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a hard, bold, showy-looking woman, “ clinging frantically to the ghost of her lost youth,” and with but one soft spot in her heart. She was two or three years the senior of Colonel Home, but from her earliest girlhood she had loved him, and him only. During his father's lifetime, in his own early manhood, he had been a great deal at Thornicroft, and Magdalen Heathcote and he had been secretly affianced lovers ; both were poor and both ambitious, and a union between them seemed even in their most sanguine moments a very remote contingency. However, she would have waited for him till the day she died, but he was made of other stuff. He entered the army, and, while she watched his brilliant career with all a loving woman's pride and rapture, he had quite forgotten her, in so far as the memory was likely to cause him an hour's uneasiness.

For five years they had not met, until his father's mortal illness recalled him; and when he again saw Magdalen, his first look, his first word, told her that the old love was dead and buried long ago. She was a proud woman, and when he began hesitatingly to advert to their engagement as a childish folly, impossible of realisation, she met him more than half way, released him with firm and cheerful decision, and kept the almost insane outbreak of her bitter agony for a privacy un. watched by any human eye. But her love for him never wavered, and in the bottom of her heart there still lurked a faint hope that he might yet come back to her. Meantime, she was universally admired, and flirted à outrance with every eligible man who would join in the pastime; but nothing ever came of her firtations, her “heart was otherwhere,” and her youth and beauty faded together. Then came the blow of Home's marriage ; and it does not need much insight into human nature to enable one to imagine the feelings with which Miss Heathcote regarded Laura. As for those she had for the colonel himself, she would have thrown aside all the prejudices and ties of society and public opinion, and Aled with him to the end of the world, had he but asked her; but she had a keen insight into his character, and knew that the strongest bond that held him to her was his belief that her old absorbing love for him had given place to a friendship so tender as to be the paramount feeling of her being. He believed himself to be, as, indeed, he was, the person in whose concerns she was most interested ; but she knew enough of him and of her own departed sovereignty to be fearful that, did the colonel for a moment suspect that she still loved him as of old, something very nearly akin to distaste would, in his mind, replace his present confidential and affectionate feeling for her. As it was, he consulted her in all his undertakings, constantly sought her society, and claimed her time and sympathy as though he had a right to them; and wise in her generation, since she could not have all, she took what she could get, and rejoiced in the knowledge that she it was, and not his wife, to whom he turned as his counsellor and friend in every perplexity. The race was over, and the spectators were preparing to return to their homes.

“ Which way shall we take ?” asked the colonel, as he shawled and cloaked his companion.

" It is quite the same to me,” she answered, dryly, for he had been more preoccupied and silent all the afternoon than she at all approved.

She had expected a confidence—some matrimonial difficulty, probably, but no confidence had been made, and, well as she had schooled herself, she was sore and bitter at heart.

Suppose we take the coast road ?” he went on. “ The tide will have left the sands high and dry by the time we can reach them, and the afternoon is lovely; besides, the other way will be thronged with all those people, and I want to have you to myself for an hour or two. I have something to talk to you about.”

“ It is coming,” she said to herself. But she only smiled at him, and said, “ If I can do anything for you, you know you have but to tell me.”

“Ah! I know it so well,” he answered, taking his place beside her. And, leaving the common by a different track from that taken by the others, he struck into a labyrinth of sandy lanes, where the ponies were suffered to choose their own pace.

“Now, what is troubling you ?" she asked. “I have seen all day that there is something."

“ It is a mere trifle,” he said, laughing. “I want you to tell me whether Lina's inability to hold her tongue comes from pure silliness or from ill nature ?"

“Something of both. She does the artless, ingenuous being, and that entails a vast amount of chatter ; but her temper is not improving, and that renders her raillery rather offensive at times. What has she been about now?"

“Oh! a mere nothing, in fact. But if Laura were not such a sweet, loving, trusting little creature, it might have been rather unpleasant. Lina thought fit to enlighten her as to my old relations with you, and poor Laura was jealous.”

