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petite?" he presently questioned, changing his
"None," answered I, coldly.
"Only child of the great judge, Sir William Denzell! What an all-important affair it will be five years hence! Quite a princess in that land of fire and scorpions!
"Yes," replied I, somewhat mollified by this acknowledgment of my future importance, despite the questionable tone in which it was uttered, "I shall be quite a princess-a queen, indeed-in India."
"Five years hence," he repeated, thoughtfully, not heeding my last boastful words, and speaking in a voice in which all banter and gaiety had so entirely given place to a sad seriousness that, had I not become accustomed to these varying moods in Charles since Edith's death, I should have been greatly astonished at this sudden alteration. "Where-how-and what shall we all be at the end of those long five years?" continued Charles. "What a crowd of events, of weal and woe, will throng the broad bridge of time spanning the space 'twixt this and then!"
"But we may all be just as we are now,
why not?" I interrupted.
"Older, of course,
and, I hope, wiser," I added, with a precocious wisdom, the result of constant companionship with persons older than myself, "but well and happy, as at the present, perhaps."
"Yes, we may all remain as we are; nevertheless chances against it weigh heavily in the opposition scale," he answered gravely.
"You are thinking of your mother," I said;
my childish anger dying out as thoughts of some of the stern realities of life, sickness, sorrow, and death, were brought to my mind by his words and manner. The accounts of my own. darling mother had of late been far from satisfactory.
Mrs. Beechley too was a great invalid, and I was very partial to her, and Charles, who loved her devotedly, lived, I knew, in perpetual dread of losing her, as he had done his sweet little sister.
"Yes," he answered, "I am thinking of my mother-and-of others."
"Of grandmamma?" asked I, anxiously.
"Ye-s, of grandmamma too.
not strong for her age either."
I was completely sobered now.
She is old, and
"I don't want to go to India!" cried I, impetuously; "I should hate it! I want to live always with grandmamma. I know her best now; and-yes, I can't help it, I love her best!"
My eyes filled with tears as I spoke.
He looked at me with that powerful expression of earnestness in his face which always disconcerted me.
"Well, Enny, we know not what a day may bring forth. England may prove your abiding place after all. Nous verrons."
It was a hot July morning, and Charles and I, while thus chatting, strolled leisurely through the picturesque grounds of Riversdale Court. Just now we followed a winding path, pleasantly shaded on one side by a broad belt of trees and shrubbery, while on the other stretched away, far as the eye could see, a succession of velvety lawns and smooth gravel walks, interspersed by thick plantations of evergreens and flowering shrubs, with every here and there a magnificent tree of at least a couple of hundred years' growth, whose deep, refreshing shade flowed far and wide over the heated earth.
Arrived at the house, Charles, who was still under dominion of the melancholy, thoughtful mood which had so suddenly clouded his cheerfulness, left me, and by a side gate entered the road leading to the Rectory.
THE ORIEL DRAWING-ROOM.
THE evening of that day I sat as usual in my favourite place within a sort of alcove, if it may so be called a recess; it was formed by the oriel window in one of a suite of sitting-rooms in Riversdale Court. A portion of the spacious window was wide open; for although the heat was abating as the shades of evening crept stealthily into wood and valley, and spread a thin veil of cool blue mist over the summits and slopes of the hills, the atmosphere continued very warm and sultry.
Chimes of the distant village bells, mingling with the song of birds, the fall of water, and other soft rural sounds, floated on the slowmoving air laden with perfume from myriads of