« ForrigeFortsæt »
BY THE AUTHOR OF 'Denis Donne,' 'Walter Goring,' 'PlayeD OUT,' ETC.
FTER that dinner-party Henry Prescott refused with decision to second any further attempts to amuse Mr. Carew which his mother felt disposed to make. Take my advice and leave him to Di,' he would reply, when Mrs. Prescott, out of the goodness of her heart, would plan wild schemes of dissipation, in the which she designed that the Admiralty clerk should participate. Leave him to Di altogether, mother, and if she doesn't find that the game isn't worth the candle (as he's always saying about everything himself) before he goes, I'm very much mistaken.'
As Di did not make this discovery before the expiration of Mr. Carew's visit, but, on the contrary, seemed to find that the game deepened in interest, Henry Prescott found himself as much mistaken in theory as he believed his sister to be in act.
The shooting-party, with variations, was repeated several times, with the brilliant finale of the luncheon carried by the ladies left out. Di wanted Charlie to make himself popular amongst the men of the neighbourhood in which she had dwelt all her life; and she knew well that he would cease from even faintly feigning to do so as soon as her sister and herself made their appearance on the ground. Thereupon she abstained from doing what would have given Charlie a fair excuse for doing what would have most recommended itself to his taste, as well as to her own. And Charlie felt that she did so, and knew why she did so, and did not improve the opportunities she made for him.
He did not tell Miss Prescott so in so many words, but he made it clear to her, in his most gorgeously agreeable manner, that when she married him, she would have done with all the denizens of these reVOL. X.-NO. LX.
gions, excepting her own family. Jack Markham, in a glow of good feeling towards the man who had won the prize he coveted, invited the successful aspirant to stay with him during the hunting season, offering him a notoriously good mount as an inducement. This Charlie declined with a cool 'Nothanks. I'm nothing of a rider, You fellows have had all the laughs you'll get out of me at my lack of sporting tastes.' But though Charlie's refusal was chilling to the warmth of Jack's goodwill, Di's glance-half blush half gratitude-well repaid him for both the effort he had made and the mortification it had cost him. Perhaps, too, he derived a little consolation from the fact of Mr. Charles Carew being on the verge of departing; for though Jack had magnanimously kept to his resolve of not making it unpleasant to Di by keeping away from them while Charlie was there, Jack had sometimes found that his complacency caused him a smart. Miss Prescott made efforts to be kind to him, made efforts to cover her lover's coolness to him, and, with true love-keenness, these efforts were very apparent to the man for whom they were made.
At last the day arrived for Mr. Carew to take his leave of the Prescotts, and return to his duties at the Admiralty. On the whole it must be acknowledged that he was not altogether sorry to go. Several things had jarred upon an organization that he had for several years been sedulously striving to render superfine. There was too much roughness in the manners of Di's brothers-too much familiarity in the manner of her friend Mr. Markham, and too great a prolixity about the conversation of her mother, for Charlie's taste to pass through the ordeal of that time amongst them
all unwounded. He had been very much fascinated with Di when he saw her first in the midst of the Leslies, to whom he was well used. He was very fond of her still. Nevertheless, he was fain to confess to himself that it would perhaps have been more discreet had he 'waited to know more,' not of her, but of her people,' before he pledged himself.
But no trace of this half feeling made itself manifest in his manner when he was exchanging the last good-byes with Di, as she drove him to the station. His Good-bye, my own darling!' had the genuine ring of the metal about it, and the clasp of his slender, strong, white warin hand was very reassuring.
'You will come again soon, Charlie? You'll show me that the time hasn't been very heavy to you by coming again soon, won't you?' she said, bending out of the ponycarriage for one more shake of the hand-one last farewell. And she looked so pretty as she asked it, with that black velvet Glengarry coming well over her white, straight brow-with the shimmer of tender feeling over her softened eyes, and the rose on her cheek heightened by agitation: she looked so pretty and well-bred-there was such a caressing touch in that small, wellgloved hand of hers, that Charlie Carew felt she was all his wife need be, and promised to come again as cordially as she asked him.
'Ah! there's one thing I've forgotten to say, Di,' he cried, running back to her after the train had puffed up, and risking losing it
there's one thing more I have forgotten to say-wouldn't it be well to ask one of the Leslies down here? civil after
'All their civility to me,' she interrupted. Yes, I think it would -I'll do it; shall it be Alice?'
'As you like-yes, Alice: there's the train off, by Jove!' Then he started off, catching the train cleverly, and committing Di to the fulfilment of a plan that was very abhorrent to her-why she hardly knew.
However, she had promised Charlie-promised him at parting,
too; so she could but moot the project to her mother, hope that all things would arrange themselves agreeably, and that Alice Leslie's visit would be productive of happiness to everybody. There was no gainsaying facts. They had been very kind to her, and she had been very happy with them at Bayswater. The least she could do for Charlie Carew's friend was to be civil and hospitable and kind to her in return.
It was late in the autumn when Miss Leslie reached the Prescott's
just that pleasant season which ladies declare with emphasis to 'be so very difficult to dress'-a difficulty they meet by tempering the coming breath of winter in a variety of ways that are not justified by the extreme seasons. Alice Leslie was an adept in the art of dress. She never missed an opportunity of making a picturesque effect. A little white cloth jacket, with big pockets and mother-of-pearl buttons all over it, would have been too cold for winter in appearance and too warm for summer in reality, but it was the very thing for the crisp, late October days. So with a petticoat where bands of red peeped out be tween the scallops of her looped-up shepherd's plaid silk or golden brown velveteen dress-so with the neat, trim little black velvet hat, with a band of grebe round its brim-she was a charming object in this costume, walking about the lawn and fields, exchanging affectionate confidences with her friend Di Prescott.
A very charming object. For ste was not only young and picturesque, but she was very pretty too. Pretty with the beauty of blue eyes and black lashes and brows, and lovely nut-brown hair of that fluffy, wavy sort, that always arranges itself so well between fillets of ribbon. Miss Alice brought such a stock of these latter with her, that she quite bewildered Nellie Prescott, who could not make up her mind as to the relative merits of the violet, the blue, the green, or the rosecoloured bands with which Alice tied up her nut-brown tresses. The quiet toilettes that had been by way of being gay before, paled before the