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The Clever Woman of the Family By Charlotte M. Yonge Characters: 32621

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:04

"Is it so nominated in the bond?"-Merchant of Venice.

Malgre her disinclination, Rachel had reached the point of recovery in which the fresh air and change of scene of the drive to Avoncester could not fail to act as restoratives, and the first evening with the Dean and his gentle old sister was refreshing and comfortable to her spirits.

It was in the afternoon of the ensuing day that Mr. Grey came to tell her that her presence would soon be required, and both her mother and sister drove to the court with her. Poor Mrs. Curtis, too anxious to go away, yet too nervous to go into court, chose, in spite of all Mr. Grey's advice, to remain in the carriage with the blinds closed, far too miserable for Grace to leave her.

Rachel, though very white, called up a heroic smile, and declared that she should get on very well. Her spirit had risen to the occasion, so as to brace her nerves to go becomingly through what was inevitable; and she replied with a ready "yes," to Mr. Grey's repetition of the advice for ever dinned into her ears, not to say a word more than needful, feeling indeed little disposed to utter anything that she could avoid.

She emerged from the dark passage into full view of faces which were far more familiar than she could have wished. She would have greatly preferred appearing before a judge, robed, wigged, and a stranger, to coming thus before a country gentleman, slightly known to herself, but an old friend of her father, and looking only like his ordinary self.

All the world indeed was curious to see the encounter between Rachel Curtis and her impostor, and every one who had contributed so much as a dozen stamps to the F. U. E. E. felt as if under a personal wrong and grievance, while many hoped to detect other elements of excitement, so that though all did not overtly stare at the witness, not even the most considerate could resist the impulse to glance at her reception of the bow with which he greeted her entrance.

She bent her head instinctively, but there was no change of colour on her cheek. Her faculties were concentrated, and her resolute will had closed all avenues to sensations that might impair her powers; she would not give way either to shame and remorse for herself, or to pity or indignation against the prisoner; she would attend only to the accuracy of the testimony that was required of her as an expiation of her credulous incaution; but such was the tension of her nerves, that, impassive as she looked, she heard every cough, every rustle of paper; each voice that addressed her seemed to cut her ears like a knife; and the chair that was given to her after the administration of the oath was indeed much needed.

She was examined upon her arrangement that the prisoner should provide for the asylum at St. Herbert's, and on her monthly payment to him of the sums entered in the account-book. In some cases she knew he had shown her the bills unreceipted; in others, he had simply made the charge in the book, and she had given to him the amount that he estimated as requisite for the materials for wood-engraving. So far she felt satisfied that she was making herself distinctly understood, but the prisoner, acting as his own counsel, now turned to her and asked the question she had expected and was prepared for, whether she could refer to any written agreement.

"No; it was a viva voce agreement."

Could she mention what passed at the time of making the arrangement that she had stated as existing between himself and her?

"I described my plans, and you consented."

An answer at which some of the audience could have smiled, so well did it accord with her habits. The prisoner again insisted on her defining the mode of his becoming bound to the agreement. Rachel took time for consideration, and Alison Williams, sitting between Lady Temple and Colonel Keith, felt dizzy with anxiety for the answer. It came at last.

"I do not remember the exact words; but you acquiesced in the appearance of your name as secretary and treasurer."

The prospectus was here brought forward, and Mauleverer asked her to define the duties he had been supposed to undertake in the character in which he had there figured. It of course came out that she had been her own treasurer, only entrusting the nominal one with the amount required for current expenses, and again, in reply to his deferential questions, she was obliged to acknowledge that he had never in so many words declared the sums entered in the book to have been actually paid, and not merely estimates for monthly expenditure to be paid to the tradesmen at the usual seasons.

"I understood that they were paid," said Rachel, with some resentment.

"Will you oblige me by mentioning on what that understanding was founded?" said the prisoner, blandly.

