very disagreeable for you !"
Very,” said Lady Torwood again, but without taking the trouble to inquire to which part of Mrs. Campbell's speech the latter remark pertained.
II. PAUL FLETCHER'S warning to Mr. Noel had not been uncalled for; for, to own the truth, that gentleman had contrived to place himself in a rather awkward predicament. With that peculiar turn for compliment which his compatriots are celebrated for, Mr. Noel had rarely been in Mrs. Heathcote's society without so conducting himself as to appear entirely her slave-an apppearance which, to be still further candid, the fair and fast widow had done her best to convert into a reality. Whereas, on the other hand, strange as it may appear after his decided disavowal to Paul, the steady, solemn qualities and charms of Caroline Ellis were gradually bringing Mr. Noel's volatile affections to an anchor. A crisis of some kind he felt was at hand, and he became more and more con
vinced of this as he found himself tête-à-tête with Miss Ellis the morning after their ride towards Kenilworth. He had called with Paul to inquire after them, and the latter, hearing Lady Torwood was fatigued and still in her room, had left him at the Regent, Mr. Noel suddenly remembering that he had something very particular to say to Mrs. Campbell. When he entered the drawing-room, however, he found, to his surprise, only Miss Ellis there, Mrs. Campbell being with Lady Torwood. However, as she probably would come down again soon, he thought he might as well remain till she did so, and that was how he found himself tête-à-tête with Caroline. Mr. Noel was in an unusually grave mood that morning. His companion, on the contrary, seemed to have acquired some of his surplus vivacity. Indeed, it was generally observable now that in Charley's presence a greater amount of vitality animated Miss Ellis's otherwise apathetic nature.
“And you think you have really no prejudice against Ireland, Miss Ellis?” said Mr. Noel, continuing a conversation which now and then touched upon dangerous ground.
“ Caroline and I will come and pay you a visit there if you like, Mr. Noel,” said a voice at the door, which made him start. Mrs. Heathcote had a way of coming into the room without being heard, which, to say the least, was sometimes dangerous. “I delight in Ireland, and want of all things to see more of it. We were only quartered at Belfast when I was there, before we were ordered out, so Where's Eleanor, Carry? Tired ? I'm
sorry the ride or the society should have been too much for her!” Mrs. Heathcote went on, laughing.
Miss Ellis lapsed into her customary stolidity. Mrs. Heathcote always acted like a refrigerator upon her.
“ It's getting late, too,” said Milly, taking out her watch. o'clock.” (Mr. Noel had been precisely an hour and a half waiting till Mrs. Campbell came down.) “I have been at the pump-room since twelve, waiting for a friend who had appointed to meet me there, and heshe, I mean-left me there.”
Here Mrs. Heathcote coughed, and poor Charley became hot all of a sudden. He had quite forgotten the engagement Mrs. Heathcote had made for him the previous day! He was in for it now, he felt.
“Some more important engagement, however, I suppose,” Mrs. Heathcote continued, playing with her watch-chain. “My friend lacks your punctuality, I am afraid, Mr. Noel.” And the fair widow raised her eyes deliberately to Charley's face. “Don't be too unmerciful, Mrs. Heathcote," he said, rallying. “I am
friend will never so transgress again! If you are too severe upon our faults, where are we to find merciful judgment?" an ambiguous speech on the part of Mr. Noel which might be differently interpreted, as his side glauce at Miss Ellis showed he intended it should.
“ The criminal confides too much in my humane indulgence, I have no doubt," Milly answered, now looking down and buttoning her beautifully-fitting glove. A pause ensued.
" I think I had better go and see if Lady Torwood is coming down," said Miss Ellis, putting down her work.
“ Not on any account, Miss Ellis,” Charley exclaimed, hastily. "I beg you won't disturb her on my account-pray don't go! I must be going myself directly-a very particular engagement."
