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Pooh, darling; I do bạt jest, though God knows I have little of mirth-material in me just now. Where was I?'.
"At the lady's beauty—'
"No, Hirell, at yours—if truth is above the world, as you Welsh people are always dinning into one. Hearken:
• The painter was a quiet, unobtrusive, gentlemanly sort of person, and the affair took the usual course, and there was another pair of fools in the world.
• Ab, what do you deserve, to speak so to me?' asked Hireil
“Give me, then, that which I deserve. What is it? A kiss ? Come, life is full of surprises. What if it were the last you were ever to give me?'
Let us only imagine it the last for the moment. We might be killed by lightning, you know, like the lovers of which our story book tells us. Come, one kiss; as if it were to be the last.'
There was such a mingling of the passionate, the tender, the stern, and the pathetic in his look and words, that Hirell, bewildered, knew not for the moment what to do.
I will be bribed,' said he, or I tell no story.' The kiss was given by a trembling lip, cold as ice-and a lip full of fire and determined purpose.
Hirell drew off a little from him, hardly knowing that she did so; but he noticed it, and went on at once with his story, with new vivacity.
The young lady accepted the artist's love, of course, even while he told her he had little of the world's goods. They were married; he took her away to go to their own future home. As they went, he had a fancy to show her one of the grand mansions of the country—the seat of an English noble. They went, just as we have gone to-day, only I am no English noble.'
"God forbid ! ejaculated Hirell—and so softly, that she must have fancied she spoke only to herself— but he heard.
'He took her through the gardens-showed her the envi. roning woods—the armorial bearings on the gate-took her through the stately reception-rooms and galleries-but
But what ?' said Hirell, in a tone that seemed to be intended to be playful, but was obviously under some inexplicable constraint.
The young wife, the beautiful maiden, could see none of ise things, for something else that she saw.'
Again he stopped, as if wilfully.
• That her painter-husband was lost to her in a single moment-as by the glance of her eye—which saw forms bending humbly on every side before him ; and when she turned in trembling wonder and affright to ask what all this meant, he simply said to her
"" All this is thine !”).
Oh how sweet! How beautiful ! * Very. But beauty is apt to be short-lived-even this beauty was so. The lady was much shaken by the news. No wonder. The life she had lived, and the life she was to live. were divided by an awful gulf. Do you not think so ? '
“Yes,' said Éirell, sadly. "Poor lady!' What would you have done, Hirelli
• Asked my husband to let me trust everything to his love and to God, and asked both to forgive me when I should fail.'
'He did not wait for her to ask.
He cheered her, quieted her, brought peace back into her soul. She accepted her duties gallantly, fulfilled them charmingly, bore him children, won everybody's love, and then
His voice ceased. The mournfulness of the tone of his last words remained like an echo in Hirell's heart, and she too was silent.
She could not tell what passed during the next few minutes, as she looked around, as she thought of the behaviour and looks of the man by her side, as she thought of herself, and the resemblance--could it be accidental ?-between the story just told and her own story, so far as she knew of it, even to the journey and to such a place as this. .
A little thrill or shiver ran through her, and she said in a piteous voice,
I am cold!' and was about to rise. But Cunliff said to
• Do you not wish to hear the end ?'
Strange to say, Hirell's absorbing interest in the story of the Lady of Burleigh could not prevent her forgetting all about it during those few eventful moments which passed after Cunliff had suspended his narrative. But now brought back to it, she said simply
"If you please!'
· Borne down by her secret sense of her unfitness, she sickened, and died within a very few years—three or four, I believe-in spite of all that the tenderest love could do for her. That is the story of the picture.'
*And of nothing more?' demanded Hirell, a change passing over her face.
• What more can there be ?'. "I ask you that.'
Again there was the little shiver; and then the eyes shut for a moment, then again opened and dilated as she went on, and said
Are you John Rymer-and such as I have thought you?' "I was John Rymer Cunliff, a plain English gentleman; I am Sir John Cunliff, and this place is mine! and all I have shown you.'
Did he purposely use words that Hirell could not but instantly contrast with those other words, ‘All this is thine' -or was it accidental ? Whatever it was, it did its work.
Hirell,' he began, 'I am here to-day with you to tell you the truth that it concerns us both to know. Listen to me, I entreat. I have done wrong. Shall I remedy that by more wrong? I have led an evil, indulgent life; that you have cured for me. Never forget that your God, whether He be my God or no, will reward you—He must. My rank, my tastes, my education, my duties, all now impel me to a public career. What that involves for my wife, in all sorts of ways'
"We shall be late, Mr. Rymer,' said Hirell, rising hurriedly.
