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you feel about these things now, but there was a time that you never thought much what hour of the day or night it was when you went there."
"It used to be so!" said he, thoughtfully; and then added, "but I'll go, at all events, mother; but I'll not be long away, for I must have a talk with you before bedtime."
"I have a note written to Sir Arthur here; will you just give it to him, Tony, or leave it for him when you're coming away, for it wants no answer?"
"All right, mother; don't take tea till I come back, and I'll do my best to come soon.'
It was a well-worn path that led from the cottage to Lyle Abbey. There was not an hour of day or night Tony had not travelled it; and as he went now, thoughts of all these long-agos would crowd on his memory, making him ask himself, Was there ever any one had so much happiness as I had in those days? Is it possible that my life to come will ever replace to me such enjoyment as that?
He was not a very imaginative youth, but he had that amount of the quality that suffices for small castlebuilding; and he went on, as he walked, picturing to himself what would be the boon he would ask from Fortune if some benevolent fairy were to start out from the tall ferns and grant him his wish. Would it be to be rich and titled and great, so that he might propose to make Alice his wife without any semblance of inordinate pretension? or would it not be to remain as he was, poor and humble in condition, and that Alice should be in a rank like his own, living in a cottage like Dolly Stewart, with little household cares to look after?
It was a strange labyrinth these thoughts led him into, and he soon lost his way completely, unable to satisfy himself whether Alice might not lose in fascination when no longer surrounded by all the splendid appliances of that high station she
adorned, or whether her native gracefulness would not be far more attractive when her life became ennobled by duties. A continual comparison of Alice and Dolly would rise to his mind; nothing could be less alike, and yet there they were, in incessant juxtaposition; and while he pictured Alice in the humble manse of the minister, beautiful as he had ever seen her, he wondered whether she would be able to subdue her proud spirit to such lowly ways, and make of that thatched cabin the happy_home that Dolly had made it. His experiences of life were not very large, but one lesson they had certainly taught him-it was, to recognise in persons of condition, when well brought up, a great spirit of accommodation. In the varied company of Sir Arthur's house he had constantly found that no one submitted with a better grace to accidental hardships than he whose station had usually elevated him above the risks of their occurrence, and that in the chance roughings of a sportsman life it was the born gentleman-Sybarite it might be at times-whose temper best sustained him in all difficulties, and whose gallant spirit bore him most triumphantly over the crosses and cares that beset him. It might not be a very logical induction that led him to apply this reasoning to Alice, but he did so, and in so doing he felt very little how the time went over, till he found himself on the terrace at Lyle Abbey.
Led on by old habit, he passed in without ringing the bell, and was already on his way to the drawing-room when he met Hailes the butler.
was he indeed very full awake while Tony blundered out his excuses for disturbing him.
"My dear Tony, not a word of this. It is a real pleasure to see you. I was taking a nap, just because I had nothing better to do. We are all alone here now, and the place feels strange enough in the solitude. Mark gone the girls away—and no one left but Lady Lyle and myself. There's your old friend; that's some of the '32 claret; fill your glass, and tell me that you are come to pass some days with us.'
"I wish I was, sir; but I have come to say good-bye. I'm off tomorrow for London."
"For London! What! another freak, Tony?"
'Scarcely a freak, sir," said he, smiling. "They've telegraphed to me to come up and report myself for service at the Foreign Office." "As a Minister, eh?" "No, sir; a Messenger." "An excellent thing, too; a capital thing. A man must begin somewhere, you know. Every one is not as lucky as I was, to start with close on twelve hundred a-year. I wasn't twenty when I landed at Calcutta, Tony - a mere boy!" Here the baronet filled his glass, and drank it off with a solemnity that seemed as if it were a silent toast to his own health, for in his own estimation he merited that honour, very few men having done more for themselves than he had; not that he had not been over-grateful, however, to the fortune of his early days in this boastful acknowledgment, since it was in the humble capacity of an admiral's secretarythey called them clerks in those days he had first found himself in the Indian Ocean, a mere accident leading to his appointment on shore and all his subsequent good fortune. "Yes, Tony," continued he, "I started at what one calls a high rung of the ladder. It was then I first saw your father; he was about the same age you are now. He was on Lord Dollington's staff.
Dear me, dear me! it seems like yesterday;" and he closed his eyes, and seemed lost in reverie; but if he really felt it like yesterday, he would have remembered how insolently the superb aide-de-camp treated the meek civilian of the period, and how immeasurably above Mr Lyle of those days stood the haughty Captain Butler of the Governor-General's staff.
