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vociferously; and so they leave milestone after milestone behind them, and presently come to the last.


That's the short cut to the Lodge, sir,' says the driver, pointing with his whip, that little gate there, on the left.'


An iron wicket half embedded in the hedge, and surmounted by a forbidding piece of information:


All trespassers will be pro


'Stop a minute,' cries Jim, with a sudden fancy; is it a pretty walk?'


Ay, sir, that it be; takes you through the plantation, straight up to the house.'



In that case,' getting out of the carriage, I shall walk up. You go on to the inn, and wait for me; I'll be down there about ten o'clock.'

All right, sir; can't miss your way.' And the dilapidated fly rumbles off in a cloud of dust.

Jim lifts the latch, and passes into a long rise of meadow. As he walks by the path in the cool pleasant grass, he tries to compose his thoughts, and prepare himself for what he has to do, and yet feels, with every step, that his heart is beating faster, that his face is paling. How often must not Minnie have passed along this track! Perhaps she was here to-day. He is very near her now; in a quarter of an hour he will meet her, touch her hand, listen to her expressions of surprise; in a quarter of an hour he will be giving an explanation of his presence, answering the questions of the others, sitting down to the remains of dinner; and before midnight he will have said his say, bid his good-byes, parted from her for ever.

Several fields to cross, several antique stiles to linger over, and he comes to another hedge and a locked gate. Up and into the heavy shade of the trees like a bird-he is not an old man yet, thank the Lord—and straight ahead, till he comes to a little softturfed glade, when the felled trunk of a tree suggests a moment's rest. A dusky walk under the still branches up to the garden and the house, which he can just discern through the leaves; an opening towards the west; the sun sinking redly over those far-off purple hills, bathing the hot plain in the mist of its golden slanting rays; strange dull streaks of black across the ruddy sky; a bar of inky cloud athwart the fire itself as it dallies with the blushing night. In the distance a sheep-bell tinkles not unmusically, and now and then the barking of a dog, the faint roll of wheels, an echoed halloo, sound through the air.


'It'll soon be all over,' thinks Jim sadly, and Minnie, little Minnie mine, I shall be part of your life no longer!'

He is sitting in deep shade, half hidden by great overhanging boughs of oak.

'Good-bye, Minnie, that I loved so madly; good-bye, my beautiful dream! Ah, Heaven! how happy we might have been!' The grateful stillness of the twilight is wondrous soothing. Hark! one hears that rustle in the fallen leaves so plainly the night-breeze rising?

'But, Minnie, your husband cannot take you all to him; I have still ten years (those swift ten years-do you remember?) that are mine, that he has no right in.'

That rustle again, nearer the night-breeze coming this

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'Of them he cannot rob me. My pet of the dear old times lives still for me, to fill up that awful blank of the future. But her heart? Must it be another's?'

How the gravel crackles !-The night breeze playing along the


'O, for one spark of hope! O, that it were possible even to hope for hope!'

What is that softest murmur that mingles itself with his thoughts, as the night-breeze grows stronger and nearer ?

'I cannot; I dare not. Then may I have strength to do, and not betray myself!'

A light tread on the grass, a sweet voice in his ears. It was not the wind, then, that was coming to cool his throbbing temples; it is not the wind that has turned him into a statue, so white, with such blazing eyes. It is a woman: not one of the household-her walk is too graceful; not the Colonel's wife-she is too young. He can see her, he can hear her; and he stands, hands clenched, dazed and drunk with what he hears. Listen, she is speaking again :

'When you know how I love you, Jim darling,' very dreamily, 'how can you be cruel? My own, are you happy alone? Why are you not here to take care of me? Why are you not here, when I want you so much? But you will come—you must!'

Then, her fair arms imploring, in a passion of yearning:


Ah, darling, come soon!

O God! send him to me soon

very soon!'

Again she speaks, her outstretched hands so close that the low branch which hides Jim almost brushes against them:

'Was it no use, then, begging a respite? Will the time pass, and laugh at my tears? Ah, no! you will come, and take me to you. You will come, won't you, Jim? You would not linger so long, my beloved, if you heard me.'

Is joy deadly, or will ever that stone waken into life?

'O darling, I have only three months,' continues the tender voice three short months; he would not give me more. Three short months, and then-I shall have to make myself love him. I

must give him the first place in my heart; I may never again come to the quiet faithful woods and talk to you.'

How can his flambent eyes look upon her, and not speak of their presence?

'It will be a sin to love you then. Ah, come before it is too late!'

See, in the gloom there, those limbs quivering and strained in a great effort to move, that parched mouth forming words which sound not, and are spent on the air. Once more the agonised wail: 'I'm waiting; I have waited so long! In pity come soon, for I love you, and am weary!'

A dead silence.

Minnie!'-in a sharp hoarse whisper.

She starts violently, and stands trembling from head to foot, her gaze fixed on the shadow.

Minnie!' again whispered harshly.

With one heavy staggering stride Jim has left the darkness behind him, and is at her side. A catching of her breath, a low glad cry, and her soft white arms are clinging round his neck, and her yielding body is a dull weight in his clasp, and her beautiful head is thrown back gazing upon his face, and wondering if it can be from the last rays of setting day that it has caught such a glory. 'Min,' he murmurs, in his old bell-like tones, looking down into her swimming eyes, was that all true? All you were saying to Jim just now, was it for me? Was it true?'