"Pardon me, I will but detain you for a very brief space. In this place-look round you-nay look! and believe that I feel something at least of the religious awe you feel-here then, in the eye and ear of God, I swear to you that I love you dearly, that in my soul I believe I never can cease to love you, and that I would take you, if you were a beggar in the street-jf being what you are, you could also be that which
"Yes, yes. I understand. Spare me-now-if-'.
She caught his hand convulsively, and he, mistaking the cause—for she was, she thought, about to swoon and fall, cried out passionately, “Darling!
But the word, the tone, and the look revived her in time; and she, without heat, almost for the moment without agitation, removed his hands from her, and said in a kind of hollow whisper,
"We shall be late! Think how far we have to go. We shall be late. Oh!'
Nature could bear no more. She sat down again to avert the danger of his touch or a fall, and bending herself all of a heap, gave way to all the frenzies and agony of her young soul.
Hirell, I am pledged to marry you. If I cannot redeem the pledge itself, you must let me do the best I can. I shall settle on you an independent fortune.'
A cry, followed by a light, hysteric laugh, rang through the chapel, but was stopped in a minute or so; and the bending form was again still as death.
"Hirell, I do not expect you to agree with me to-day. I only want you to listen. Your father! Think of his poverty. Hugh-think of his genius, difficulties, and future career. Think of yourself—mistress of yourself—frec to move as you please-live as you please—where you please. Come, dearest, do not believe the day is to set in eternal gloom because the clouds are heavy for a little while. What am I? A man burdened with many follies, and, I fear, some vices. Can we not still be friends ? Not just now ;-but when the first bitterness shall have passed off ? Consider ! How much of all that our marriage might have given you might yet be yours-ah, how much you need still !
He stopped-Sir John Cunliff stopped, as if aware of the abyss on the very edge of which he stood, and looked down.
Hirell saw that abyss too-he was sure of it.
But she, like himself, was silent! And it is possible he drew auguries, evil as they were vague, of a possible future from the silence.
At last she lifted her head, and in doing so Cunliff saw the ruin he had wrought already only too plainly there visible. And before he could speak to assuage the anguish he had created, he saw Hirell's face confronting his own, fearless, proud, as he had never before seen her; her eyes searching through his with a kind of scornful light that seemed to burn them; then in deep silence she rose, her strength apparently recovered, and was about to leave the place alone.
'Hirell!' and Cunliff laid his hand upon her arm.
'Sir !' she said, turning coldly, while every limb shook as with ague.
"You shall not leave me thus-by Heaven you shall not!'
• What—what do you now wish ?' she said in great fear, and every word spoken with difficulty, as though her nervous system was suddenly paralysed.
That you try to think over in a calm and kindly spirit, what I have said to you.'
'I will !!
• Thanks. I will then say no more to you now; we must both try to think no more now, or how shall we get over the journey back?' •I shall go alone.'
Not while I live to prevent you. Hirell, this is not the way to deal with me. I love you and honour you, wish to do all that man can do to extricate us both from a false position : but if you begin to contend-to fight-to
“No-no-no. You will take me home, and by the time?' 'I will, on my soul.'
And-and-let me let me, do—yes—what you said-try to forget all this till we1-reach home!'.
'I will. And, if you wish it, will ride outside in both the vehicles, so that you shall not again be alone with me. Oh, Hirell! can you not trust me?'
The journey was, in effect, spent throughout in the deepest silence. Cunliff forgot his offer to ride outside, and Hirell's instinct warned her to shun every kind of antagonism. Cunliff spoke only when a favourable opportunity offered, and Hirell invariably replied to him either by a single word, or 'yes' or 'no,' or by a slight bend of the head. She had neither heart nor inclination to play a part—to seem to throw off the humiliation put upon her; all she desired was to draw herself shrinkingly into the corner as far as possible from her companion, and to be allowed to keep silent, so that when she wept he might not know of it, nor she be again niade to weep by him when the tears were awhile driven back upon their source.
He often saw her lips moving, and tortured himself by fancies of what the words might be.
They were for the most part little other than
• Father! Father! Kezia! Kezia! when shall I reach you? When ?—when ?'
Bod Elian was reached at last.
She let him ascend the hill with her, though her whole frame quivered at the thought of her father seeing him.