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mitted that her power of attraction was deep and incontestable. I thought of her now as I was borne swiftly along the drive, and came presently in view of the old Elizabethan mansion, which was her home. Though the weather was bleak, with a piercing wind blowing on the open road without the demesne, here there was comparative shelter. My uncle Geoffrey had carried out one of his fancies to a successful issue, and had surrounded himself with the green and shade of summer when there was winter elsewhere. The whole grounds were planted thickly with evergreens which flourished almost like trees, so carefully had their growth and luxuriance been promoted; and now, at this Christmas season, outer decorations as well as inner might have been specially got up, judging from the glossy holly branches, ivy-wreaths, and laurelboughs which filled the view on all sides.

It was evening; the house was brilliantly lighted up; and as the hall-door was thrown open, the warm glow within was all the pleasanter in contrast to the frosty air and flitting moonshine which held the world in a cold spell without. Something else was more inspiriting than all. It was a sight which met my eyes in the first moment of entering. A young lady was crossing the hall, and turning, just in the doorway leading to a room opposite, she gave me a smile of welcome. She was beautifully dressed in silk of a creamy shade, with some draperies of rich violet velvet, relieving an otherwise colourless picture; for the tint of her skin and hair harmonised with that of her dress, and was scarcely deeper in tone. But there was nothing insipid in a face which beamed with expression, which had bewitchingly

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'Have you come at last?' she retorted quickly. Three invitations and three refusals speak pretty fairly for our friendship, but not for yours.'

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'An invitation to a place is nothing-the people are everything,' I said. When I was last here you absented yourself strangely. Can you wonder I did not come again?'

This was the mere fact of the case. On the occasion of that former Christmas visit my cousin Lucia had not once shown herself. I was told she was ill, and I had felt bound to believe the statement, till it was strangely negatived by a sight which rendered me at once perplexed and indignant. I had started one day for a ride when something went wrong with the equipment of my steed, and I was obliged to return unexpectedly to the house. I was walking along the avenue of the hall, leading the horse by the bridle, when, in a pathway amongst the evergreens, I caught a glimpse of a well- remembered figure. The tall slight proportions, the girlish step, and the pale amber of the hair, which was rolled low upon the neck and rested on the glossy darkness of a sealskin jacket, were sufficient in themselves to identify the lady; but any doubt or bewilderment on the subject was at once dissipated by a full view of the face.

Miss Forrester had evidently heard the sound of advancing steps on the drive, for she turned suddenly. A rosy flush mounted to her brow at the moment; but before word or gesture could express questioning surprise on my part,

she was gone. Hurrying onwards I left the horse in the care of a groom, and went at once to the house. My quick inquiry for Miss Forrester was met by the reply that the young lady was still very unwell, was confined to her room, and could see no one. Half an hour later I had left Forrest Hall, anger having predominated over the feeling of mystification which might have led me to prolong my stay in the hope of dissipating it by penetration or investigation. I felt that my cousin, who was the heiress now, was determined to arrest any incipient attentions of the former heir by showing him, in the most pointed manner, her disinclination even to tolerate his presence. It was galling enough to have to return as an impoverished guest to a place where I had once hoped to dispense hospitality, on my part, without incurring the additional humiliation of being subject to an unjust suspicion. I could see nothing else in the strange withdrawal of my cousin Lucia from my society. She plainly thought I might become too audacious as a suitor, and was determined that the inheritance I had lost should not be regained through her. This was the view of her conduct which I took at the time, and which nettled me so much that when an invitation came each succeeding Christmas to spend it at Forrest Hall I refused until the present occasion.

A little silvery laugh and a sweet bewitching glance dissipated everything but a sense of entrancement now. They had been the only reply to my inquiry, but they were sufficient to arrest the questionings of the past in the view of a less-perplexing future.

I was soon in the drawing-room, to which Lucia led the way; and amid the excitement of Christmas festivities I was greeted cordially

by Mrs. Forrester and my cousin Geoffrey. My hostess was a tall thin lady, scarcely foreign-looking in appearance, as her complexion retained in a faded form the traces of a fairness almost as dazzling as her daughter's. her daughter's. She was still in the prime of life, but a peculiar air of feebleness was given to her aspect by the way in which she carried her head. It was always slightly on one side, was enveloped with muslin or lace ties high up about the throat, and might have been bandaged on, so was its balance, and so little action was allowed to its movements. She spoke generally in italics, and emphasised her reception of me now in a way which was very gratifying.


