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“The quarrel is a very pretty quarrel as it stands.”
THE RIVALS.

IT is two days later. Everyone you know is in the drawing-room at the Court that is, everyone except Dulce. But presently the door opens, and that stormy young person enters, with her sleeves tucked up and a huge apron over her pretty cashmere gown, that simply envelops her in its folds.

“I am going to make jam” she says, unmistakable pride in her tone. She is looking hopelessly conceited, and is plainly bent on posing as one of the most remarkable housekeepers on record as really, perhaps, she is.

“Jam?” says Mr. Browne, growing animated. “What kind of jam?”

“Plum jam.”

“You don’t say so?” says Mr. Browne, with unaffected interest. “Where are you going to make it?”

“In the kitchen, of course. Did you think I was going to make it here, you silly boy?” She is giving herself airs now, and is treating Dicky to some gentle badinage.

“Are the plums in the kitchen?” asked he, regardless of her new-born dignity, which is very superior, indeed.

“I hope so,” she says, calmly.

“Then I’ll go and make the jam with you,” declares Mr. Browne, genially.

“Are you really going to make it?” asks Julia, opening her eyes to their widest. “Really? Who told you how to do it?”

“Oh, I have known all about it for years,” said Dulce, airily.

Every one is getting interested now even Roger looks up from his book. His quarrel with Dulce on the night of her ball has been tacitly put aside by both, and though it still smoulders and is likely at any moment to burst again into a flame, is carefully pushed out of sight for the present.

“Does it take long to make jam?” asks Sir Mark, putting in his query before Stephen Gower, who is also present, can say anything.

“Well it quite depends,” says Dulce, vaguely. She conveys to the astonished listeners the idea that though it might take some unfortunately ignorant people many days to produce a decent pot of jam, she experienced as she is in all culinary matters can manage it in such a short time as it is not worth talking about.

Everybody at this is plainly impressed.

“Cook is such a bad hand at plum jam,” goes on Miss Blount, with increasing affectation, that sits funnily on her, “and Uncle Christopher does so love mine. Don’t you, Uncle Christopher?”

“It is the best jam in the world,” says Uncle Christopher, promptly, and without a blush. “But I hope you won’t spoil your pretty white fingers making it for me.”

“Oh, no, I shan’t,” says Dulce, shaking her head sweetly. “Cook does all the nasty part of it; she is good enough at that.”

“I wonder what the nice part of it is?” says Roger, thoughtfully.

There is no nice part; it is all work hard work, from beginning to end,” returns his fiancee, severely.

“I shan’t eat any more of it if it gives you such awful trouble,” says Dicky Browne, gallantly but insincerely; whereupon Roger turns upon him a glance warm with disgust.

“Dulce,” says the Boodie, who is also in the room, going up to Miss Blount, whom she adores, and clasping her arms round her waist; “let me go and see you make it; do,” coaxingly. “I want to get some when it is hot. Mamma’s jam is always cold. Darling love of a Dulce, take me with you and I’ll help you to peel them.”

“Let us all go in a body and see how it is done,” says Sir Mark, brilliantly. A proposal received with acclamations by the others, and accepted by Dulce as a special compliment to herself.

They all rise (except Sir Christopher) and move towards the hall. Here they meet Fabian coming towards them from the library. Seeing the cavalcade, he stops short to regard them with very pardonable astonishment.

“Where on earth are you all going?” he asks; “and why are Dulce’s arms bare at this ungodly hour? Are you going in for housepainting, Dulce, or for murder?”

“Jam,” says Miss Blount proudly.

“You give me relief. I breathe again,” says Fabian.

“Come with us,” says Dulce, fondly.

He hesitates. Involuntarily his eyes seek Portia’s. Hers are on the ground. But even as he looks (as though compelled to meet his earnest gaze) she raises her head, and turns a sad, little glance upon him.

“Lead, and I follow,” he says to Dulce, and once more they all sweep on towards the lower regions.