“ Indeed !” said Magdalen, with a flash of her dark eyes, " she does me a great deal of honour." Then, in a softer tone, “She has no need to be jealous. She has your love, I only claim your friendship; but that she must not grudge me; I could not do without it. Is it not strange-the petty, ungenerous nature of some happy women! They revel in their abounding riches, and perhaps do not know how to value them, yet they would not give of their abundance a crumb to the starving beggar, whose heart hungers and thirsts for the smallest of their privileges. I see how it is; although secure of your love, your wife will not endure to see you give me your confidence. She hates me; I knew it from the first. I shall lose what has been left to me, and then I do not care how soon

She paused, really agitated, afraid of going too far, yet unable to control her rage against Laura. Home seized her hand.

“She shall never separate us, Magdalen, my first, best love, my truest friend! What should I do without

you?

No! she shall never come between us !"

“ Shall she not?” she said, her eyes filled with tears. “ Rely on it, she will do her utmost. I know her; cat-like, narrow, hard, dull, and decent, she has not heart enough ever to be betrayed into an indiscretion, nor charity enough to forgive those who have not her cold caution. Oh! George, I had hoped å better fate for you. My highest ambition was to see you mated with one who would have risen with you, and helped you in attaining the distinction for which you are fitted; but now

you."

“Ah! Magdalen, it was a hard fate that parted me from you. Your energy and talent would have sustained me when I flagged, if we had braved poverty

“Say no more about it, George," she said. “ It is too late now. You are satisfied and happy in your life, and mine

“Well! yours, Magdalen. What is it?”

“ It is bearable so long as I am not wholly divided from you. To be your trusted friend, is more to me than the proudest position apart from

“ I shall hate your husband if you ever marry, Magdalen.”

“ I shall never marry,” she said, passionately. “Al that was over for me when you went to India.”

"I am unworthy of such generous self-sacrifice,” he said. “I would I had known you and myself earlier."

But there is no need to detail any more of this precious conversation. Home felt that his young wife was as far as possible from being what Magdalen represented her; but Miss Heathcote had a wonderful influence over him, and, for the time, he really fancied that he would have been happier with her for his wife than Laura. There was no truth in him.

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THE BEGINNING OF DISENCHANTMENT. The windows of the breakfast-room at Thornicroft were open to admit the sweet morning incense from herb and flower, and the bright July sunshine came flickering in through a trellis covered with jasmine stars and roses, yellow, crimson, white, and pink. A breakfast-table, daintily set for two persons, stood near the window, and the colonel and his wife were seated tête-à-tête at their morning meal. Colonel Home looked the very perfection of health and masculine beauty. There certainly was a perfectly thorough-bred air about him, a look of refinement in the very carriage of his finely-shaped head, and, since the world had been going well with him, he had lost much of the worried expression which had been one characteristic of his face. Laura looked fragile and anxious, and her sweet eyes had a wistfulness which had always been dormant in them, but was now fully developed. Although her white morning dress was as simple as possible, the most inexperienced feminine eye could have seen at a glance that elegance and fashion had done their utmost to produce a masterpiece; and, indeed, from the soft waves of her gold-brown hair to the bow of her embroidered slipper, Laura’s toilette was perfect. She had grown painfully solicitous about such things now; she had learned to look to aids like these with which to strengthen bonds which her woman's instinct told her would bear no strain. Resolutely as she refused to admit to her own heart that her married life was not the bright and happy thing she had pictured it, she yet felt that her power was passing away from her. This morning she felt unusually exhausted, for they had only returned from Cragsmere on the preceding evening: They had been staying with their old friends for two or three weeks, and, added to her bodily fatigue from a long summer day's railway journey, there was the reaction from the mental strain she had put on herself

goes on.”

- If

during her stay with the kind and acute old couple. She was no experienced actress, but the most guileless of women can dissimulate when pride or love calls on them to do so, and she had both reasons for appearing as gay as a bird.

“ Have you answered your stepmother's note yet, Laura ?” “ No! How could I ?"

“I am sure I don't know how you could. I merely asked the question. And yet, when I come to think of it, I can't see why you could not.” “ You know it is an invitation to Charlwood. Mrs. Charlton

says

the Heytesburys are there, and Adelaide is home at last, and the Careys are going to stay there, so she thinks we might come too. But I read it all to you last night.”

“ Yes, I know you did.” Then, after a pause, “I think you should answer it at once.

“ Yes. What shall I say?" “Do you wish to go?"