There was a pause. Rachel knew she must say something; but memory utterly failed to recall any definite assurance that these debts had been discharged. Time passed, all eyes were upon her, there was a dire necessity of reply, and though perfectly conscious of the weakness and folly of her utterance, she could only falter forth, "I thought so." The being the Clever Woman of the family, only rendered her the more sensible both of the utter futility of her answer, and of the effect it must be producing.

Alison hung her head, and frowned in absolute shame and despair, already perceiving how matters must go, and feeling as if the hope of her brother's vindication were slipping away-reft from her by Rachel's folly. Colin gave an indignant sigh, and whispering to her, "Come out when Lady Temple does, I will meet you," he made his way out of court.

There had been a moment's pause after Rachel's "I thought so," and then the chairman spoke to the counsel for the prosecution. "Mr. Murray, can you carry the case any further by other witnesses? At present I see no case to go to the jury. You will see that the witness not only does not set up any case of embezzlement, but rather loads to an inference in the contrary direction."

"No, sir," was the answer; "I am afraid that I can add nothing to the case already presented to you."

Upon this, the chairman said,

"Gentlemen of the Jury,-The case for the prosecution does not sustain the indictment or require me to call on the prisoner for his defence, and it is your duty to find him not guilty. You will observe that we are not trying a civil action, in respect of the large sum which he has received from the young lady, and for which he is still accountable to her; nor by acquitting him are you pronouncing that he has not shown himself a man of very questionable honesty, but only that the evidence will not bring him within the grasp of the criminal law, as guilty of embezzlement under the statute, and this because of the looseness of the arrange ments, that had been implied instead of expressed. It is exceedingly to be regretted that with the best intentions and kindest purposes, want of caution and experience on her part should have enabled the prisoner thus to secure himself from the possibility of a conviction; but there can be no doubt that the evidence before us is such as to leave no alternative but a verdict of not guilty."

The very tenderness and consideration of the grey-haired Sir Edward Morden's tone were more crushing to Rachel than severe animadversions on her folly would have been from a stranger. Here was she, the Clever Woman of the family, shown in open court to have been so egregious a dupe that the deceiver could not even be punished, but must go scot-free, leaving all her wrongs unredressed! To her excited, morbid apprehension, magnified by past self-sufficiency, it was as though all eyes were looking in triumph at that object of general scorn and aversion, a woman who had stepped out of her place. She turned with a longing to rush into darkness and retirement when she was called to return to her mother, and even had she still been present, little would she have recked that when the jury had, without many moments' delay, returned a verdict of "Not Guilty," the prisoner received a strong, stem reprimand from Sir Edward, to whom he replied with a bow that had in it more of triumph than of acceptance.

Burning tears of disappointment were upon Alison's cheek, the old hopeless blank was returning, and her brother might come back in vain, to find his enemy beyond his reach. Here was an end alike of his restoration and of Ermine's happiness!

"Oh!" whispered Lady Temple, "is it not horrid? Is nothing to be done to that dreadful man? I always thought people came here to do justice. I shall never like Sir Edward Morden again! But, oh! what can that be? Where is the Colonel?"

It was a loud, frightful roar and yell, a sound of concentrated fury that, once heard, could never be forgotten. It was from the crowd outside, many of them from Avonmouth, and all frantic with indignation at the cruelty that had been perpetrated upon the helpless children. Their groans and execrations were pursuing the prison van, from which Maria Hatherton was at that moment making her exit, and so fearful was the outcry that penetrated the court, that Fanny trembled with recollections of Indian horrors, looked wistfully for her protector the Colonel, and murmured fears that her aunt must have been very much terrified.