“After all, you know,” says Dulce, suddenly stopping short on the last step of the kitchen stairs to harangue the politely dressed mob that follows at her heels, “it might, perhaps, be as well if I went on first and prepared cook for your coming. She is not exactly impossible you see, but to confess the truth she can be at times difficult.”

“What would she do to us?” asks Dicky, curiously.

“Oh! nothing, of course; but,” with an apologetic gesture, “she might object to so many people taking possession of her kingdom without warning. Wait one moment while I go and tell her about you. You can follow me in a minute or two.”

They wait. They wait a long time. Stephen Gower, with watch in hand, at last declares that not one or two, but quite five minutes have dragged out their weary length.

“Don’t be impatient; we’ll see her again some time or other,” says Roger, sardonically, whereupon Mr. Gower does his best to wither him with a scornful stare.

“Let us look up the cook,” says Sir Mark, at which they all brighten up again and stream triumphantly towards the kitchen. As they reach the door a sensation akin to nervousness makes them all move more slowly, and consequently with so little noise that Dulce does not hear their approach. She is so standing, too, that she cannot see them, and as she is talking with much spirit and condescension they all stop again to hear what she is saying.

She has evidently made it straight with cook, as that formidable old party is standing at her right hand with her arms akimbo, and on her face a fat and genial smile. She has, furthermore, been so amiable as to envelop Dulce in a second apron; one out of her own wardrobe, an article of the very hugest dimensions, in which Dulce’s slender figure is utterly and completely lost. It comes up in a little square upon her bosom and makes her look like a delicious over-grown baby, with her sleeves tucked up and her bare arms gleaming like snow-flakes.

Opposite to her is the footman, and very near her the upper housemaid. Dulce being in her most moral mood, has seized this opportunity to reform the manners of the household.

“You are most satisfactory, you know, Jennings,” she is saying in her soft voice that is trying so hard to be mistress-like, but is only sweet. “Most so! Sir Christopher and I both think that, but I do wish you would try to quarrel just a little less with Jane.”

At this Jane looks meekly delighted while the footman turns purple and slips his weight uneasily from one leg to the other.

“It isn’t all my fault, ma’am,” he says at length, in an aggrieved tone.

“No, I can quite believe that,” says his mistress, kindly. “I regret to say I have noticed several signs of ill temper about Jane of late.”

Here Jane looks crestfallen, and the footman triumphant.

“I wish you would both try to improve,” goes on Dulce, in a tone meant to be still dignified, but which might almost be termed entreating. “Do try. You will find it so much pleasanter in the long run.”

Both culprits, though silent, show unmistakable signs of giving in.

“If you only knew how unhappy these endless dissensions make me, I am sure you would try,” says Miss Blount, earnestly, which, of course, ends all things. The maid begins to weep copiously behind the daintiest of aprons; while the footman mutters, huskily:

“Then I will try, ma’am,” with unlooked-for force.

“Oh, thank you,” says Dulce, with pretty gratitude, under cover of which the two belligerents make their escape.

“Well done,” says Sir Mark at this moment; “really, Dulce, I didn’t believe it was in you. Such dignity, such fervor, such tact, such pathos! We are all very nearly in tears. I would almost promise not to blow up Jane myself, if you asked me like that.”

“What a shame!” exclaims Dulce, starting and growing crimson, as she becomes aware they have all been listening to her little lecture. “I call it right down mean to go listening to people behind their backs. It is horrid! And you, too, Portia! So shabby!”

“Now who is scolding,” says Portia; “and after your charming sermon, too, to Jennings, all about the evil effects of losing one’s temper.”

“If you only knew how unhappy it makes us,” says Dicky Browne, mimicking Dulce’s own manner of a moment since so exactly that they all laugh aloud; and Dulce, forgetting her chagrin, laughs, too, even more heartily than they do.

“You shan’t have one bit of my jam,” she says, threatening Dicky with a huge silver spoon; “see if you do! After all, cook,” turning to that portly matron, “I think I’m tired to-day. Suppose you make this jam; and I can make some more some other time.”