'So glad to see you, Mr. Forrester! But you should have come before. Your absence was too bad. Did we offend you?'

I got out of the difficulty with a smile it was easy to summon up with Lucia close by, and ready, as I found, to give me her hand for the next dance.

That evening passed delightfully, though I was rendered a shade uneasy towards its close by the assiduity of a young gentleman, who seemed determined to give Miss Forrester the benefit of his entire stock of information. London and literature, the country and sports, all were brought eloquently forward to gain a hold on his companion's attention. He had been only introduced to the young lady that night, I learned; but I could see at once that he was drawing the first parallel, and that, whether effectively or not, the tactics of a siege were beginning.

The next day we had skating. Lucia was an adept in the art, and went skimming over the glassy surface as graceful as a swan on unruffled waters. I was out of practice, and was ploughing along in a

rather laboured fashion when she flew up to me.

'Do be a little more adventurous she exclaimed. 'The outside edge is the easiest thing in the world. Can you not cut some figures ?' 'One, as you see,' I rejoined, laughing. My awkwardness speaks for itself; but this singular state of things supposes anything but an advance in the plural direction.'

'You are not so very bad,' she said, with a long critical look. Mr. Lerrington has come to grief twice already. He offered me his hand at starting, or rather made a clutch at mine, but I managed a release.'

Mr. Lerrington was the aspiring engineer who had laid himself out to be agreeable on the preceding evening, and whose sanguine nature still kept him up. He was beside us even as Miss Forrester spoke.

"Acmes" are not perfection after all,' he said gaily. Something went wrong with mine, but I'm all right now;' and he made a successful spin. That Lucia should follow him was not a matter for surprise, but that I should be left behind was certainly one for vexation. Lucia mystified me, and therefore attracted me. I wanted to understand her, but that could scarcely be done at a distance. In the present instance I could keep my footing, though speed was beyond me; yet this plainly was the one thing desirable. Recklessness may be decried in other paths of life, but on the most slippery one of all it seems a rightful exchange for prudence, an indispensable impetus to advance.

After a while the young lady grew tired either of the exercise or the escort, and was back again with me. I am afraid I had been contemplating rashness with too fa

vourable an eye, for I was led away by it unwarrantably now. I began to question Lucia respecting her strange disappearance from the scene on the occasion of my last visit. Breaking the ice is hazardous work, and I certainly ought not to have attempted it here. I endangered myself, if not another. Lucia rarely flushed. Shade, rather than colour, passed into her face from the effect of emotion or annoyance. A change of the kind was noticeable as I spoke, and I tried hastily to recover my former footing. But my companion would not let me quite escape the consequences of my temerity.

'You seem to have a good memory,' she remarked. 'But I am afraid it is only for trifles. These you should forget, and not even remember that you are forgetting.'

'We are apt to estimate matters differently,' I said. 'It might be little to you to keep in a seclusion you had cause to prefer; but your absence was not exactly a trifle to another.'

'I know it was not so; but what it should have been is my point of view. Try to look at things in a pleasant light. It makes life easier.'

'An effort in that line need not be recommended now,' was my response. There are moments when we have to set realities before us to subdue a too seductive illusion.'

'You had better turn to the mainland then, and away from this slippery surface, if this should be one of those instants;' and with the words she was skimming off from me anew.

I saw her rejoin Lerrington, but could scarcely feel jealousy, it was so evident that his society was as indifferent to her as my own. But the fact that she was unimpressionable was not reassur

ing, taken in conjunction with her own too strong power of fascination. I would rather she had shown susceptibility to almost any emotion than have perplexed me by her unruffled loveliness.


WAS I dreaming or waking? My senses, no doubt, were inwrapt by the stillness of a frost-bound midnight; but surely they were too watchful and observant to be enchained likewise by the more potent spell of sleep! With eyes wide open I started upright on my couch. The room I had been allotted on my arrival at Forrest Hall was one hitherto unoccupied by me. But I could scarcely take exception to its comfort or position in the establishment, considering that it was the one chosen by the late master of the house, and which was known as 'uncle Geoffrey's room.' The bed, an old-fashioned one, faced a large mirror reaching from floor to ceiling and set into the wall. On the right-hand side of the four-poster' there was a door opening into a dressing-closet. This was always left unclosed at night; in the summer to give fuller ventilation to the sleepingapartment, which was low and somewhat gloomy, and in the winter-time to admit the subdued light and warmth from a fire that was kindled in a wide grate in the dressing-room.