"The soldiers used to fancy they had the best of it, Tony; but, I take it, we civilians won the race at last;" and his eyes ranged over the vast room, with the walls covered by pictures, and the sideboard loaded with massive plate, while the array of decanters on the small spidertable beside him suggested largely of good living.
“A very old friend of mine, Jos. Hughes-he was salt assessor at Bussorabad-once remarked to me, 'Lyle,' said he, a man must make his choice in life, whether he prefers a brilliant start or a good finish, for he cannot have both.' Take your pleasure when young, and you must consent to work when old; but if you set out vigorously, determined to labour hard in early life, when you come to my age, Tony, you may be able to enjoy your rest" and here he waved his hand round, as though to show the room in which they sat-"to enjoy your rest, not without dignity."
Tony was an attentive listener, and Sir Arthur was flattered, and went on. "I am sincerely glad to have the opportunity of these few moments with you. I am an old pilot, so to say, on the sea you are about to adventure upon; and really, the great difficulty young fellows have in life is, that the men who know the whole thing from end to end will not be honest in giving their experiences. There is a certain 'snobbery'-I have no other word for it-that prevents their confessing to small beginnings. They don't like telling how humble they were at the start; and what is the consequence? The value of the whole lesson is lost! Now, I have
no such scruples, Tony. Good family connections and relatives of influence I had; I cannot deny it. I suppose there are scores of men would have coolly sat down and said to their right honourable cousin or their noble uncle, 'Help me to this get me that;' but such was not my mode of procedure. No, sir; I resolved to be my own patron, and I went to India."
When Sir Arthur said this, he looked as though his words were : "I volunteered to lead the assault. It was I that was first up the breach. But, after all, Tony, I can't get the boys to believe this.' Now these boys were his three sons, two of them middle-aged, white-headed, liverless men in Upper India, and the third that gay dragoon with whom we have had some slight acquaintance.
"I have always said to the boys, 'Don't lie down on your high relations."" Had he added that they would have found them a most uncomfortable bed, he would not have been beyond the truth. "Do as I did, and see how gladly, ay, and how proudly, they will recognise you. I say the same to you, Tony. You have, I am told, some family connections that might be turned to account?"
"None, sir; not one," broke in Tony, boldly.
"Well, there is that Sir Omerod Butler. I don't suspect he is a man of much actual influence. He is, I take it, a bygone."
"I know nothing of him; nor do I want to know anything of him," said Tony, pushing his glass from him, and looking as though the conversation were one he would gladly change for any other topic; but it was not so easy to tear Sir Arthur from such a theme, and he went on.
"It would not do for you, perhaps, to make any advances towards him."
"I should like to see myself!" said Tony, half choking with angry impatience.
"I repeat, it would not do for
you to take this step; but if you had a friend-a man of rank and station-or -one whose position your uncle could not but acknowledge as at least the equal of his own
"He could be no friend of mine who should open any negotiations on my part with a relation who has treated my mother so uncourteously, sir."
"I think you are under a mistake, Tony. Mrs Butler told me that it was rather her own fault than Sir Omerod's that some sort of reconciliation was not effected. Indeed, she once showed me a letter from your uncle when she was in trouble about those Canadian bonds."
"Yes, yes, I know it all," said Tony, rising, as if all his patience was at last exhausted. "I have read the letter you speak of; he offered to lend her five or six hundred pounds, or to give it, I forget which; and he was to take me"-here he burst into a fit of laughter that was almost hysterical in its harsh mockery "to take me. I don't know what he was to do with me, for I believe he has turned Papist, Jesuit, or what not; perhaps I was to have been made a priest, or a friar; at all events, I was to have been brought up dependent on his bounty-a bad scheme for each of
He would not have been very proud of his protegé; and, if I know myself, I don't think I'd have been very grateful to my protector. My dear mother, however, had too much of the mother in her to listen to it, and she told him so, perhaps too plainly for his refined notions in matters of phraseology; for he frumped and wrote no more to us."
"Which is exactly the reason why a friend, speaking from the eminence which a certain station confers, might be able to place matters on a better and more profitable footing."
Not with my consent, sir, depend upon it," said Tony, fiercely.
"My dear Tony, there is a vulgar adage about the impolicy of quarrelling with one's bread-and-butter;
but how far more reprehensible would it be to quarrel with the face of the man who cuts it?"
It is just possible that Sir Arthur was as much mystified by his own illustration as was Tony, for each continued for some minutes to look at the other in a state of hopeless bewilderment. The thought of one mystery, however, recalled another, and Tony remembered his mother's note.
'By the way, sir, I have a letter here for you from my mother," said he, producing it.