" Oh no, George, I really do want to be quiet at home; and when Mrs. Charlton has people staying with her, I know what incessant gaiety

“ Perhaps you are right,” he said. “I do think you are not looking well, and need rest, but I must go; it really would not be civil to refuse again, and, you know, I have yet to make Adelaide's acquaintance."

you go, George, and I stay behind, I shall not enjoy my rest.” “Oh! I wish you would know your own mind for once, Laura. Common decency demands that that note should be answered without delay, and it is desirable that you should decide on what you

intend doing."

" It all depends on you, George. If you would remain at home, I should be so glad, but if you mean to go, I should like to go also.”

“My dear Laura" (with a very acid accent on the “ there is one thing more provoking to a man than another, it is the affectation in a woman of utter self-abnegation, when all the while she is bent on doing exactly what she pleases. Pray let me hear no more about the note. I shall certainly go ; for yourself, you may do as you like.”.

“I shall say that we shall be there, then? And, dear George, do not be angry with me; I am afraid my temper is more easily ruffled than it used to be, but you will bear with me a little, and I shall come all right again.”

“I wish to Heaven you would! I am sure I can't tell how to act. You have every means of amusement and occupation that a reasonable woman could desire, and yet your temper grows more fretful and uncertain day by day; if I could but tell what to do to remedy the evil, I should gladly do it, but it really is irritating to a man of easy temper to see perpetual clouds on his wife's brow. Really, Laura, you should take care; had I been of another disposition, you would have forfeited my love long since.”

“Oh! George, have I been so bad as that? Only love me as you used to do, and I shall never vex you again.”

“ Foolish child! Have I not singled you out from the rest of womankind to be my wife? That should be enough for you.”.

A subdued knock at the door, and a man entered with a pretty basket

my dear"), " if

I see.

of white French wicker-work heaped with splendid bunches of purple and white grapes and glowing velvety peaches, set off by fresh vine-leaves and tendrils ; in another basket he carried what Mortimer Collins calls the “ king of horticulture"- a fine pine-apple, with its glaucous crown of bluish-green reposing on a bed of freshest greenest moss.

“Morgan desired me to bring these to show you, sir; he says they are the best in the houses. The tax-cart is quite ready; shall I put them in the well ?"

The gallant colonel looked not a little put out.
“Oh yes, they will do very well ; put them in.”
“What splendid fruit!” said Laura. “ For whom are they?”,
“ For Miss Heathcote, ma'am,” returned the man.
Laura withdrew her extended hand from the basket.

“ Put them carefully in, Jones,” said the colonel, affably. And the servant withdrew. “I met Godfrey Heathcote and his daughters on the road to Brixby yesterday, and they were lamenting about having no good fruit for this dinner-party to-day; they had been to look for some, but could get nothing nice. Poor old Godfrey is hard pressed, and looks more to turnips and mangold-wurzel than to his hothouses ; indeed, I suppose the complaints were meant as a hint to me; at all events, I took them as such, and as I am going to look at those ponies of Weston's, for which you have taken a fancy, I shall leave these at the Lodge at Oaklands."

Laura made no reply.

“Well, good-bye, dear Laura ; rest yourself to-day. The new books came while we were away, But, by the way, write that note first."

Yes,” she said, “I shall do it immediately." He kissed her cheek, playfully pulled one of her bright curls, and went off; and from the window Laura saw him drive off up the lime avenue. She sat down and wrote her note of acceptance, then took up a book, laid it down in a few minutes, opened her work-box, and trifled with her thimble and needle; and finally she went into the hall, and taking her hat and parasol, went out amongst the still dewy flowers and shrubs of her flower-garden.

Ay, things were going wrong at Thornicroft, and Laura was never made to set them right. Scarcely a day passed but some evidence of her husband's constant thought for and of Magdalen Heathcote cropped out, and “good-natured friends” were not wanting to make matters worse than the sad young wife would ever have thought them, if left to her own imaginings alone. Laura had won her treasure, and found it like fairy gold, nought but dust and clipped leaves. Many a woman has been in like case, and borne a brave crest withal, finding aid and solace in those minor pleasures and sterner cares which are distributed with tolerable equality ; but not yet, if ever, could Laura so school herself. She lived but in her love, and she now saw clearly enough that the love was almost, if not entirely, on one side. It would have been well for her had she had imperative duties—well had her life not been so smooth and easy; but she had no child, no household cares; wealth made all anxious thoughts, all efforts to make ends meet, superfluous; the ends overlapped so much that Laura had but to take the good things provided for her, and be

VOL. I.X.

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