As she says this, she unfastens both the aprons and flings them far from her, and pulls down her sleeves over her pretty white arms, to Gower’s everlasting regret, who cannot take his eyes off them, and to whom they are a “joy forever.”

“Come, let us go up-stairs again,” says Dulce to her assembled friends, who have all suddenly grown very grave.

In silence they follow her, until once more the hall is gained and the kitchen forgotten. Then Dicky Browne gives way to speech.

“I am now quite convinced,” he says, slowly, “that to watch the making of plum jam is the most enthralling sport in the world. It was so kind of you, dear Dulce, to ask us to go down to see it. I don’t know when I have enjoyed myself so much.”

“We have been disgracefully taken in,” says Julia, warmly.

“And she didn’t even offer us a single plum!” says Mr. Browne, tearfully.

“You shall have some presently, with your tea,” says Dulce, remorsefully. “Let us go and sit upon the verandah, and say what we thought of our dance. No one has said anything about it yet.”

Though late in September, it is still “one of those heavenly days that cannot die.” The sun is warm in the heavens, though gradually sinking, poor tired god, toward his hard-earned rest. There are many softly-colored clouds on the sky.

Tea is brought to them presently, and plums for Dicky; and then they are all, for the most part, happy.

“Well, I think it was a deadly-lively sort of an evening,” says Mr. Browne, candidly, apropos of the ball. “Every one seemed cross, I think, and out of sorts. For my own part, there were moments when I suffered great mental anguish.”

“Well, I don’t know,” says Sir Mark, “for my part, I enjoyed myself rather above the average. Good music, good supper the champagne I must congratulate you about, Dulce and very pretty women. What more could even a Sybarite like Dicky desire? Mrs. George Mainwaring was there, and I got on capitally with her. I like a woman who prefers sitting it out, some times.”

“I don’t think I even saw Mrs. George,” says Dulce. “Was she here?”

“You couldn’t see her,” says Roger; “she spent her entire evening in the rose-colored ante-room with Gore.”

“What a shameless tarradiddle,” says Sir Mark.

“What did she wear?” asks Julia.

“I can’t remember. I think, however, she was all black and blue.”

“Good gracious!” says Dicky Browne, “has George Mainwaring been at it again? Poor soul, it is hard on her. I thought the last kicking he had from her brother would have lasted him longer than a month.”

“Nonsense, Dicky,” says Dulce; “I hear they are getting on wonderfully well together now.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” says Dicky, in a tone totally unconvinced.

“I don’t think she is at all respectable,” says Mrs. Beaufort, severely; “she she her dress was very odd, I thought

“There might, perhaps, have been a little more of it,” says Dicky Browne. “I mean, it was such a pretty gown, that we should have been glad to be able to admire another yard or two of it. But perhaps that terrible George won’t give it to her; and perhaps she liked herself as she was. ‘Nuda veritas.’ After all, there is nothing like it. ’Honesty is the best policy,’ and all that sort of thing eh?”

“Dicky,” says Sir Mark, austerely, “go away! We have had quite enough of you.”

“How did you all like the McPhersons?” Dulce asks, hurriedly.

“Now, there was one thing,” says Dicky, who is not to be repressed, “how could any fellow enjoy himself in the room with the McPhersons? That eldest girl clings on to one like ivy and precious tough old ivy too. She clung to me until I was fain to sit down upon the ground and shed salt and bitter tears. I wish she had stayed amongst her gillies, and her Highland flings, and those nasty men who only wear breeks, instead of coming down here to inflict herself upon a quiet, easy-going county.”

“Why didn’t you get her another partner, if you were tired of her?”

“I couldn’t. I appealed to many friends, but they all deserted me in my hour of need. They wouldn’t look at her. She was ’single in the field, yon solitary Highland lass.’ She wasn’t in the swim at all; she would have been as well I mean, much better at home.”

“Poor girl,” says Portia.