Such had been the habit in my uncle's life, and I had made no change in the arrangements. Looking now into the mirror I saw a form reflected at full length. It was moving slowly across the floor in the inner closet and advancing towards the mantelpiece. There was a bright blaze from a wood-fire, and the glass, being opposite to the door and my bed, gave back the clear

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particulars of the scene. a strange one; and some ghostly stories, which had been recounted for the benefit of the company by my cousin Lucia that night, came vividly to mind. The figure I was gazing at was that of my uncle Geoffrey. Clothed in a well-remembered dressing-gown of Indian pattern and gorgeous colouring, I saw his spare frame and his bent head just as I had last seen them in life. When he had gained the chimney-corner he stretched out his hand towards a huge snuff-box of tortoiseshell, which lay on the marble ledge above.


At this moment I bounded from my couch. My own wakefulness at least was proved by the action; but it led to no further discovery. I lost sight for an instant of the mirror scene; and when I sprang through the open door of communication into the dressing-room, there was no reality here to justify the spectral appearance. cabinet had its firelight glow and its usual air of comfort, but no occupant. The second door, which gave access to the outer corridor, was closed, and not a sound or footfall disturbed the quietude of the house. I looked around me. There was no hiding-place in the small chamber. Wherever the apparition had come from, it had sought the same shrouded precincts again. I paused in a perplexity which was not exactly fear. I saw little reason for apprehension in a warm well-lit room, which showed no token of habitation, no other possessions than my own. My coat was on a chair as I had last thrown it; my dressing-case open on the table. There was

nothing to remind me of a nocturnal intruder, and I could no longer conjure up even the vision of such. I returned to rest, and sleep came later, though it was some time ere I removed a fixed

gaze from the long glass opposite the couch.

I was down early the next morning, and the first person I saw in the breakfast-room was my cousin Lucia. She had on a beautifully-made dress of some warm ruby shade, with a bewitching little bow at the throat slumbering in lace.

Good-morning,' she said gaily. 'You are more active than usual. Were your slumbers lighter or more profound? There was some change, I suppose?'

For the better, of course, since the effect is good,' I returned. 'But I fear I indulge too much in waking dreams. They are cruelly illusive.'

Then give them up. That cannot be difficult, if you dislike them.'

'Did I say that? Some of them are only too dear, that is my objection.'

O, the fault is in yourself, I see; not in the visions. I thought there was a reproach somewhere, but I am glad to find it is to your own person.'

'Yes, Lucia; I am guilty of a folly, no doubt. There might be a cure for it, but I don't look for it.'

Why not? Hopefulness is a pleasant element in life. You ought to cultivate it. It might repay exertion.'

What did she mean? Had she understood me; and, speaking to a scarcely breathed longing, was I to know that she had fathomed it, and was pitiful?

I might have been too daring, but the fortunate entrance of Mrs. Forrester arrested me. Her head was limply adjusted as usual, but there was no dubiousness in her manner; it was decidedly friendly.

I was apt to put in a more tardy appearance in the breakfastroom, and her first questions ran

therefore in the same vein as her daughter's.

Had I slept well? The night had been so cold. She hoped my fire had been properly attended to? &c.

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'Yes, there was a famous blaze,' I responded. It showed me a good deal more than the daylight brings out;' and then I mentioned the strange apparition in the dressing-room.

Mrs. Forrester gazed at me with a sort of terror in her blue eyes, and turned white as death. Lucia was perfectly composed, and even rallied me playfully on my weak surrender to the sway of Morpheus.

I make a better fight,' she pursued, but acknowledge myself beaten in the end. You seem to give way at once, and revenge yourself on your opponent by a mere denial of the victory.'

'No, no; sleep is no enemy,' I interposed. I never struggle against it; and for that very reason, I suppose, it has less interest in visiting me. Last night, I know, it was very tardy in its advance. But I suppose you won't admit this?'

'Scarcely, with such clear evidence to the contrary. Dreams do not generally come before slumber.'

'Waking dreams may, and mine seem to be all of this order.'

The conversation dropped here. I did not press it, as I saw the same disturbed, even terrified, look in my hostess's face. She evi

dently believed in the possibility of an apparition, and especially in the credibility of what I had portrayed. The facts did not lessen my perplexity, but they made me resolve on attempting a solution of it by myself.

There was a change in the weather this morning. Low-lying mists wrapped the frozen waters

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