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rived. He was about seven-and-twenty, tall, and very good-looking, with a certain careless freedom of manner that seemed to oblige people to let him have his own way whether they would or no; even Estelle was different to him. I did not know what power he had over her, but he certainly influenced her as I did not think any one could have done, and she deferred to his opinions and consulted his wishes in a manner that surprised me; and she was softer, too, in her manner to him than any one else, and I noticed her eyes would follow him when she thought no one observed her. Cousin Geoffrey was very kind to me; he helped me to arrange my collection of wild flowers, and sometimes he took me out walking, and he never on any occasion seemed to overlook me as the others did.

There was a good deal more bustle at Gundringham after his arrival, and to me, who had lived so quietly all my life, it seemed an endless round of gaiety; but I suppose it only seemed so, for I heard Estelle and Cousin Geoffrey saying it was very stupid, and they hoped something would happen soon to enliven them. Some guest or another dined nearly every day, and, as I seldom talked myself, I enjoyed listening to the conversation about the neighbourhood, and whatever happened to be going on. I don't think any one thought about me at all. I had a high white dress, so I put it on every day for dinner, though I was not told to do so. Estelle was always most beautifully dressed herself

, and appeared to be very

much admired, but somehow I fancied she cared more about Cousin Geoffrey's opinion than any one else's.

She and Cousin Geoffrey used to go out riding. Estelle looked particularly attractive on horseback ; the tight-fitting habit showed her figure, and she rode exceedingly well

, and

after those rides it struck me that she always came back looking bright and happy. My aunt said they had been brought up together, she and Cousin Geoffrey, so that naturally they liked each other's society; at all events, they seemed very intimate.

About a fortnight after Cousin Geoffrey's arrival my aunt asked me if I should like to go to a ball, as there was to be one given in the neighbourhood, and that they were invited. I hardly knew what to say. Estelle, I thought, looked as if she did not want me to accept, but it was finally settled by Cousin Geoffrey, who said, decisively, that of course I was to be introduced some day or another, and that this was a very good opportunity; and so it was arranged. A few days after, we drove into Allington, a town about five miles off, for Estelle to select dresses. Cousin Geoffrey went with us, but declined going into the milliner's, saying, gaily, that he hated seeing the raw materials, and that he could only judge of the effect when the things were worn. We watched his handsome face and figure going leisurely down the street, and then we went in by ourselves to Madame Mackenzie's. The milliner seemed to know Estelle, and I felt quite bewildered by all the lovely things she drew out of cupboards and boxes for her inspection. After a great deal of talking and choosing, a pink silk with white lace was settled upon, and Estelle was leaving the shop without even remembering me at all, when I ventured to ask if I was not to have a dress also. So she stopped, and told Madame Mackenzie, hurriedly, to make me something—whatever she liked, only it was to be white, and quite plain. When my dress did come home, I thought it looked very pretty, although it was only white

tarlatan, and I felt quite childishly anxious to put it on, as I had never worn a low dress before.

At last the night of the ball arrived, and at about eight o'clock I went up-stairs and plaited my hair quite simply, as usual, and then rang to have my dress fastened, as I found that I could not do it for myself. Both

my

aunt's and Estelle's maids were engaged, so one of the other servants very kindly offered to do her best, and succeeded, with some difficulty on her part, and a good deal of patience on mine. I had no ornaments, except a string of pearls for my neck, which had belonged to my mother; but I was rather pleasantly surprised at my own appearance in the looking-glass.

Just as I was thinking of going down-stairs, a knock came to my door, and a hand put down upon a table close by it a beautiful bouquet and one large white rose. It was Cousin Geoffrey's hand, and a voice said, “The rose is for your hair ;” but, before I had time to speak, the door had shut again, and he was gone. I took up the rose. I don't think I have ever seen such a rose since, and the perfume of it lingers in my memory still. I felt my fingers tremble with pleasure as I fastened it in my hair, at the thought that I was not forgotten after all.

When I went down, my aunt said we were late, and that Cousin Geoffrey had gone on. We waited some time for Estelle, who presently sent a message, desiring us to get into the carriage, as she was coming immediately. How beautiful Estelle looked that night! When she came down-stairs she had forgotten her fan, so she stood waiting for it, and trying to button her glove, just under the hall-lamp, so that I had a good view of her, and I thought pink silk and white lace the most magnificent costume, especially when contrasted with Estelle’s masses of black hair.