A smile of sweetness unutterable on those divine lips so near



So you love me, Min ?' slowly.


Ah, God! how intensely!"


' And I, Min,' bending down his radiant face to hers, ' do I love you?' Lower still: Do I? Say, sweetest.' Then almost in a sob, 'My angel, I adore you!' And their impassioned eyes grow to each other, and her velvet cheek lies against his, and broken happy words of love die away and are lost in one long idolatrous kiss, in one ravenous embrace.

'All mine at last, Min,' very fondly, after some minutes.

'Yours, my own love, now and to eternity!' How triumphantly she says it! And yet it is not so long ago that she would have remembered the words of a little French song which does not believe in la rive fidèle, où l'on aime toujours.'



A DISTANT clock has twice chimed the quarters since Jim found his love under the oak trees. As the first daze of their meeting

passes away they wake to the reality of their bliss.

first to speak.

Minnie is the


'O Jim!' she murmurs, how often I have walked up and down here, telling you all about my struggles with myself, and how sad I felt, just as if you were there, making the most barefaced love to you all the time!' Rosy face hidden on his breast: What can you think of me? By the way,' looking up at him with a bright laugh, how is it you are here at all? Nobody knew where you were; indeed, there was a funny old man here the other day who wanted your address, and we had to send him on to Malaise. plain yourself!'




'Well, darling, if you must know,' says Jim, with a sigh, I came to say good-bye before starting suddenly for the East.'

'O, indeed!' nestling up closer to him.


'I came,' he resumes ruefully, to tell you I couldn't be present at the wedding. My treasure,' with a small shower of kisses, 'could I have borne it?'

I had got it put off though, you know,' she returns; 'wasn't it good of me, Jim?' Then, her eyes dancing, 'But you won't mind being present at my wedding now, Crabs dear, will you?'

As Crabs is answering this impertinent question in a way that occupies all his attention, the boom of a gong comes sounding down the garden. They are too happy to listen to anything except their own murmured words, and the gong sounds again unnoticed.

So also, unsteady and white-faced, a tall figure finds its way back to the house along the grass, as it had come, unnoticed.

How quickly the moments fly!

'Look out, Min! Listen!' dropping her hand and picking up his fallen hat.

'Miss Goring! Miss Goring!'

A footman clattering down the path.

Beg pardon, miss,' looking curiously at Jim, dinner's been served nearly a quarter of an hour. Couldn't find you anywhere, miss.' Come along, Jim,' she says, passing before the astonished servant; 'give me your arm, and we'll soon relieve their anxiety. I'm sure the Colonel must be swearing.'

Wicked old man,' laughs her lover. 'Now for a good old crusted surprise!'

Five minutes more, and Jim is elbowing Mrs. Ferrers into the dining-room in the midst of a torrent of questions and much hilarity. His host alternates spoonfuls of mulligatawny with a running fire of chaff, and calls his gods to witness that he will commit him for trespass and entry with burglarious intent-possibly for attempt at abduction of heiress.

'By George, sir!' with a guffaw, what'll Regy say when he hears of that, eh ?'

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Minnie drops her handkerchief, and is a long time searching for it; but the hot blood still ebbs and flows under that pearly skin in painful consciousness as she rises.


'By the way,' breaks in Mrs. Morant, who is dining here tonight, what has become of Mr. Dane ? He went out about half an hour ago to look for Minnie down the garden, and he has not appeared since. Isn't he coming to dinner?'

"Went upstairs for a minute,' answers the Colonel; nose bleeding, I think, or something. Lucky we asked him for this evening,' turning to Jim, 'wasn't it? You'll be glad to see him; eh, my boy? You'll have lots to say to each other. Ah, here he is.'

Enter Dane, very pale, a set smile on his lips. 'Ah, Tregarvan, how are you?' shaking hands across an épergne. 'They told me a strange gentleman had come unexpectedly; knew it must be you.'

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'Stick a knife into him!' cries the head of the table; call him out, the villain! He made Minnie late for dinner, and it's my private opinion has been proposing to her a hurried flight with him to Cairo, and a commission as vivandière in the Viceroy's guards.'

Minnie breaks into a nervous little fit of laughter, and shakes a small fist at the Colonel. Jim leans back in his chair laughing too, vainly attempting the while to keep the mad love out of his eyes, as he looks over the table at his darling, and thinks how blessed a thing it is to be loved with such abandonment. She would follow him to the end of the world, and he knows it. body else will have a chance of knowing it too, soon!

Thank God, every

Never mind what the Colonel says, Tregarvan,' returns Regy quietly; I fancy you have a better future in store for Minnie than that.'

Jim bites his lip, and becomes thoughtful.

Bah! how could he know, after all? Conversation resumed with renewed spirit. And so the hour slips away, and the meal comes to an end.

'Come for a turn in the garden, will you? I must be off soon.'

The last chords of a selection from I Puritani crash out, and Minnie rises from the piano with sparkling eyes, and walks forth demurely on to the terrace. She is glad of an excuse to escape from the room; glad to get into the cool night air, where she need not be afraid of betraying her excess of joy. The greatness of her bliss oppresses her; she longs to dance, to sing, to tell everybody of what has befallen her. Regy has never seen her look so mag

nificently fair.

They stroll along, among the heavy scent of the flowers, in silence. Now is the time to tell him, poor fellow! but how can she break it to him? How can she make him understand how im

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