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way; he was not going to let Miss Mat- wards him with graceful, springing steps, thews make a fool of him, though he was each one of which took her farther from excited.
the artist, and it was possible that Mr. “Well”—Miss Matthews smiled pla- Whitmore might pursue his way along the cidly down on her hands ; she had not the cross road, unconscious of her presence. smallest sympathy with Will's passion, she will fancied Nuna must have seen his only wanted to be sure of it "I have, of rival, and it cheered him that she was hurcourse, nothing definite to tell you ; you rying away from Paul. do not expect me to repeat Nuna's se- She saw Will, and her pace slackened. crets, do you ?” Here she looked up in He was beside her in a moment, and what she meant to be an arch, playful then turned and walked with her towards manner, and met such a fierce frown the village. in the blue eyes gazing down on her, that "I hope you enjoyed your visit to her words came considerably faster. “I Beanlands," he said. can only tell you that she always looked Nuna did not know how she answered. pleased when you came, and more than She had seen Paul, and she had also seen once I heard her say, “What a time it is that he was unconscious of her presence. since Will has been here !'"
Following her impulse of sudden shyness, Both Will's large, shapely hands had she hastened away from all appearance of got entangled in his tawny beard. “Are seeking him, and then, too late to turn you sure of this ?” he said, damaging the again, saw that she had hurried forward to beard in his agitation.
meet Will. “Yes, quite sure ;” and then Miss “Why am I such a weak coward ?" Matthews' proprieties were really quite she thought. "Why don't I leave Will disturbed ; this simple Cymon pulled his and go back and meet Mr. Whitmore ? hands out of the tangle he had been mak- How can I avoid him when my heart is ing, and nearly smashed her delicate fin- dragging me back every step I take ?" gers in his firm clasp.
But almost with the thought came the " Thank you, thank you,” he said; “I sound of footsteps behind her, and Paul can't tell you how happy you have made passed rapidly on the farther side of the me."
He raised his hat and nodded Miss Matthews was so startled that she smilingly both to Bright and to Nuna. thought he had better be left to cool, there She saw he did not look vexed. Either was no knowing how far his gratitude Paul did not love her and was indifferent might carry him.
to her conduct, or else he trusted her fully; “I will go and see if Nuna has come but neither of these solutions gave Nuna in ; she only went down the village," she peace. She knew that if she had met Mr. said, and she got up from her chair. Whitmore walking with another woman Will snatched up his hat.
she could not have given the smile she “I'll go and meet her, don't you trou- had just seen in his eyes. She was utterble ;” and then he thanked Miss Mat- ly miserable. thews again, and went away.
“ Nuna"-Will felt encouraged by her “Dear me, what a very vehement per- silence—“I want you to listen to me ; son," said the spinster ; “ my wrist is red will you listen patiently ?" still, and my knuckles quite ache. But “ Yes.” But Nuna's thoughts were folhe is quite the sort of person for Nuna." lowing Paul to Ashton.
Fate, or rather the Fates, all three “ Years ago "-Will cleared his throat sisters, must have been hard at work that as if he were going to tell a story—“when morning, trying to complicate the tangle you were still a little girl, do you rememof Nuna and her lovers. The Fates thus ber climbing a tree? You had sent me arranged that, as Mr. Bright came in sight up first to look at a bird's nest. You of the cross roads beyond Lottie's cottage, always ruled in those days, Nuna, and he saw Nuna coming out of the cottage, then you tried to come up by yourself and he also saw, walking leisurely along and see the young birds, and you fell and one of the cross roads, with his eyes bent twisted your foot. Do you remember?” on the ground, Mr. Paul Whitmore.
Will spoke as if it were a matter of Will came to a sudden halt. Nuna did deep interest, and Nuna smiled. That not see him yet, but she was coming to past which in his memory formed a mosaic picture, each event clearly marked to offer, and then he almost stamped on out, yet uniting to form a harmonious the hard road to think how completely he whole, was to her a half-forgotten dream. had let himself be carried out of the calm Nuna lived in the future; the past held deliberate part he had resolved on. no golden days for her, and till lately They had reached the village, but Will the present had been barren also. She did not care who heard him ; he forgot did not try to call up this ecial recol- all his customary reticence. He did not lection ; she only thought Will very tire- care for the blacksmith who stood at the some.
door of his smithy, with bright eyes and “I dare say you picked me up and brawny arms, gazing on the young pair ; brought me home,” she smiled. “I know nor yet for Mrs. Tomkins, the laundress, you used to be very kind and good to me. peeping through the gaps in her garden You have always been like a brother to hedge as she hung the clothes up to dry. me, Will."