When we arrived at the ball, which was given in the Assembly Rooms by some officers who were quartered at Allington, I felt quite bewildered by the lights and the music, and I kept close to my aunt as we passed up the grand staircase, which had a guard of honour stationed on either side. Nor did the ball-room reassure me; it all seemed like the fairy land I had read about, and I felt that I must be the enchanted visitor to some genii's palace. Presently I was startled by Cousin Geoffrey asking me to dance. I hesitated for a moment, with a kind of uneasy conviction that Estelle would not like it; he seemed to understand my thoughts, for he pointed to Estelle, who was quite at the other end of the room, leaning on the arm of some grand-looking man with a moustache, and a uniform all covered with gold lace ; so I put my hand into Cousin Geoffrey's arm, and he led me into the middle of the room, and then he put his arm round my waist, and he seemed to float rather than dance to the most lovely music I had ever heard. When he stopped, he said, “ You dance very well, little Mabel, and you look very

well." I tried to thank him for his flowers, but he only laughed, and danced off with me again. I felt my cheeks flush with pleasure, I was so unused to flattery, and I had received none since I left the convent; and the praise of the sisters was not often given to anything but my lessons, work, or general conduct.

When the dance was over, he took me to get some ices, and then I went again and sat by my aunt. I did not expect to dance any more. I thought it very kind of Cousin Geoffrey to have danced with me at all,

VOL. LX.

when there were so many beautifully dressed people in the room, and I thought him especially good natured when he brought up some officer for the very next waltz, saying something about his wishing to be introduced. Of course he could not have really cared to be introduced to me, but I was very glad not to be sitting still, although I did not like dancing with him nearly so much as with Cousin Geoffrey. After that, several other partners were presented to me, and I had so many engagements, that Cousin Geoffrey said later in the evening, quite gravely, that he should be offended if I did not mean to dance with him again. I know it was very foolish, but I thought he was angry, and I could not help the tears coming into my eyes; but he only laughed, took my card and put his name down, and then went off to Estelle.

I enjoyed that other dance with Cousin Geoffrey very much, and then he took me in to supper, and after that we went home. I could not sleep that night, I was so haunted by the ball. Estelle had not come home with us, but had returned to stay for a few days with some friends in the neighbourhood, which my aunt told me she was often in the habit of doing, and that she should send her some clothes in the morning. I think I was glad, and especially the next day at breakfast, when Cousin Geoffrey told my aunt that I had been christened the “ White Rose," and that, “after all, little Mabel had produced quite a sensation,” for I knew Estelle would not have been pleased, although she would have thought that Cousin Geoffrey was only saying so to please me.

After breakfast, when, as usual, I was going out into the garden, there being in it a favourite summer-house, where I spent a great deal of my time arranging and drying plants or reading, Cousin Geoffrey stopped me, and asked if I should not like to go out for a ride. I hesitated for a moment, for, although I felt that I should like it very much, I was rather afraid, never having been on horseback.

“ You need not be afraid, little Mabel,” he said; “ I will promise not to let you come to

any

harm." I felt myself colour at his guessing my cowardice, and I was ashamed that I had let it be seen; so I said at once that I should like it exceedingly, but that I feared my aunt might not. He shook his head, and promised to make it all right, if I really did wish it, and on my reassuring him, he went straight and asked her, and brought back her consent.

Then I remembered I had no habit; this perplexed him, but he sent for the housekeeper, and finally a cloth skirt of Estelle's was produced, which I wore with one of my own winter jackets. I shall never forget how much I enjoyed that ride. At first I was naturally a little timid, but Cousin Geoffrey reassured me, and led me insensibly from thinking of myself at all by telling me all sorts of amusing stories, and pointing out all the objects of interest in the country through which we rode.

I had been out so little since I arrived at Gundringham, and, indeed, so little anywhere all my life, that every lane we went through had a charm for me which I could not find words to express; and if I ever fancied that my horse was getting restive, there was Cousin Geoffrey's hand upon the bridle-rein, and his dark grey eyes smiling down into mine. When we came home, he said, if I hiked, we should ride again the next day, and I eagerly acquiesced; nor was that all the pleasure I had in store. In the evening my aunt was tired, and went early to bed, and

looked up.

Cousin Geoffrey and I went out walking. Generally his evenings were spent with Estelle, so that I had got quite used to wandering about by myself

, and it seemed so nice having a companion. There was an avenue called the Lovers' Walk, which ran by the side of the river. It was some way down the park, but I often went there and took my books or work, and sat upon some rustic benches which were placed against the trees, knowing that I should not be disturbed, and it was to this spot that Cousin Geoffrey and I bent our steps that evening.

