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CHAPTER VII.

TWO PARTINGS..

She did not seem as dead, But fast asleep, and lay as tho' she smiled.— TENNYSON.

DICK's accident and illness left its results behind. Nothing seemed just the same as it had been before. Mrs. Stanley had never recovered the shock of the sudden intelligence, and though she was occasionally able to join the rest of the family downstairs, the occasions grew fewer and fewer, and at last the effort was given up entirely. Dick by degrees began to spend most of his time in his mother's room. He was strangely unlike the little Dick of old. He was no longer the turbulent little fellow that kept the whole house alive; he was contented to sit for hours by his mother's sofa, not talking to her, but holding her thin hand and looking

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wistfully at her face. Unknown to any one, his mother's illness was connected in his mind with his own accident, and though every one implied that she had been long ailing, and that this increase of weakness was only what was to have been expected, Dick guessed the truth that no one cared to reveal to him. The first time that he had been brought into his mother's room had upset him terribly, and no one, not even Nesta, nor his father, knew why. They supposed his nerves were weakened by the accident, and fancying they had been premature in the change, the experiment of his mother's room was not tried again for many days; but it was no nervous feeling that had overcome the child : it was the plain, selfevident fact of his mother's suffering, an undefined fear of what was to be, and a sense that was to haunt him through life, that he was in some way connected with it.

Newton still hung about the place, undecided whether to go. As long as he was there, a certain sort of pleasure still remained

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for him. The hours spent at Dick's bedside had come to an end; still so long as he was on the spot, there was always the hope, and often the reality, of Nesta's society. Sudden interviews at turns in the wood; unexpected glimpses at unexpected times; pleasant breakfasts when Nesta presided, and when he could perform a thousand little services at her bidding ; luncheons, which to him were agreeably lengthened by being the children's dinner, and where Nesta was sure to be present; and dinners, when the shortening day had ceased, and twilight had set in, and curtains were drawn, and lamps lighted, and he could watch her as she sat there, looking more charming than ever in her cloud of white muslin. Sometimes at dinner, too, Mr. Stanley would go himself with some little plateful to tempt his sick wife upstairs, and then there were no children to absorb attention, or to demand caution, and Newton and Nesta were left alone together. They had become so accustomed to these evenings that the little embarrassment felt at first had

completely subsided, and Nesta, forgetting her old restraint, talked, and laughed, and listened, and Newton, hoping still, found himself happy in the sense of her presence. The consciousness of a kind of sympathy between them strengthened in his mind, and he saw in her day by day just the woman he could admire, and love and cherish. On Nesta's part, their intercourse had become so natural that she had begun to regard him as a sort of brother, and sometimes she felt thankful that he was still there, still near her. But Newton knew that there must be an end to all this.

One evening Newton, coming into the drawing-room after dinner, found Nesta alone. She was sitting at the oblong table by the sofa, working. He drew the chair near her, and sat down. “Nesta,' he began, somewhat abruptly, ' I cannot go without asking you once more what my fate is to be. Heaven knows that I have given you my heart—my happiness lies in your hands. I will wait weeks, months, years, for you, if you will

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