At that moment, however, a summons came for Lady Temple, as this was the case in which she was to bear witness. Alison followed, and was no sooner past the spectators, who gladly made way, than she found her arm drawn into Colonel Keith's. "Is he come?" she asked. "No," was rather signed than spoken. "Oh, Colin!" she sighed, but still there was no reply, only she was dragged on, downstairs and along dark passages, into a room furnished with a table, chairs, pens, ink, and paper, and lighted with gas, which revealed to her not only Mr. Grey, but one who, though eight years had made him stouter, redder, and rougher, had one of the moat familiar faces of her youthful days. Her senses almost reeled with her as he held out his hand, saying heartily, "Well, Ailie, how are you? and how is Ermine? Where can this brother of yours be?"

"Harry! Mr. Beauchamp! You here!" she exclaimed, in the extremity of amazement.

"Here is Colin seeming to think that something may be done towards nailing this scoundrel for the present, so I am come at his call. We shall have the fellow in a moment." And then, by way of getting rid of embarrassment, he began talking to Mr. Grey about the County Hall, and the room, which Mr. Grey explained to be that of the clerk of the peace, lent for this occasion while the usual justice room was occupied, Alison heard all as in a dream, and presently Mauleverer entered, as usual spruce, artist-like, and self-possessed, and was accosted by Harry Beauchamp, "Good evening, Mr. Maddox, I am sorry to trouble you."

"I hope there is no misunderstanding, sir," was the reply. "I have not the pleasure of knowing for whom you take me."

Without regarding this reply, however, Mr. Beauchamp requested Mr. Grey to take his deposition, stating his own belief in the identity of the person before him with Richard Maddox, whom he charged with having delivered to him a letter falsely purporting to come from Edward Williams, demanding three hundred pounds, which upon this he had delivered to the accused, to be forwarded to the said Mr. Williams.

Alison's heart beat violently at the ordeal before her of speaking to the genuineness of the letter. She had seen and suspected that to her brother-in-law, but she could not guess whether the flaws in that to Mr. Beauchamp would be equally palpable, and doubt and anxiety made her scarcely able to look at it steadily. To her great relief, however, she was able to detect sufficient variations to justify her assertion that it was not authentic, and she was able to confirm her statement by comparison of the writing with that of a short, indignant denial of all knowledge of the transaction, which Harry Beauchamp had happily preserved, though little regarding it at the time. She also showed the wrong direction, with the name of the place misspelt, according to her own copy of her sister-in-law's address, at the request of Maddox himself, and pointed out that a letter to Ermine from her brother bore the right form. The seal upon that to Mr. Beauchamp she likewise asserted to be the impression of one which her brother had lost more than a year before the date of the letter.

"Indeed, sir," said the accused, fuming to Mr. Grey, "this is an exceedingly hard case. Here am I, newly acquitted, after nearly six weeks' imprisonment, on so frivolous a charge that it has been dismissed without my even having occasion to defend myself, or to call my own most respectable witnesses as to character, when another charge is brought forward against me in a name that there has been an unaccountable desire to impose on me. Even if I were the person that this gentleman supposes, there is nothing proved. He may very possibly have received a forged letter, but I perceive nothing to fix the charge upon the party he calls Maddox. Let me call in my own witnesses, who had volunteered to come down from Bristol, and you will be convinced how completely mistaken the gentleman is."

To this Mr. Grey replied that the case against him was not yet closed, and cautioning him to keep his own witnesses back; but he was urgent to be allowed to call them at once, as it was already late, and they were to go by the six o'clock train. Mr. Grey consented, and a messenger was sent in search of them. Mr. Beauchamp looked disturbed. "What say you to this, Colin?" he asked, uneasily. "That man's audacity is enough to stagger one, and I only saw him three times at the utmost."

"Never fear," said Colin, "delay is all in our favour." At the same time Colin left them, and with him went some hope and confidence, leaving all to feel awkward and distressed during the delay that ensued, the accused expatiating all the time on the unreasonableness of bringing up an offence committed so many years ago, in the absence of the only witness who could prove the whole story, insisting, moreover, on his entire ignorance of the names of either Maddox or Williams.