Will did not care if the whole world knew At the words a warm flow of gratitude that he loved Nuna. He was not ashamed welled up in Luna's heart; in that moment of it. But Nuna shrank from these busy she was nearer doing justice to her old eyes. It seemed as if the careful, decorous playfellow than she had ever been in her man and the dreamy, unobservant girl had life. How he had loved her, and how changed places. Nuna's nature was thorlittle love or kindness she had shown in oughly roused ; this must be ended once return! The sudden revulsion from the and for ever. It was sheer cruelty to give dislike with which she had seen him ap- Will the slightest hope that she could reproach, and the weariness which had suc- turn his love. ceeded, threw her into that dangerous “I want you to listen to me," she said, state for a woman with warm deep feelings, so earnestly that he was taken by surprise. and a quick impulsive nature—a state of “ Don't talk any more here. Come remorse which prompted reparation in down Carving's Wood Lane; we shall be looks and words. So that her eyes were quieter.” full of tenderness as she raised them to His heart sank in his breast like a stone. his, and her lips trembled.
He knew her so well that this told him “I, who so prize, who pine for want of all was over. But still he clung to hope. love," she thought, “how often I have in- There was silence till they were under the flicted sufferings on poor Will."
leafless far-stretching oak branches, out Will's heart throbbed violently, but the of sight of the high road. word brother jarred him. “Ah! but I Then Nuna spoke fast and earnestly. want you to remember this special day, “Will, you are making a mistake. You Nuna. I think you could remember if have cared about me as a sister till you you tried.” Will was keeping his voice think you love me. But indeed I could calm and steady; spite of the encourage- never make you happy.” Will stopped ment in her eyes, he was resolved not to and took both her hands to make her stop be over-hasty this time.
“ Don't you re
too. “Hush, Will, dear Will: I listened member your foot was painful, and so I to you so long, won't you listen? do let waited a little before I took you home, me tell you all I want. I can never love and you said---Nuna, do you recollect you more than I do now, and next to what you said ?"
papa I do love you, Will. Why don't you A blush fitted across Nuna's face ; a be content, and let us be dear friends alvague memory was stirring, but the blush ways ?” increased Will's hope ; he went on eager
Will's heart leapt up again. ly: “You said, “You take care of me “ I never said I wanted much love ; if like a husband, Will. I will be your wife you love ine next your father, I am willsome day. Don't laugh, Nuna ; I can't ing and thankful to begin on that. Oh, bear it. Despise me if you choose, but Nuna, if you could see how I love you, leave those days bright and true. Ah, how I long for the least love from you ! Nuna, in those days I was all you wanted, darling, you must take pity on me ; you I was everything to you. Can't I be the must be my wife." same now?"
The last word changed her feelings. He spoke passionately. His handsome As he said it, she drew her hands away. face glowed with the love he was burning “You are unreasonable, Will : you have known me so long that you ought to be- herself to soothe him as a wilier, cooler lieve me. Do you think that if there woman would have known how to soothe. was the least hope of my changing, I “Let us part friends, Will,"—she put would not give it to you? Do you think out her hand, and looked imploringly at I am ungrateful for your love ? No, in- him,—“you have been such a good friend deed, Will; but it would be so false to to me.” give you any hope. I never, never can But Will would not take her hand in love you in the way you want to be loved.” his. She tried so much to speak convincingly “Friends! I hate friendship. Do you that her words sounded cold.
remember what is said about asking for The eager light faded from Will's blue bread, and giving a man a stone ?—that's eyes. He stood there, pale, and yet with what you have done, Nuna. I asked you a hunger in his face that made Nuna shrink for your love, and you won't give it, but away from him.
I'll not have your friendship; you'll offer He saw that she so shrank.
me next the pity of that confounded art"O God, it is too hard !” he said hoarse- ist who has stolen your love away from ly. “What have I done to deserve this me. You needn't look frightened, Nuna, from you; Nuna, of all women ? I am I'm not going to tell your secret; though, despicable then ; there is something in me if you take my advice, you'll not keep it you loathe—impossible for you to love ?" secret, you'll have it all out as soon as He shook with the violence of his passion. you can. Such a look of distress came
Nuna stood looking at him with a scared in her face, that he softened—“Good-bye, white face, struck dumb by his agitation. Nuna ; I know I am not good enough for The poor child had never seen a man so you, but no more is he: no one ever deeply moved—she was utterly terrified. could be worth your love." He stopped She despise Will ! how could he think it? and looked tenderly at the blushing face, Surely he might hope to win the love of blushing with the bitter humiliation of her some one very superior to herself ; she confession: “Nuna," he said gently, "you must show him this. And then the girl's may live to wish you had married the man pure, generous heart came to help her; who loved you, instead of the man you she would trust Will—it would wound love yourself.” him less to know that she had no love left to give, than to feel himself unworthy of
CHAPTER XXX. being loved at all. The effort was pain
PAUL'S CONFESSION. ful, but just then pain was a relief to Nuna; Mrs. Fagy rarely stirred abroad unit brought her into sympathy with poor less it was to go to church. The most coWill.