“She isn’t poor, she’s awfully rich,” says Roger. “They are all rich. They positively look at the world through a golden veil.”

“They’d want it,” says Dicky, with unrelenting acrimony; “I christened ’em the Heirs and Graces the boys are so rich, and the girls think themselves so heavenly sweet. It is quite my own joke, I assure you. Nobody helped me.” Here he laughs gaily, with a charming appreciation of his own wit.

“Did she dance well?” asks Stephen, waking up suddenly from a lengthened examination of the unconscious Dulce’s fair features. An examination, however, overseen by Roger, and bitterly resented by him.

“She didn’t dance at all, she only galumphed,” says Dicky, wrathfully. “She regularly took the curl out of me; I was never so fatigued in my life. And she is so keen about it, too; she will dance, and keeps on saying, ’Isn’t it a pity to lose this lovely music?’ and so on. I wished myself in the silent grave many times.”

“Well, as bad as she is, I’d make an even bet she will be married before her sister,” says Stephen.

“I don’t think either of them will be married before the other,” says Mr. Browne, gloomily; “one might go much farther than them without faring worse. I laughed aloud when at last I got rid of the elder one; I gave way to appropriate quotation; I fell back on my Wordsworth; I said:

’Nor am I loth, but pleased at heart,
Sweet (?) Highland girl, from thee to part.’”

The query represents the expression of Mr. Browne’s face as he mentions the word that goes before it.

“Well done, Dicky!” says Sir Mark.

“What has Dicky been saying now?” asks Fabian, who has been wandering in a very sad dreamland, and just come back to a sadder earth at this moment. “Has he been excelling himself?”

“I’ll say it all over again for you, if you like,” says Dicky, kindly; “but for nobody else.”

“Thanks, but later on,” says Fabian, smiling.

He is sitting near Portia, but not very near. Now Dicky, filled with a desire to converse with Miss Vibart, gets off his seat and flings himself on a rug at her feet. Sir Mark, who is always kindly, though a trifle cynical at times, and thoughtful towards those he likes, is displeased at this change that Dicky has made. Fabian he likes nay, if there be one friend in the world he loves, it is Fabian Blount. Portia, too, is a favorite of his, so great a favorite that he would gladly see her throw some sunshine into Fabian’s life. To make these two come together, and by Portia’s influence to induce Fabian to fling away from him and to conquer the terrible depression that has desolated his life ever since the fatal affair of the forged check, has become one of Sir Mark’s dearest dreams.

Now it seems to him that when Fabian has so far overcome his settled determination to avoid society as to find a seat beside Portia, and to keep it for at least an hour, it is a vile thing in the thoughtless Dicky to intrude his person where so plainly it is not wanted.

Making some idle excuse, he brings the reluctant Dicky to his side.

“Can’t you keep away from them?” says Sir Mark, in an angry whisper.

“Away from whom?” asks Dicky, resentfully.

“From them,” with a gentle motion of the hand in the direction of Portia and Fabian.

“What on earth for?” says Dicky Browne, still more resentfully.

“Don’t you see he likes her?” says Sir Mark, meaningly.

“I suppose he does,” says Dicky Browne, obtusely. “I like her too. We all like her.”

“Of course, my dear fellow, one can quite understand that she is about as likeable a person as I know; but er don’t you see he wants to be alone with her.”

“I don’t doubt him,” says Dicky Browne. “So should I, if I got the chance.”

Sir Mark shrugs his shoulders; there isn’t much to be got out of Dicky.

“That goes without telling,” he says; “you are always prowling around after her, for no reason that I can see. But you haven’t grasped my idea, he he’s in love with her, and you aren’t, I suppose?”

“I don’t see why you should suppose anything of the kind,” says Dicky, bitterly aggrieved because of the word “prowling.” “I can be as much in love with her as another, can’t I, if I like? In fact,” valiantly, “I think I am in love with her.”

“Oh, you be hanged!” says Sir Mark, forcibly, if vulgarly, turning away from him in high disgust.