The sight of his witnesses was almost welcome. They were a dissenting minister, and a neat, portly, respectable widow, the owner of a fancy shop, and both knew Mr. Mauleverer as a popular lecturer upon philanthropical subjects, who came periodically to Bristol, and made himself very acceptable. Their faith in him was genuine, and he had even interested them in the F. U. E. E. and the ladies that patronized it. The widow was tearfully indignant about the persecution that had been got up against him, and evidently intended to return with him in triumph, and endow him with the fancy shop if he would condescend so far. The minister too, spoke highly of his gifts and graces, but neither of them could carry back their testimony to his character for more than three years.

Mr. Grey looked at his watch, Harry Beauchamp was restless, and Alison felt almost faint with suspense; but at last the tramp of feet was heard in the passage. Colonel Keith came first, and leaning over Alison's chair, said, "Lady Temple will wait for me at the inn. It will soon be all right."

At that moment a tall figure in mourning entered, attended by a policeman. For the first time, Mauleverer's coolness gave way, though not his readiness, and, turning to Mr. Grey, he exclaimed, "Sir, you do not intend to be misled by the malignity of a person of this description."

"Worse than a murderess!" gasped the scandalized widow Dench. "Well, I never!"

Mr. Grey was obliged to be peremptory, in order to obtain silence, and enforce that, let the new witness be what she might, her evidence must be heard.

She had come in with the habitual village curtsey to Mr. Beauchamp, and putting back her veil, disclosed to Alison the piteous sight of the well-remembered features, once so bright with intelligence and innocence, and now sunk and haggard with the worst sorrows of womanhood. Her large glittering eyes did not seem to recognise Alison, but they glared upon Mauleverer with a strange terrible fixedness, as if una

ble to see any one else. To Alison the sight was inexpressibly painful, and she shrank back, as it were, in dread of meeting the eyes once so responsive to her own.

Mr. Grey asked the woman the name of the person before her, and looking at him with the same fearful steadiness, she pronounced it to be Richard Maddox, though he had of late called himself Mauleverer.

The man quailed for a moment, then collecting himself, said, "I now understand the incredible ingratitude and malignity that have pointed out against me these hitherto unaccountable slanders. It is a punishment for insufficient inquiry into character. But you, sir, in common justice, will protect me from the aspersions of one who wishes to drag me down in her justly merited fall."

"Sentenced for three years! To take her examination!" muttered Mrs. Dench, and with some difficulty these exclamations were silenced, and Maria Hatherton called on for her evidence.

Concise, but terrible in its clear brevity, was the story of the agent tampering with her, the nursemaid, until she had given him access to the private rooms, where he had turned over the papers. On the following day, Mr. Williams had been inquiring for his seal-ring, but she herself had not seen it again till some months after, when she had left her place, and was living in lodgings provided for her by Maddox, when she had found the ring in the drawer of his desk; her suspicion had then been first excited by his displeasure at her proposing to him to return it, thinking it merely there by accident, and she had afterwards observed him endeavouring to copy fragments of Mr. Williams's writing. These he had crushed up and thrown aside, but she had preserved them, owning that she did not know what might come of them, and the family had been very kind to her.

The seal and the scraps of paper were here produced by the policeman who had them in charge. The seal perfectly coincided with that which had closed the letter to Harry Beauchamp, and was, moreover, identified by both Alison and Colonel Keith. It was noticeable, too, that one of these fragments was the beginning of a note to Mr. Beauchamp, as "Dear H." and this, though not Edward's most usual style of addressing his friend, was repeated in the demand for the £300.

"Sir," said the accused, "of course I have no intention of intimating that a gentleman like the Honourable Colonel Keith has been in any collusion with this unhappy woman, but it must be obvious to you that his wish to exonerate his friend has induced him to give too easy credence to this person's malignant attempts to fasten upon one whom she might have had reason to regard as a benefactor the odium of the transactions that she acknowledges to have taken place between herself and this Maddox, thereto incited, no doubt, by some resemblance which must be strong, since it has likewise deceived Mr. Beauchamp."