gent reason for a habit being seldom that “Will,"—she spoke very humbly, which is acknowledged, it is possible that "you wrong us both by saying this; how Mrs. Fagg's pretext of only having one could I despise you? I said just now that bonnet at a time was not the true cause next to my father I loved you. In all of her stay-at-home habits. A Sunday these years have I ever deceived you? I bonnet, in the opinion of the mistress of will give you a proof of love. I will tell “The Bladebone,” was an article to be you what even my father does not know kept specially for going to church in, not —that I have no better love left to give." to be in any way used on week-days.
Will had stood quite still; he knew Perhaps she thought that secular sights every word that was coming ; he seemed and sounds had some mysterious power of to have heard all this before in some far- lingering in the bows and quillings, and of off time; even after Nuna ceased speak- whispering distractions amid her devoing, he stood silent, his eyes fixed sternly tions. The bonnet was duly replaced in on her as if he were waiting to hear a yet its tissue-paper wrappings on her second fuller revelation.
return from church, and stayed there till He had no gratitude in that moment the next Sunday. for her frankness; his only defined sensa- Still Mrs. Fagg loved air, and therefore tion was a longing to meet Paul Whit- when she was not wanted in the kitchen more, and try, man to man, which had the or to superintend the servant's housework, best claim to win Nuna's love.
she was fond of standing at the entrance And Nuna was too much moved out of of “The Bladebone," usually with a duster to hem, as she took her accustomed air- praising all the time; that's like stroking ing. When the Rector came back from a cat while you make off with her kittens. visiting the poor cripple, Mrs. Fagg stood That's not my way, sir, and I should not leaning against the door hemming a red trouble to move my tongue against Patty pocket-handkerchief with white spots, for Westropp only for something I was told the use of her darling Bobby. The needle yesterday." flew in and out as deftly as if Mrs. Fagg “Well, but, Mrs. Fagg, don't you know had never anything else to do but needle- we must never believe half we are told in work. Arachne has a way of sneering at the way of scandal ? Why, suppose any Calliope. “Bless your heart, my dear, one were to come and tell me Dennis was you'll never sew neatly; you must give all lazy, you wouldn't like me to believe it, your time to needlework if you want to would you?" excel in it." Calliope only smiles, per- The Rector smiled, with an attempt at haps with a little contempt, but she never mischief in his quiet blue eyes. wastes words in answering. She knows “You couldn't, sir, you'd know better." that if the brains are cultivated, the fin- Mrs. Fagg paused, and thought a minute gers will move deftly, although the maxim before she went on. “No one could call may not admit of a reversed application. a man lazy who works as hard at reading It may be well for Arachne's destined as Dennis does; why, it's my belief he spouse if the fair creature so wholly bent gets through every column of the news, on stitching would remember that brains down to the coal advertisements, and all were given to use just as much as fingers in one day, and to hear him talk Parliawere, and that every woman has about ment speeches is most improving to them the same amount of talent, of one kind as can understand. A lazy man does or another, if she only chose to exert it, nothing at all, sir. No, sir, every one's and keep it free from rust.
got his line as plain marked out as the “Good morning Mrs. Fagg,” said the stripe on a donkey's back, and the folks Rector; “so I find you have your artistas don't get on in life is them as takes to lodger again."
the wrong line; and it's my belief that “Yes, sir, we have.” Mrs. Fagg spoke girl Patty never took to the right from the dryly. Since her conversation about Mr. beginning; she can't go straight now, sir, Whitmore with the Rector, more than it ain't in reason to expect it. one circumstance had combined to prove know where she is, sir, and what she's that her lodger's acquaintance with Pat- doing with her fortune?” ty had gone to what she considered “No, I wish I did.” Mr. Beaufort “lengths." “Yes, sir, but I don't some- was surprised at the landlady's excitement. how think he'll be long with us; he don't Mrs. Fagg was known to have prickles on sketch as he did last time, he seems her tongue for those who deserved them; altogether duller like."
but she was not a gossip, and it was most “Ah, he had better go over to Gray's. unusual, and it seemed to the Rector I fancy Ashton must be dull for a single most uncalled for, that she should persist
in this attack on a motherless girl. “Oh, Mrs. Fagg put her head a little on one women, women, you are all alike," he side, and looked sharply at her pastor. thought, “if one among you happens to
“You see, sir,” she said, “there's no be prettier than the rest."-"I wish,” he amusement now in going down Carving's said, “I could find out what has become Wood Lane."
of that girl and her father.” The Rector shook his head.