“Well, you needn’t cut up so rough about nothing,” says Dicky, following him. “He has had his chance of being alone with her, now, hasn’t he? and see the result.”

And when Sir Mark turns his eyes in the direction where Portia sits, lo! he finds Fabian gone, and Miss Vibart sitting silent and motionless as a statue, and as pale and cold as one, with a look of fixed determination in her beautiful eyes, that yet hardly hides the touch of anguish that lies beneath.

Meantime Dulce and Roger are sparring covertly, but decidedly, while Julia, who never sees anything, is fostering the dispute by unmeant, but most ill judging remarks. Stephen Gower has gone away from them to have a cigarette in the shrubberies.

Sir Mark and Dicky Browne are carrying on an argument, that in all human probability will last their time.

“I can’t bear Mrs. Mildmay,” says Dulce, apropos of nothing. Mrs. Mildmay is the Rector’s wife, and a great friend of Roger’s.

“But why?” says Julia, “she is a nice little woman enough, isn’t she?”

“Is she? I don’t know. To me she is utterly distasteful; such a voice, and such

“She is at least gentle and well-mannered,” interrupts Roger, unpleasantly.

“Well, yes, there is a great deal in that,” says Julia, which innocent remark incenses Dulce to the last degree, as it gives her the impression that Julia is taking Roger’s part against her.

“I daresay she is an angel,” she says, fractiously; “but I am not sufficiently heavenly-minded myself to admire her inanitiés. Do you know,” looking broadly at Roger, “there are some people one hates without exactly knowing why? It is, I suppose, a Doctor Fell sort of dislike, ‘the reason why I cannot tell,’ and all that sort of thing.”

“I don’t believe you can, indeed,” says Roger, indignantly.

“Don’t you?” says Dulce.

“My dear Roger, if you eat any more sugar, you will ruin your teeth,” says Julia. Roger, who has the sugar bowl near him, and is helping himself from it generously, laughs a little. Julia is a person who, if you wore a smoking cap even once in your life, would tell you it would make you bald; or if you went out without a veil, you would have freckles for the rest of your life and so on.

Don’t eat any more,” says Julia, imploringly; “you can’t like that nasty white stuff.”

“Oh! doesn’t he?” says Dulce, sarcastically. “He’d eat anything sweet. It isn’t three days ago since he stole all my chocolate creams, and ate them every one.”

“I did not,” says Roger.

“Yes, he did,” declares Dulce, ignoring Roger, and addressing herself solely to Julia. “He did, indeed, and denied it afterwards, which just shows what he is capable of.”

“I repeat that I did not,” says Roger, indignantly. “I found them certainly in your room up-stairs your sitting-room but I gave them to the Boodie.”

“Oh! say so,” says Miss Blount, ironically.

“Chocolate creams!” says the small Boodie, emerging from an obscure and unexpected corner. “What about them? Where are they? Have you any, mamma?”

You ought to know where they are,” says Dare, flushing; “you ate them.”

“When?” asks the Boodie, in a searching tone.

“Yes, indeed, when?” repeats Dulce, unpleasantly.

“You remember the day Roger gave you some, don’t you, darling?” says the darling’s mamma, with the kindly intention of soothing matters.

“No, I don’t,” says the uncompromising Boodie, her blue eyes wide, and her red lips apart.

“Do you mean to tell me I didn’t give you a whole box full the day before yesterday?” exclaims Mr. Dare, wrathfully, going up to the stolid child, and looking as if he would like to shake her.

“Day before yesterday?” murmurs the Boodie, with a glance so far from the present moment that it might be in Kamtschatka.

“Yes, exactly, the day before yesterday!” says Roger, furiously.

“How could I remember about that?” says the Boodie, most nonchalantly.

“Oh, don’t scold the poor child,” says Dulce, mildly, “she won’t like it; and I am sure she is not in fault. Go away, Boodie, Roger doesn’t like being shown up.”