Mr. Grey looked perplexed and vexed, and asked Mr. Beauchamp if he could suggest any other person able to identify Maddox. He frowned, said there must have been workmen at the factory, but knew not where they were, looked at Colin Keith, asked Alison if she or her sister had ever seen Maddox, then declared he could lay his hands on no one but Dr. Long at Belfast.

Mauleverer vehemently exclaimed against the injustice of detaining him till a witness could be summoned from that distance. Mr. Grey evidently had his doubts, and began to think of calling in some fresh opinion whether he had sufficient grounds for committal, and Alison's hopes were only unstained by Colin's undaunted looks, when there came a knock at the door, and, as much to the surprise of Alison as of every one else, there entered an elderly maid-servant, leading a little girl by the hand, and Colonel Keith going to meet the latter, said, "Do not be frightened, my dear, you have only to answer a few questions as plainly and clearly as you can."

Awed, silent, and dazzled by the sudden gas-light, she clung to his hand, but evidently distinguished no one else; and he placed her close to the magistrate saying, "This is Mr. Grey, Rose, tell him your name."

And Mr. Grey taking her hand and repeating the question, the clear little silvery voice answered,

"I am Rose Ermine Williams."

"And how old are you, my dear?"

"I was eight on the last of June."

"She knows the nature of an oath?" asked Mr. Grey of the Colonel.

"Certainly, you can soon satisfy yourself of that."

"My dear," then said Mr. Grey, taking her by the hand again, and looking into the brown intelligent eyes, "I am sure you have been well taught. Can you tell me what is meant by taking an oath before a magistrate?"

"Yes," said Rose, colour flushing into her face, "it is calling upon Almighty God to hear one speak the truth." She spoke so low that she could hardly be heard, and she looked full of startled fear and distress, turning her face up to Colonel Keith with a terrified exclamation,

"Oh please, why am I here, what am I to say?"

He was sorry for her; but her manifest want of preparation was all in favour of the cause, and he soothed her by saying, "Only answer just what you are asked as clearly as you can, and Mr. Grey will soon let you go. He knows you would try any way to speak the truth, but as he is going to examine you as a magistrate, he must ask you to take the oath first."

Rose repeated the oath in her innocent tones, and perhaps their solemnity or the fatherly gentleness of Mr. Grey reassured her, for her voice trembled much less when she answered his next inquiry, who her parents were.

"My mother is dead," she said; "my father is Mr Williams, he is away at Ekaterinburg."

"Do you remember any time before he was at Ekaterinburg?"

"Oh yes; when we lived at Kensington, and he had the patent glass works."

"Now, turn round and say if there is any one here whom you know?"

Rose, who had hitherto stood facing Mr. Grey, with her back to the rest of the room, obeyed, and at once exclaimed, "Aunt Alison," then suddenly recoiled, and grasped at the Colonel.

"What is it, my dear?"

"It is-it is Mr. Maddox," and with another gasp of fright, "and Maria! Oh, let me go."

But Mr. Grey put his arm round her, and assured her that no one could harm her, Colonel Keith let his fingers be very hard pinched, and her aunt came nearer, all telling her that she had only to make her answers distinctly; and though still shrinking, she could reply to Mr. Grey's question whom she meant by Mr. Maddox.

"The agent for the glass-my father's agent."

"And who is Maria?"

"She was my nurse."

"When did you last see the person you call Mr. Maddox?"

"Last time, I was sure of it, was when I was walking on the esplanade at Avoncester with Colonel Keith," said Rose, very anxious to turn aside and render her words inaudible.

"I suppose you can hardly tell when that was?"

"Yes, it was the day before you went away to Lord Keith's wedding," said Rose, looking to the Colonel.

"Had you seen him before?"

"Twice when I was out by myself, but it frightened me so that I never looked again."

"Can you give me any guide to the time?"