“Well, sir, it was that made me speak. “Ah, Mrs. Fagg, you were hard on I thought you was trying to find out. I poor Patty. I am afraid she had not was told that you had thought of inviting many friends."
Patty to stay at the Rectory, and be a “And no wonder, sir !” The matron friend like for Miss Nuna. No, sir, you spoke indignantly. She had finished hem- needn't be afraid I believed it, I knew ming the red handkerchief, and she folded better ; but I heard yesterday that Patty it up in exquisite squareness, giving it an said to a person in Ashton before she admonitory pat at each fresh folding. went away, that she shouldn't have any. “ There are them that'll take away a thing to say to Miss Beaufort after a bit; neighbor's character while they go on she meant to be a quite better sort of
lady than Miss Nuna ; and this did put he believed Paul's conduct to have been my back up, it did. When I heard, sir, as much worse than it really had been. He I did, that you'd been over to Guildford called to mind now his first meeting with making inquiries, I was determined to tell the artist-even then he was walking with you about it. To think of the notice Patty; he remembered how coldly the Miss Nuna showed that girl! Why, she young man had accepted his invitation to used to speak to Patty Westropp more spend that first Sunday at the parsonage, than any one else in the village. It's and last of all his final interview with Paul downright shameful! And that's not all, outside Roger's cottage. sir. You weren't pleased last autumn He could not understand how, in the with what I said. I knew! I saw plain face of all this, he had asked the artist enough you thought me as spiteful as a again to his house-above all to meet toad."
Will Bright. “Really, Mrs. Fagg, I am not aware Mr. Beaufort had been struck with the
Mr. Beaufort shrank from this visible coolness between the two young personal attack
men, but Mrs. Fagg's words seemed to “ No, sir, no doubt you were not aware explain it. - you'll excuse me saying it—no one ever “I must say Will might have told me; is aware of half their feelings while they so strict as he is, he must have known last, and very often never, if something that a man who sets public opinion at unlooked for turns up at the time and defiance in such a way as this is not the wipes 'em out; but that girl Patty, at that sort of person to be countenanced by a very time I was talking to you, either clergyman." then or the day before, or most like both, It was a relief to be able to blame some was letting herself be regularly courted one besides himself, but Mr. Beaufort was • by this lodger of ours" —Mr. Beaufort still in a very perplexed state when he gave a sudden nervous look of inquiry to reached home. the upper window—"oh, it's all right, Mr. It has been said that the Fates had Whitmore's out walking, sir, and besides, been working at cross purposes this I don't blame him half nor a quarter what morning. Paul Whitmore had hurried I blame the girl; if Mr. Bright chose to past Nuna to put into effect a resolution speak, he knows all about it, for he was -a resolution which had been quickened just at the corner of the lane when the to immediate action by the sight of the person as told me was on the common." Rector's daughter walking with Will
Mr. Beaufort felt annoyed and irritable ; Bright. Paul did not doubt Nuna; he his own encounter with Paul seemed to had read her love for him in that brief take a deeper shade under this new tale, glance yesterday ; but she must be wholly and it was specially vexing that Will, of his, and he could not endure that will all people in the world, should be cogni- should even approach her. He meant to zant of Mr. Whitmore's conduct with have seen Nuna once more alone before Patty Westropp.
he spoke to her father, but this meeting “Well, I must bid you good morning," changed his plans, and he hurried on fast he said. “ You know young men will to seek Mr. Beaufort. admire a pretty face; we can only say it The Rector was not in. “ He can't be is perhaps a good thing that no worse long now, sir," said Jane ; “Master never happened. Take my advice, and never do take long walks." believe half you hear, Mrs. Fagg; no, nor “I want to see him on business, so I three-quarters; and, above all, don't re- can wait, I suppose.
“Will you please walk this way, sir ? " He had relieved some of his vexation
He followed into the Rector's study. by giving this pastoral advice, but he There was not much in it likely to attract could not shake it all off. He had been
He had been Paul Whitmore-shelves of dully-bound very severe on misdemeanors of this kind volumes of English divinity, other shelves among his flock, and it was mortifying to full of Latin and Greek and even Hebrew have given public countenance to a stran- volumes, for Mr. Beaufort was a scholar; ger while he was actually carrying on this treatises on cows and pigs and horses, and sort of acquaintance with Patty. Mr. oil-cake and farming; county maps, and Beaufort chose to reprove Mrs. Fagg, but histories, and peerages, and books on