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* Have you seen Mrs. Rhys, of Dola' Hudol ?
No, indeed—why, Kezia, is she here ? 'asked Hirell. "Yes, it seems she is here—her groom is waiting; he came round to the kitchen window and asked me if she was ready. Do put up your hair, Hirell, and see about it.'
Hirell obediently raised her hands to twine up a long twisted roll that had escaped from the little brown felt hat. While she was doing so she glanced towards Rymer, and the thought struck her that she had never seen him so pale ; but the idea of the distinguished visitor whom she had to seek, the beautiful wife of Hugh's patron, had such complete possession of her mind that everything else was forgotten as she sprang over the fallen stones and passed under the light foliage of the orchard.
Kezia went back into the house, to see that it was fit for the expected guest.
When they were both gone, Rymer turned and looked up after them with a face full of intense and sad alarm.
He rose, feeling half stunned with the sense of some senseless calamity. Catherine here! what could have brought her? What but something worse than he dared think of?
All at once a cry reached his ears, and made his feet bound towards the spot it came from—up past the scattered stones, in under the trees.
He saw Hirell standing looking down upon the ground, and knew by her face it was she who had uttered the cry.
Before her at ber feet a beautiful form lay prostrate, its hands clasped over its head, its face crushed fatly to the damp earth beside a little spring. In the long riding-habit, it looked, as it lay, of peculiarly noble stature, and as still as death.
While Hirell stood pale and amazed, she saw Mr. Rymer lay his hands on the lady's shoulders and try to list her face from the ground, and heard him whisper in a hoarse voice
Catherine!' At that time a shudder shook the form and the hands unlocked. A face stained with earth was lifted suddenly. It was so shocking to see its youth, its beauty, its convulsive passion, its stains as from a grave, that Hirell burst out sobbing at the first sight of it.
Mr. Rymer looked up at her keenly-entreatingly
‘Be her friend—and mine,' he besought her ; 'some water -here, wet me this handkerchief.'
He tore it from the grasp of the little gauntleted hand. Hirell dipped it in the basin of the spring and brought it to him, and watched him touch the face with it very gently, though his hand might have been palsied to tremble as it did.
In a little while Hirell saw the lady make a sudden movement with her hand, as if to push back Mr. Rymer's, and he looked at her with a deep sorrow and tenderness, and said —
Catherine-Catherine-what made you do this ? '
She smiled at him-such a smile as Hirell had never seen before, cold, mysterious, cruel-she could not help gazing at Mr. Rymer's face to see how he received it, and she saw him turn yet a shade paler.
In another minute Mrs. Rhys was standing. She walked a few steps slowly, supporting herself by the trees—then more firmly and quickly, and without support, she went down the orchard steps, Rymer following her in silence.
Hirell found her hat upon the ground and went after them with it.
The groom was waiting at the door of the house with the two horses. Mrs. Rhys mounted with his assistance. Cunliff took her hat from Hirell and gave it to her, and she received it with the same peculiar smile.
Before her servant had mounted she had gone-leapt the field gate, and was galloping down the steep road at a fearful speed. Hirell looked at the groom and at Rymer, and with difficulty restrained from crying out.
Without a word Rymer seized the rein from the man's hand, leaped on his horse and followed.
Hirell ran to that part of the field from which she could see farther down the Dolgarrog road, and soon she saw the two horses abreast of each other, galloping towards Dola' Hudol.
Kezia saw her from the window, and came out.
• Did you see Mrs. Rhys, Hirell ? ' she asked. “Has she gone without coming in ? '
“She has gone. She came to see Mr. Rymer, and he has gone back with her.'
Surely ! how strange he knew them and has never been to Dola' Hudol before !' And Kezia went back to her breadmaking puzzled, and Hirell went to work proud, secretly proud, of her sagacity in understanding from a certain tone in Rymer's voice, when he said, 'Be her friend and mine,' that he wished this strange event to be kept a secret among those who had witnessed it.
Mr. Rhys was standing in the hall when he heard the horses coming up the park. He looked, wondering who such early visitors could be, and was greatly amazed to see his wife, whom he thought to be still in her own room. As she reined in sharply before him he looked at the gentleman who had ridden up with her to the door, and something in his pale, excited face riveted his eyes.
Cunliff saw Mrs. Rhys look from one to the other, and fall forward with a deadly sickness in her face; and motioning Rhys, exclaimed passionately, “Quick, quick, help her; she is
Rhys answered the appeal with a glance full of meaning, took his wife in his arms and lifted her gently to the ground.