She was clear that it had been after Colonel Keith's first stay at Avonmouth, but that was all, and being asked if she had ever mentioned these meetings, "Only when Colonel Keith saw how frightened I was, and asked me."

"Why were you frightened?" asked Mr. Grey, on a hint from the Colonel.

"Because I could not quite leave off believing the dreadful things Mr. Maddox and Maria said they would do to me if I told."

"Told what?"

"About Mr. Maddox coming and walking with Maria when she was out with me," gasped Rose, trying to avert her head, and not comforted by hearing Mr. Grey repeat her words to those tormentors of her infancy.

A little encouragement, however, brought out the story of the phosphoric letters, the lions, and the vision of Maddox growling in the dressing-room. The date of the apparition could hardly be hoped for, but fortunately Rose remembered that it was two days before her mamma's birthday, because she had felt it so bard to be eaten up before the fete, and this date tallied with that given by Maria of her admitting her treacherous admirer into the private rooms.

"The young lady may be precocious, no doubt, sir," here said the accused, "but I hardly see why she has been brought here. You can attach no weight to the confused recollections of so young a child, of matters that took place so long ago."

"The question will be what weight the jury will attach to them at the assizes," said Mr. Grey.

"You will permit me to make one inquiry of the young lady, sir. Who told her whom she might expect to see here?"

Mr. Grey repeated the query, and Rose answered, "Nobody; I knew my aunt and the Colonel and Lady Temple were gone in to Avoncester, and Aunt Ermine got a note from the Colonel to say that I was to come in to him with Tibbie in a fly."

"Did you know what you were wanted for?"

"No, I could not think. I only knew they came to get the woman punished for being so cruel to the poor little girls."

"Do you know who that person was?"

"Mrs. Rawlins," was the ready answer.

"I think," said Mr. Grey to the accused, "that you must perceive that, with such coincidence of testimony as I have here, I have no alternative but to commit you for the summer assizes."

Mauleverer murmured something about an action for false imprisonment, but he did not make it clear, and he was evidently greatly crestfallen. He had no doubt hoped to brazen out his assumed character sufficiently to disconcert Mr. Beauchamp's faith in his own memory, and though he had carried on the same game after being confronted with Maria, it was already becoming desperate. He had not reckoned upon her deserting his cause even for her own sake, and the last chance of employing her antecedents to discredit her testimony, had been overthrown by Rose's innocent witness to their mutual relations, a remembrance which had been burnt in on her childish memory by the very means taken to secure her silence. When the depositions were read over, their remarkable and independent accordance was most striking; Mrs. Dench had already been led away by the minister, in time to catch her train, just when her sobs of indignation at the deception were growing too demonstrative, and the policeman resumed the charge of Maria Hatherton.

Little Rose looked up to her, saying, "Please, Aunt Ailie, may I speak to her?"

Alison had been sitting restless and perplexed between impulses of pity and repulsion, and doubts about the etiquette of the justice room; but her heart yearned over the girl she had cherished, and she signed permission to Rose, whose timidity had given way amid excitement and encouragement.

"Please, Maria," she said, "don't be angry with me for telling; I never did till Colonel Keith asked me, and I could not help it. Will you kiss me and forgive me as you used?"

The hard fierce eyes, that had not wept over the child's coffin, filled with tears.

"Oh, Miss Rose, Miss Rose, do not come near me. Oh, if I had minded you-and your aunts-" And the pent-up misery of the life that had fallen lower and lower since the first step in evil, found its course in a convulsive sob and shriek, so grievous that Alison was thankful for Colin's promptitude in laying hold of Rose, and leading her out of the room before him. Alison felt obliged to follow, yet could not bear to leave Maria to policemen and prison warders.

"Maria, poor Maria, I am so sorry for you, I will try to come and see you-"

But her hand was seized with an imperative, "Ailie, you must come, they are all waiting for you."

How little had she thought her arm would ever be drawn into that arm, so unheeded by both.