“Shown up! Upon my life I gave her those vile bon-bons,” says Mr. Dare, distractedly, “If I wanted them couldn’t I buy them? Do you suppose I go round the world stealing chocolate creams?”

At this, poor Julia getting frightened, and considering the case hopeless, rises from her seat and beats a most undignified retreat. This leaves the combatants virtually alone.

“There is hardly anything you wouldn’t do in my opinion,” says Dulce, scornfully.

A pause. Then:

“What a temper you have!” exclaims Roger, with the most open contempt.

“Not so bad as yours, at all events. Your face is as white as death from badly suppressed rage.”

“It is a pity you can’t see your own,” says Roger slowly.

“Don’t speak to me like that, Roger,” says Dulce, quickly, her eyes flashing; “and and say at once,” imperiously, “that you know perfectly well I have the temper of an angel, in comparison with yours.”

“Would you have me tell a deliberate lie?” says Roger, coldly.

This brings matters to a climax. Silence follows, that lasts for a full minute (a long time in such a case), and then Dulce speaks again. Her voice is quite changed; out of it all passion and excitement have been carefully withdrawn.

“I think it is time this most mistaken engagement of ours should come to an end,” she says, quite quietly.

“That is as you wish, of course,” replies he. “But fully understand me; if you break with me now, it shall be at once and forever.”

“Your manner is almost a threat,” she says. “It will be difficult to you, no doubt, but please do try to believe it will be a very great joy to me to part from you ‘at once and forever.’”

“Then nothing more remains to be said; only this: it will be better for you that Uncle Christopher should be told I was the one to end this engagement, not

“Why?” impatiently.

“On account of the will, of course. If you will say I have refused to marry you, the property will go to you.”

“That you have refused me!” says Miss Blount, with extreme indignation. “Certainly, I shall never say that never! You can say with truth I have refused to marry you, but nothing else.”

“It is utter insanity,” says Roger, gravely. “For the sake of a ridiculous whim, you are voluntarily resigning a great deal of money.”

“I would resign the mines of Golconda rather than do that. I would far rather starve than give you the satisfaction of saying you had given me up!”

As she has a very considerable fortune of her own that nothing can interfere with, she finds it naturally the very simplest thing in the world to talk lightly about starvation.

“What should I say that for?” asks Roger, rather haughtily.

“How can I tell? I only know you are longing to say it,” returns she, wilfully.

“You are too silly to argue with,” protests he, turning away with a shrug.

Running down the steps of the balcony, Dulce, with her wrath still burning hotly within her, goes along the garden path and so past the small bridge, and the river, and the mighty beeches that are swaying to and fro.

Turning a corner she comes suddenly upon Gower, who is still smoking cigarettes, and no doubt day-dreaming about her.

“You have escaped from everybody,” he says to her, in some surprise, Dulce being a person very little given to solitude or her own society undiluted.

“It appears I have not,” returns she, bitterly.

“Well, I shan’t trouble you long; I can take myself off in no time,” he says, good-humoredly, drawing to one side to let her pass.

“No no; you can stay with me if you care to,” she says, wearily, ashamed of her petulance.

Care!” he says, reproachfully; and then, coming nearer to her, “you are unhappy! Something has happened!” he says, quickly, “what is it?”

“Nothing unhappy,” says Dulce, in a dear, soft voice; “certainly not that. Something very different; something, indeed, I have been longing and hoping for, for weeks, for months, nay, all my life, I think.”

“And ” says Stephen.

“I have broken off my engagement with Roger.”

A great, happy gleam awakes within his dark eyes. Instinctively he takes a step nearer to her, then checks himself, and draws his breath quickly.

“Are you sure?” he says, in a carefully calm tone, “are you sure you have done wisely? I mean, will this be for your own good?”

“Yes, yes, of course,” with fretful impatience. “It was my own doing, I wished it.”

“How did it all come about?” asks he, gently.