Sir Arthur put on his spectacles leisurely, and began to peruse it. It seemed very brief, for in an instant he had returned it to his pocket. "I conclude you know nothing of the contents of this?" said he, quietly.
"It is of no consequence. You may simply tell Mrs Butler from me that I will call on her by an early day; and now, won't you come and have a cup of tea? Lady Lyle will expect to see you in the drawing-room."
Tony would have refused, if he knew how; even in his old days he had been less on terms of intimacy with Lady Lyle than any others of the family, and she had at times a sort of dignified stateliness in her manner that checked him greatly.
"Here's Tony Butler come to take a cup of tea with you, and say good-bye," said Sir Arthur, as he led him into the drawing-room.
“Oh, indeed! I am too happy to see him," said she, laying down her book; while, with a very chilly smile, she added, "And where is Mr Butler bound for this time?' And simple as the words were, she contrived to impart to them a meaning as though she had said, 'What new scheme or project has he now? What wild-goose chase is he at present engaged in?'
Sir Arthur came quickly to the rescue, as he said, "He's going to take up an appointment under the Crown; and, like a good and prudent lad, to earn his bread, and do
something towards his mother's comfort."
"I think you never take sugar,' said she, smiling faintly; and for a while you made a convert of Alice."
Was there ever a more commonplace remark? and yet it sent the blood to poor Tony's face and temples, and overwhelmed him with confusion. "You know that the girls are both away?"
"It's a capital thing they've given him," said Sir Arthur, trying to extract from his wife even the semblance of an interest in the young fellow's career.
"What is it?" asked she.
"How do they call you? are you a Queen's messenger, or a Queen's courier, or a Foreign Office messenger?"
I'm not quite sure.
I believe we are messengers, but whose I don't remember."
"They have the charge of all the despatches to the various embassies and legations in every part of the world," said Sir Arthur, pompously. How addling it must be-how confusing."
"Why so? You don't imagine that they have to retain them, and report them orally, do you?"
"Do you think you shall like it?"
"I suppose I shall. There is so very little I'm really fit for, that I look on this appointment as a piece of, rare luck. I fancy I'd rather have gone into the armya cavalry regiment, for instance."
"The most wasteful and extravagant career a young fellow could select," said Sir Arthur, smarting under some recent and not overpleasant experiences.
"The uniform is so becoming, too," said she, languidly.
"Nor I, sir."
"Come, come. It is very indiscreet of me, I know," said Lady Lyle; "but as we are in such a secret committee here at this moment, I fancied I might venture to offer my congratulations."
"Congratulations! on what would be the lad's ruin! Why, it would be downright insanity. I trust there is not a word of truth in it." "I repeat, sir, that I hear it all for the first time."
"I conclude, then, I must have been misinformed."
Might I be bold enough to ask from what quarter the rumour reached you, or with whom they mated me?"
"Oh, as to your choice, I hear she is a very nice girl indeed, admirably brought up and well educated-everything but rich; but of course that fact was well known to you. Men in her father's position are seldom affluent."
"And who could possibly have taken the trouble to weave all this romance about me?" said Tony, flushing not the less deeply that he suspected it was Dolly Stewart who was indicated by the description.
As she did so, his colour, at first crimson, gave way to an ashy paleness, and he seemed like one about to faint. "After all," said she, "perhaps it was a mere flirtation that people magnified into marriage."
"It was not even that," gasped he out, hoarsely. "I am overstaying my time, and my mother will be waiting tea for me," muttered he; and with some scarcely intelligible attempts at begging to be remembered to Alice and Bella, he took his leave, and hurried away.
While Tony, with a heart almost bursting with agony, wended his way towards home, Lady Lyle resumed her novel, and Sir Arthur took up the 'Times.' After about half an hour's reading he laid down the paper, and said, "I hope there is no truth in that story about young Butler."
"Not a word of it," said she,
Not a word of it! but I thought you believed it.”
"Nothing of the kind. It was a lesson the young gentleman has long needed, and I was only waiting for a good opportunity to give it."
"I don't understand you. What do you mean by a lesson ?"
I have very long suspected that it was a great piece of imprudence on our part to encourage the intimacy of this young man here, and to give him that position of familiarity which he obtained amongst us; but I trusted implicitly to the immeasurable distance that separated him from our girls, to secure us against danger. That clever man of the world, Mr Maitland, however, showed me I was wrong. He was not a week here till he saw enough to induce him to give me a warning; and though at first he thought it was Bella's favour he aspired to, he afterwards perceived it was to Alice he directed his attentions."
"I can't believe this possible. Tony would never dare such a piece of presumption."
You forget two things, Sir