“ I am glad to see that (unlike my friend) you are so particular, Mr. Noel,” Milly said, dryly. “Never mind, Caroline dear, I can wait.” And Mrs. Heathcote settled herself yet more comfortably in her armchair. " What a beautiful bouquet ?” she said, looking round the room; " where did you get it?"
began Caroline. * Paul Fletcher sent it for Lady Torwood by me this morning," Mr. Noel interrupted, with equal truth and politeness.
Caroline opened her eyes wide and looked steadfastly at him. Charley returned the look beseechingly. Mrs. Heathcote unbuttoned her other glove. * Have
you and Eleanor the same taste in flowers, then, Cary?" she asked, quietly. “ White camelias and violets are your favourites, are they not? That was such a lovely bouquet you sent me for Lady MayDard's ball on Tuesday, Mr. Noel ! And, by-the-by, I quite forgot to thank you
for the songs. It was so kind of you to remember them !" Again Caroline looked up.
Mrs. Heatheote grew every moment more relenting towards the culprit, and better satisfied apparently with herself; and so the conversation went on, Charley finding it more and more difficult to keep the "justemilieu” between his two fair companions, till at last, in despair, he rose to go, and departed with the consciousness that Caroline's manner to him had entirely changed since the morning, and that its haughty offended composure formed a marked contrast to Mrs. Heathcote's, as his tormentor smiled him a gracious farewell, and took her bonnet off as he left the room, “to have a little chat with dear Caroline," as she herself expressed it.
Lady Torwood had recovered from her fatigue, and was able to receive Captain Fletcher when he called again that afternoon “ his way” past the Regent. The change remarkable on the preceding day was still
apparent in him. He had found fairy treasure at Kenilworth. Ah, it was more than magic, though !-it was, or might become, reality! Why should happiness not again be his ? He had had his fill of disappointment-looked dreary solitude long enough in the face ; his share of the trial which in some form must come to all, was at an end.
Might he not take the weight of caution and suspicion from off his heart and let it beat and bound again as it had done of yore? The poor heart in its stone-prison yearned so earnestly for freedom!
*** How good of you to come again,” Lady Torwood said, extending her hand from the little couch on which she sat near the fire.
Paul smiled as he held the delicate hand in his own. (Paul's hand was a very characteristic one, not small or fleshy, but well shaped and with determination in every muscle and line of it; a hand that looked as if it had never been idle, and as if it could handle an oar or a rod-ay, and sterner implements too, with equal facility.)
“ Are you quite rested ?” he said, in answer. " I am afraid I rode too fast for you; I think I forgot -what I was doing I forgot everything yesterday."
* Did you ?” Lady Torwood blushed as she said. She did not merely change colour as she used to long ago; this time the blush came straight from her heart. “I feel quite rested now, though. But I am not equal
to very much exertion yet. Repose is a blessed thing-repose of mind and body." And Eleanor sighed rather sadly.
Paul looked anxiously at her. She did indeed not look robust, though the subdued air and tone about her to-day made her more charming than in her most brilliant hours. There was something touching in the halfhumility of her attitude as she sat with her usually haughty head bent down, and her hands lying folded together on her lap, gleaming white apon the dark drapery of her gown. She was subdued in reality-she was changed; had she, too, not known much sorrow of its kind'? and after all, had she been happy in the life she had chosen, had it not perhaps been one long regret and repentance ?
Such thoughts passed through Paul Fletcher's mind as he watched her. “Repose ?” he repeated. “It depends so much on the individual mind which seeks it. With'us men, for instance, action is often the greatest repose. It requires a certain amount of happiness to enable one to find repose of mind in rest of body. To escape from a greater evil to a lesser is, I believe, the truest repose--and so I have often found it in great exertion. A racked and wearied mind and heart often prove the best goad to bodily work. They make fine soldiers in every profession." :
“They give the energy of desperation, if you will," said Lady Torwood, looking regretfully at Paul, “ and the after-weariness of overfatigue; but exhaustion is surely not rest."
“Can you teach me what is ?” Paul said, earnestly. Lady Torwood shook her head.