“I don’t know. He has an abominable temper, as you know; and I well, I have an abominable temper, too,” she says, with a very wintry little smile, that seems made up of angry, but remorseful tears. “And

“If you are going to say hard things of yourself I shall not listen,” interrupts Gower, tenderly; “you and Roger have quarreled, but perhaps, when time makes you see things in a new light, you will forgive, and

“No, never! I am sure of that. This quarrel is for now and forever!’”

She repeats these last four words mechanically words that bear but the commonest meaning to him, but are linked in her mind with associations full of bitterness.

“And you have no regrets?” regarding her keenly.

“None.”

“And does no faintest spark of love for him rest in your heart? Oh, Dulce, take care!”

“Love! I never loved,” she says, turning her large eyes full on his. “I have seen people who loved, and so I know. They seem to live, think, breathe for each other alone; the very air seemed full of ecstasy to them; every hour of their day was a divine joy; but I what have I known of all that?”

She pauses and lays her hand upon her heart.

“And he?” asks Gower, unwisely.

She laughs ironically.

“You have seen him,” she says. “Not only that, but you have surely seen us together often enough to be able to answer your question for yourself. A very rude question, by-the-by.”

“I beg your pardon,” says Gower, heartily ashamed of himself.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” says Dulce, throwing out one hand in a quick, nervous fashion. “Nothing matters much, does it? And now that we are on it, I will answer your question. I believe if I were the only woman in the world, Roger would never have even liked me! He seemed glad, thankful, when I gave him a release; almost,” steadily, “as glad as I was to give it!”

Were you glad!” asks Gower, eagerly. Going up to her, he takes her hand and holds it with unconscious force in both his own.

“Am I to think that you doubt me?” she says with a frown.

“Shall I ever have occasion to doubt you?” says Gower, with sudden passion. “Dulce! now that you are free, will you listen to me? I have only one thought in the world, and that is you, always you! Have I any chance with you? My darling, my own, be kind to me and try to take me to your heart.”

The tears well into her eyes. She does not turn from him, but there is no joy in her face at this honest outburst, only trouble and perplexity, and a memory that stings. There is, too, some very keen gratitude.

You at least do not hate me, she says, with a faint, sobbing cadence in her voice, that desolates, but sweetens it. Her lips quiver. In very truth she is thankful to him in a measure. Her heart warms to him. There is to her a comfort in the thought (a comfort she would have shrunk from acknowledging even to herself) in the certainty that he would be only too proud, too pleased, to be to her what another might have tried to be but would not. Here is this man before her, willing at a word from her to prostrate himself at her feet, while Roger

“Hate you!” says Gower, with intense feeling. “Whatever joy or sorrow comes of this hour, I shall always know that I really lived in the days when I knew you. My heart, and soul and life, are all yours to do with as you will. I am completely at your mercy.”

“Do not talk to me like that,” says Dulce, faintly.

“Darling, let me speak now, once for all. I am not perhaps just what you would wish me, but try to like me, will you?”

He is so humble in his wooing that he would have touched the hearts of most women. Dulce grows very pale, and moves a step away from him. A half-frightened expression comes into her eyes, and shrinking still farther away, she releases her hand from his grasp.

“You are angry with me,” says Stephen, anxiously, trying bravely not to betray the grief and pain her manner has caused him; “but hear me. I will be your true lover till my life’s end; your will shall be my law. It will be my dearest privilege to be at your feet forever. Let me be your slave, your servant, anything, but at least yours. I love you! Say you will marry me some time.”

Oh, no no NO!” cries she, softly, but vehemently, covering her eyes with her hands.

“You shall not say that,” exclaims he passionately; “why should I not win my way with you as well as another, now that you say that you are heart whole. Let me plead my cause?” Here he hesitates, and then plays his last card. “You tell me you have discarded Roger,” he says, slowly; “when you did so (forgive me), did he appeal against your decision?”

“No,” says Dulce, in a tone so low that he can scarcely hear her.

“Forgive me once more,” he says, “if I say that he never appreciated you. And you where is your pride? Will you not show him now that what he treated with coldness another is only too glad to give all he has for in exchange? Think of this, Dulce. If you wished it I would die for you.”