"So that is Edward's little girl! Why, she is the sweetest little clear-headed thing I have seen a long time. She was the saving of us."

"It was well thought of by Colin."

"Colin is a lawyer spoilt-that's a fact. A first-rate get-up of a case!"

"And you think it safe now?"

"Nothing safer, so Edward turns up. How he can keep away from such a child as that, I can't imagine. Where is she? Oh, here-" as they came into the porch in fuller light, where the Colonel and Rose waited for them. "Ha, my little Ailie, I must make better friends with you."

"My name is Rose, not Ailie," replied the little girl.

"Oh, aye! Well, it ought to have been, what d'ye call her-that was a Daniel come to judgment?"

"Portia," returned Rose; "but I don't think that is pretty at all."

"And where is Lady Temple?" anxiously asked Alison. "She must be grieved to be detained so long."

"Oh! Lady Temple is well provided for," said the Colonel, "all the magistrates and half the bar are at her feet. They say the grace and simplicity of her manner of giving her evidence were the greatest contrast to poor Rachel's."

"But where is she?" still persisted Alison.

"At the hotel; Maria's was the last case of the day, and she went away directly after it, with such a choice of escorts that I only just spoke to her."

And at the hotel they found the waggonette at the gateway, and Lady Temple in the parlour with Sir Edward Morden, who, late as it was, would not leave her till he had seen her with the rest of the party. She sprang up to meet them, and was much relieved to hear that Mauleverer was again secured. "Otherwise," she said, "it would have been all my fault for having acted without asking advice. I hope I shall never do so again."

She insisted that all should go home together in the waggonette, and Rose found herself upon Mr. Beauchamp's knee, serving as usual as a safety valve for the feelings of her aunt's admirers. There was no inconstancy on her part, she would much have preferred falling to the lot of her own Colonel, but the open carriage drive was rather a risk for him in the night air, and though he had undertaken it in the excitement, he soon found it requisite to muffle himself up, and speak as little as possible. Harry Beauchamp talked enough for both. He was in high spirits, partly, as Colin suspected, with the escape from a dull formal home, and partly with the undoing of a wrong that had rankled in his conscience more than he had allowed to himself. Lady Temple, her heart light at the convalescence of her sons, was pleased with everything, liked him extremely, and answered gaily; and Alison enjoyed the resumption of pleasant habits of days gone by. Yet, delightful as it all was, there was a sense of disenchantment: she was marvelling all the time how she could have suffered so much on Harry Beauchamp's account. The rejection of him had weighed like a stone upon her heart, but now it seemed like freedom to have escaped his companionship for a lifetime.

Presently a horse's feet were heard on the road before them; there was a meeting and a halt, and Alick Keith's voice called out-"How has it gone?"

"Why, were you not in court?"

"What! I go to hear my friends baited!"

"Where were you then?"

"At Avonmouth."

"Oh, then you have seen the boys," cried Lady Temple. "How is Conrade?"

"Quite himself. Up to a prodigious amount of indoor croquet. But how has it gone?"

"Such a shame!" returned Lady Temple. "They acquitted the dreadful man, and the poor woman, whom he drove to it, has a year's imprisonment and hard labour!"

"Acquitted! What, is he off?"

"Oh, no, no! he is safe, and waiting for the Assizes, all owing to the Colonel and little Rose."

"He is committed for the former offence," said Colonel Keith; "the important one."

"That's right! Good night! And how," he added, reining back his horse, "did your cousin get through it?"

"Oh, they were so hard on her!" cried Lady Temple. "I could hardly bring myself to speak to Sir Edward after it! It was as if he thought it all her fault!"

"Her evidence broke down completely," said Colonel Keith. "Sir Edward spared her as much as he could; but the absurdity of her whole conduct was palpable. I hope she has had a lesson."

Alick's impatient horse flew on with him, and Colin muttered to Alison under his mufflers,-"I never could make out whether that is the coolest or the most sensitive fellow living!"

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