"I must first find it myself,” she said. "Charity fulfilled, preachers would tell you, is the surest step towards it;; and in charity lies one thing-forgiveness of injuries"-her voice trembled as she went on6 and if you would find rest yourself, to give rest first to another; where you have been injured, to forgive !"
Paul Fletcher started. Outwardly calm, within he was terribly agitated. He knew by the tone of her voice, by the eyes raised to his as he stood leaning against the chimney-piece beside her, that Eleanor Vaughan-Eleanor whom he had so loved--was now a suppliant before him. Eleanor-humbled, repentant-once more free.
- Eleanor !" he said, looking down into her face.
So in the old days he had looked, so called, the suppliant then himself. How had she answered then?
Once more his eyes met hers, and though the same haughty glance did not now repel him, still they could not meet his long. Eleanor's eyes were not true eyes, and Paul felt it. In an instant the spell that had for the last two days been on him was dissolved--the fairy gold turned to dross. It was but glamour over him; the old deep first love was dead; it had not revived, it never would again. He looked at the hand that now covered Eleanor's face, and guarded by its diamond circlet he saw the plain gold wedding-ring. It acted like a counter-charm. For that ring, for glitter and tinsel like those diamonds, she had bartered his heart and his love-destroyed the happiness of his youth. Cold, ambitious, worldly as she had then been, her nature could not now be so entirely changed. False she had been-false she would still be; 'twice she had betrayed him—she would betray him again. He could forgive her, but he never could trust her again ; never honour and confide in her as his
soul felt it must honour and confide in her whom it chose as its mate. Without truth, on what foundation could he build his happiness? this passed with lightning rapidity through Paul Fletcher's mind during the intense pause that followed the utterance of her name. Lady Tor wood did not speak, but as much as was in her nature to feel she then felt. It was in an altered tone, but one of great feeling, that Paul Fletcher spoke again.
“I am not wrong in thinking that you speak of the past ?” he said. “And if it be so--if ever a thought of me has given you a moment of unrest-one pang of self-reproach-let it be so no longer. For my sake, and for the sake of olden days, Eleanor, believe me -that I have forgiven, that I do now forgive !”.
He took her hand in his and held it with the kindliness of a friend no fervent clasp as in those olden days. He now felt calmly and with friendliness towards her, as she had wished he should. Again Eleanor raised her beautiful eyes to his, but Paul met their beseeching glance un. waveringly. He had decided; he never could waver from this resolve again.
A deadly paleness overspread Lady Torwood's face, and, as she turned her
eyes downwards, a tear went slowly rolling down her cheek and fell on Paul's hand. It atoned for much. And if Paul Fletcher had been twice betrayed, we believe that in that moment he was a second time avenged.
The next day Captain Fletcher left Leamington, thereby giving rise to sundry surmises, among which the most popular was that he had been refused by Lady Torwood. His wound still causing him much bad health, he regretfully sold out of the army, and went abroad by his doctor's orders. . Previous to his return from Caffraria he had inherited from & distant relation, and though not precisely a rich man, was at any rate entirely independent, and thus enabled to roam whither he would over the world's surface ; in which agreeable employment he spent the next two years, acquiring perchance wisdom, perchance happiness, perchance rest--and perchance also, neither one nor the other.
Mr. Noel's affairs came to what you will doubtless consider a more satisfactory conclusion. His last meeting with Mrs. Heathcote had decided the matter, and turned his feelings towards her into those of perfect abhorrence; while, from force of contrast we suppose, Miss Ellis's star became quite in the ascendant. His peace with her was not so diffi. cult to make as from her former stolidity and dignity of character one might have imagined, and very shortly after Caroline Ellis became Mrs. Noel. The marriage has improved them both we are happy to hear, Caroline's sterling sense and straightforwardness acting as an excellent counterpoise to Charley's rather flighty and (to speak moderately) imaginative character, which in its turn acts as leaven upon
Lady Torwood, whom we take leave of two years after the last scene we have recorded, was then still unmarried, though besieged with offers and in the full zenith of her beauty. People said that the beautiful widow was still entirely wedded to the memory of her husband. Poor thing, she had been so devoted to him.