As he turned he saw Cunliff dismounted standing before him, and bowing with deep respect, hat in hand.
'I must ask your pardon for this intrusion,' said he, in a clear, unfaltering voice. I have had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Rhys in London, and finding her this morning too unwell to be riding alone or in the charge of a servant, have ventured to accompany her home.'
"I thank you,' said Mr. Rhys; 'may I know to whom I am so deeply obliged ? '
‘My name is Cunliff.'
The question was asked and answered as they stood face to face. Cunliff, with one foot on the step, and the groor's thick, short whip in his hand ; Rhys, with his arm round his wife, as she leaned half fainting against him.
She seemed to feel the look with which the two men were regarding each other, for she shuddered, and slowly turned her face towards Cunliff. Then she turned it away with a sharp spasm of pain on her own, and looking at her husband, said
Owen, as Mr. Cunliff does not seem inclined, even in self-defence, to tell the story of my humiliation-I-must tell it myself.'
• Čatherine,' said Mr. Rhys sternly, "quiet yourself; go to your room. I will take care that Mr. Cunliff shall explain
That he will never do,' answered she.
"That he shall do before he leaves this house,' said Mr. Rhys, with extreme calmness.
Owen,' cried Catherine, turning upon him suddenly, 'do you know what you would hear of your wife ?-hear it from her own lips at least-would you have him tell you how I have been mistaken all this time—that I alone have been guilty in all this scandal—this misery?'.
You are excited, Catherine; you do not know what you are saying. Let me take you in. Come.'
'Do I not know what I am saying? Look at me, Owenlook into my face and see if you think I feel it a truth or not when I tell you that man does not love me.'
She had laid her hand on her husband's arm, and was looking up at him with a despair so deep and wild, it fascinated him. He gazed down at her with a great anguish, almost forgetting Cunliff's presence. He knew she spoke the truth, and he saw what the truth cost her.
‘Do you believe me?' she cried again, in a voiceless whisper. He does not love me.'
Still her husband gazed at her, and did not speak. .
"He does not love me,' said Catherine ; "it is not for my sake he is staying here. I went to warn him this morning of your anger, and saw who it is he is staying for, and learnt what I tell you, that he does not love me. I saw the one that he does love-I saw him with her. I saw him light-hearted and happy-while I—the sight nearly killed me, I fell down where I stood—and when I came to myself my mouth was full of earth, as if my teeth had tried to gnaw an opening to my grave. They found me, and tended, and were kind to me. I broke from them, and rode away madly in hopes some accident might happen to me before I reached you ; but you see he followed, and cherished and guarded me. Oh, thank him -thank him for the precious life he has saved. Oh, Owen, thank him!'
He felt the little hand relinquishing its hold upon his armhe knew the sudden rush of strength was failing—and he had scarcely time to seize both hands, before she sank at his feet white and stiff as if in death.
He looked across her at Cunliff.
His look was simply one of dismissal-pathetic and stern. There was no fury in it-no hatred. The sword of vengeance
which had been sharpened by one sorrow, was blunted by another.
Cunliff saw this-received the look with deep respectbowed low and turned away.
HIRELL did not mention to anyone the scene which she had witnessed in the orchard. Cunliff discovered this soon, and wondered at her silence upon the subject.
The next day Kezia came home from a visit to Dolgarrog, and brought the news that Dola' Hudol was deserted again—that Mr. Rhys had gone on a foreign tour, and that his wife had returned to her uncle's house. Hirell looked at Cunliff when Kezia had told them of this, and their eyes met, and were withdrawn in much embarrassment. In the evening, happening to meet her as he was crossing the orchard, he said to her
'How can I thank you for your kind considerate silence as to what took place here yesterday ?
Hirell was standing by the little spring near which Mrs. Rhys had lain; she had been thinking of the lovely stained face as Cunliff came towards her, and of his low passionate cry of Catherine !' and she seemed to hear it still in the murmur of the water.
'I shall never speak of it,' she said quietly.
“You are very kind. I thank you much.' He held out his hand. To have taken it, Hirell must have extended hers over the very spot where Mrs. Rhys had fallen. Perhaps she had been standing in the dusk and listening to the water till she had grown superstitious; for as Cunliff held out his hand she hesitated, looked down on the ground, and then up at him, with eyes sweet, sad, and questioning.
"Is it worth thanks to be silent on such a matter ?' she said gently.
• The best thanks of my heart.'
She did not take his hand, and he drew it back and went away from her in silence, and not without some humiliation.
Elias had been absent at the cattle fair of Dolgarrog all