We stayed there till it got quite dusk, and then we returned to the house, and Cousin Geoffrey said that he was my guest, and that I was bound to amuse him ; so he took me into the music-room and asked me to play: No one had asked me to play since I had left the convent, and I felt that I would rather do anything than try for the first time before Cousin Geoffrey, but I did not like to refuse. At first my fingers trembled so that I could hardly go on, but at last I felt my courage growing, till my old love of music came back so strongly with the familiar sounds, that I forgot even Cousin Geoffrey, and on looking up some time after, I saw, with surprise, that he was sitting with his face buried in both his hands. I closed the piano softly, and went to him. I wondered if he had been listening, or if he had fallen asleep. No, not asleep, I felt sure, for there was an expression of pain in his face when he

“I have tired you," I said. But he shook his head. " Then you have not liked it?

“Yes, little Mabel, I have liked it very much-perhaps too much." And he got up, and wished me good night quite suddenly.

We rode the next day, and the next; indeed, every day that week, till Estelle's return. I was sorry when Estelle came back. Gundringham was no longer the same place to me. Estelle and Cousin Geoffrey rode together, and I was nearly always alone. I missed Cousin Geoffrey so much, but I don't know if he even thought of me; sometimes I fancied he did, but Estelle never offered to take me anywhere with them, and I knew he would not ask her.

One day when I was sitting alone in the music-room, my aunt having given me leave to practise as much as I liked, Cousin Geoffrey came in. He was waiting for Estelle, who had gone to put on her habit and hat. I stopped playing at once.

“Why don't you go on?" he said. “It was nothing you would like," I replied. “ Perhaps I might like anything you played,” he said. I shook my head. “ Little Mabel!” he exclaimed, suddenly, “were you ever in love ?" The question surprised me very much, but I replied “No” at once. “ Do you think

you

could be ? He had come nearer, and was looking at me intently, so intently, that I felt myself colour, and at that moment Estelle came into the room. There was an angry flash in her eyes; I was sorry Estelle was vexed. I thought, perhaps, she fancied we were talking about her.

The next day Cousin Geoffrey asked me to ride, and I was so glad, that I ran up-stairs quite eagerly to put on my things, but I could nowhere find the cloth skirt. Estelle passed my door at the moment, and

I ventured to ask her for it, although I saw by her face that she was vexed about something.

“It is a pity,” she said, coldly, “ that my habit won't fit you, for I have given that skirt to the gardener's wife to make jackets for her boys. And then, without another word, she swept past on her way down the passage.

I was so disappointed, that I felt inclined to cry as I went slowly back again to Cousin Geoffrey. That was the first time that I had ever seen Cousin Geoffrey's handsome face look really angry; but it did so after I had explained my difficulties.

“Never mind, little Mabel," he said, "you shall ride in spite of everything; wait for one hour, and I will come back to you."

At the end of an hour he returned, triumphantly holding up a dark

grey skirt.

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“You must be a conjuror,” I said, as I took it from him.

He laughed. “A conjuror who has time, a good horse, and a willing friend, can work wonders."

I ran up-stairs and put it on; when I came down again Cousin Geoffrey was waiting to lift me on to the horse, and, as we rode away, we saw Estelle standing at her open window. She smiled and nodded to Cousin Geoffrey, but I thought her eyes had the same angry flash in them which I had observed the day before.

We had a lovely ride; I remember every detail of it so well, for it was the last. I was not quite sure if Cousin Geoffrey was out of spirits or not, but he was just the same to me—if anything, more tender than usual. He never spoke to me of Estelle, and it struck me that he avoided the subject on purpose ; but he was always amusing, and had a great deal to say on various kinds of interesting subjects. That day was marked by two other events; one was, that after our return home, when I was walking in the garden, I came quite suddenly upon Cousin Geoffrey and Estelle. They were talking very earnestly together ; indeed, so earnestly, that I don't think they even saw me, and I walked away at once in another direction, but I could not help hearing Estelle say,

“It's all very well for you to say so, Geoffrey, but I cannot bear it much longer."

I wondered so, what Estelle had to bear!—Estelle, who was so grand and indifferent–Estelle, whose slightest wish seemed to be law throughout the entire Gundringham establishment.

The other event occurred later, and came upon me as a terrible enlightenment.

There was a dinner-party that day, and Estelle went away with some of the guests for one of her little visits, and I went up-stairs to bed early with a vague feeling of happiness. I opened my window and leant out. Cousin Geoffrey and I should have some more pleasant days alone together ; we should ride, walk, and do so many little things which were impossible when Estelle was there. I had not lit my

candle, so that I could not be seen. It was a very hot night, but dark, as there was no moon; presently I heard footsteps on the gravel walk beneath. I could not distinguish whose they were, but two fiery cigar-ends glowed warm and bright through the darkness. The figures stood for a second directly under the window, and I heard something about the White Rose.

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