“I almost think I do wish it,” says Dulce, with a faint little laugh; but there is a kindness in her voice new to it, and just once she lifts her eyes and looks at him shyly, but sweetly.

Profiting by this gleam of sunshine, Gower takes possession of her hand again and draws her gently towards him.

“You will marry me,” he says, “when you think of everything.” There is a meaning in his tone she cannot fail to understand.

“Would you,” she says tremulously, “marry a woman who does not care for you?”

“When you are once my wife I will teach you to care for me. Such love as mine must create a return.”

“You think that now; you feel sure of it. But suppose you failed! No drawing back. It is too dangerous an experiment.”

“I defy the danger. I will not believe that it exists; and even if it did still I should have you.”

“Yes, that is just it,” she says, wearily. “But how would it be with me? I should have you, too, but ” Her pause is full of eloquence.

“Try to trust me,” he says, in a rather disheartened tone. He is feeling suddenly cast down and dispirited, in spite of his determination to be cool and brave, and to win her against all odds.

To this she says nothing, and silence falls upon them. Her eyes are on the ground; her face is grave and thoughtful. Watching her with deepest anxiety, he tells himself that perhaps after all he may still be victor that his fears a moment since were groundless. Is she not content to be with him? Her face how sweet, how calm it is! She is thinking, it may be, of him, of what he has said, of his great and lasting love for her, of

“I wonder whom Roger will marry now,” she says, dreamily, breaking in cruelly upon his fond reverie, and dashing to pieces by this speech all the pretty Spanish castles he has been building in mid-air.

“Can you think of nothing but him?” he says, bitterly, with a quick frown.

“Why should I not think of him?” says Dulce, quite as bitterly. “Is it not natural? An hour ago I looked upon him as my future husband; now he is less to me than nothing! A sudden transition, is it not, from one character to another? Then a possible husband, now a stranger! It is surely something to let one’s mind dwell upon.”

“Well, let us discuss him, then,” exclaims he, savagely. “You speak of his marrying. Perhaps he will bestow his priceless charms on Portia.”

“Oh, no!” hastily; “Portia is quite unsuited to him.”

“Julia, then?”

“Certainly not Julia,” disdainfully.

“Miss Vernon, then? She has position and money and so-called beauty.”

“Maud Vernon! what an absurd idea; he would be wretched with her.”

“Then,” with a last remnant of patience, “let us say Lilian Langdale.”

“A fast, horsey, unladylike girl like that! How could you imagine Roger would even look at her! Nonsense!”

“It seems to me,” says Stephen, with extreme acrimony, “that no one in this county is good enough for Roger; even you, it appears, fell short.”

“I did not,” indignantly. “It was I, of my own free will, who gave him up.”

“Prove that to him by accepting me.”

“You think he wants proof?” She is facing him now, and her eyes are flashing in the growing twilight.

“I do,” says Stephen, defiantly. “For months he has treated you with all the airs of a proprietor, and you have submitted to it. All the world could see it. He will believe you sorry by-and-by for what has now happened; and if he should marry before you, what will they all say what will you feel? What

She is now as pale as death. She lifts her hand and lays it impulsively against his lips, as though to prevent his further speech. She is trembling a little (from anger, she tells herself), and her breath is coming quickly and unevenly, so she stands for a moment collecting herself, with her fingers pressed against his lips, and then the agitation dies, and a strange coldness takes its place.

“You are sure you love me?” she asks, at length, in a hard, clear voice, so unlike her usual soft tones, that it startles even herself.

“My beloved, can’t you see it?” he says, with deep emotion.

“Very well, then, I will marry you some day. And and to-morrow it must be to-morrow you will let Roger know I am engaged to you? You quite understand?”

He does, though he will not acknowledge it even to himself.

“Dulce, my own soul!” he says, brokenly; and, kneeling on the grass at her feet, he lifts both her hands and presses them passionately to his lips.

They are so cold and lifeless that they chill him to his very heart.