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away from all the coloured dresses, remembering that Mr. Lynn preferred either black or white, and finally selected a black silk, made so as to partly display the throat and neck, and trimmed with soft and delicate lace: In her hair she put some crimson berries, and then she went again, as she had done once before, into Mrs. Vernor's room, to ask her approval.
If Mrs. Vernor had admired Agatha then, she admired her a hundred times more now. Her beauty seemed to have deepened and matured, and there was a soft love-light in her eyes that had replaced the expression which before had been almost cold and indifferent.
'I was afraid we were late,' said Agatha. Mrs. Vernor smiled, but hurried down stairs, and they got at once into the fly which was to take them to the High Street. At the door of the Red House, Mr. Lynn was waiting for them. The other expected guests had not yet arrived, for Mrs. Vernor and Agatha had come early on purpose. Vernor went in first; and for a moment Agatha and Mr. Lynn lingered in the hall.
'Perhaps,' said Agatha,' they will not think me good enough.' She had never thought of this with Lord Dunmore; but real love gives a humility, a distrust that nothing else can. Mr. Lynn looked at Agatha reproachfully.
You are only too good,' he said; and he took her trembling hand, laid it on his arm, and drew her into the room. It was the drawingroom that night-the drawing-room decked with holly and evergreens, the chandelier uncovered and lit with wax candles, and a blazing fire in the grate, before which Dr. Lynn and his wife were standing. Mr. Lynn led Agatha straight up to his mother.
'Mother,' he said, putting Agatha's hand in hers, 'this is my Christmas gift; Miss Burton has promised to be my wife.'
And so Agatha was taken to the hearts and to the home of the old doctor and his wife in the High Street of Denborough.
The marriage took place in London, early in the year. Neither Agatha's mother nor brother were present. Mrs. Burton wrote from Paris that she would forgive Agatha and send her all her things, but that she must not expect her to make any more sacrifices; that, as it was, she should for some years be obliged to practise the most rigid self-denial. She hoped Agatha might be happy, but could never understand, with her advantages of birth and education, from whom she could have inherited her very low tastes; and that, as she had chosen to put herself under Mrs. Vernor's protection, she hoped Mrs. Vernor would go to town with her, and try to have the wedding as little talked about as possible.
Captain Burton never even wrote: but although the estrangement from her family pained Agatha, her love for Mr. Lynn prevented her ever feeling a shadow of regret for the step she had taken.
It was on a bright morning late in July that Agatha and Mr. Lynn were sitting together over the breakfast table in their little cottage in the outskirts of Denborough, about ten minutes' walk from the High Street. There was a garden in front, where the flowers were carefully tended by a loving woman's hand.
Agatha was dressed in a plain fresh muslin, and looked so bright that the very sunshine from without seemed but an echo of the gladness of her heart.
Mr. Lynn was reading the paper. He looked up rather suddenly at Agatha, who was busily employed in pouring out his tea; and after a moment's hesitation got up, and bringing the Times' in his hand, gave it to her; and pointing to a paragraph, Agatha's eye fell on the following fashionable intelligence' —'We understand, from authentic sources, that early in the ensuing year Lord Dunmore is about to lead to the hymeneal altar Lady Alice Wendover, fourth daughter of the Earl of Carstairs.'
When Agatha looked up, Mr. Lynn was gazing at her with something of the old mournful expres
sion in his eyes that had so haunted her at Brighton.
'Agatha,' he said, and his voice was a little unsteady, 'you do not repent?'
She threw down the paper, and went to him.
'Do you think,' she said, putting her hand upon his shoulder, 'that I do not love you?-do you think that if you were a thousand earls I could love you better than I do?'
Mr. Lynn stooped to kiss the lovely face that looked up to his with such infinite trust.
'Ah, Agatha,' he replied, drawing her more closely to him, how was it that I ever believed it possible that I could live without you?'
Something like tears came into Agatha's flashing eyes.
There,' she said, 'we were different; I knew I could not live without you-it was not possible.'
'But you might change, Agatha, when you come to reflect in future years upon what you are, and what you might have been.'
Agatha shook her head, and then, laying it softly on his shoulder, she said
'I will grow round him in his place,
And she fulfilled her prophecy.
As years went on, Dr. Lynn died, and they went to live in the Red House in the High Street; and little children's feet sounded on the formal gravel walks, and little voices laughed merrily in the old house,and Agatha and Mr. Lynn, in their unity
and love, knew no sorrow such as Agatha might have known had she fulfilled the brilliant destiny which her mother has never ceased to regret.
Her brother, Captain Valentine Burton, succeeded in marrying Miss Chatterton, who was really attached to him, and who was destined for her future life to be as unhappy as those wives must be who, finding they have been married only for their money, still cling to their ruined god, in spite of coldness and neglect. Alas! for the slavery of those who love unwisely. Captain Burton and his wife never visit Denborough: he is a rising man, and considering that Agatha has disgraced him, he wishes her to feel his displeasure, and acts accordingly.
The movements of Lord and Lady Dunmore appear at stated intervals among the fashionable intelligence; but Agatha never met her patrician lover again; their walk in life was no longer the same; not but that Agatha's beauty and talents might have commanded for her a far higher class of society than that which they had in Denborough, but Agatha resolutely refused to avail herself of any advantage of the kind.
'My new world,' she would say, 'is too happy to risk losing it by grasping again the false pleasures of the old.'
And she still thinks there is no position in the world so honourable, or so much to be envied, as that of Mr. Lynn's wife.
C. M. L.