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“ Little girls are such terrible fools that they rather
Expect in the hedges ripe peaches to gather,
HERE was dismay in Silchester next day.
Louisa Saint Osyth appeared not. Walter Nugent appeared. He turned up as lively as a bird, and was dreadfully shocked at Miss Saint Osyth's disappearance. Hew as the soul of suggestion. He rode to see the chief-constable of the county. He had bills printed offering a hundred pounds reward for the missing girl. He sent advertisements to all the papers of the neighbourhood. These things he kindly did, because the Reverend Arundel Saint Osyth,
thoroughly perp.exed and distraught, could imagine nothing to do, and was only too glad of an adroit and efficient helper.
Alas! the newspapers and the police did no good whatever, and nothing could be heard of Louisa Saint Osyth.
The excitement caused in the village of Silchester and its vicinity by the inexplicable disappearance of so charming a young lady as Louisa, is of course beyond description. Quite indescribable, as well may be imagined, was the state of mind of Silvester, who had been unable to sleep because his lady-love did not come to dinner, and who went into acute agony when her occult absence became known. While Walter Nugent was looking after the police and the newspapers, poor Silvester showed a fine capacity for doing nothing. He swore a little, and soliloquized much. His father, meeting him on the terrace, laughed at him.
“It is a mere logical dilemma, my boy,” quoth the Squire. “If he girl likes you, she has run away to pique you; and if the girl does not like you, she has run away to avoid you. Whichever it may be, the right thing to do is to wait till she comes back again.”
This did not console Silvester, who went away to get such solace as he could from his tried friend Walter Nugent.
The Squire, a sanguine man, as this history has shown, dismissed his son and Louisa from his mind. The girl has taken some wild freak (he thought)—tired of the Reverend Arundel perhaps, a man of whom one might easily tire. The boy has not thoroughly made up his mind. Likely enough, she has run away to get rid of him. Pooh, pooh ! let them fret and fight it out. This weak generation does not know how to go to work. Ah, by the way, that reminds me of Miss Silvia.
To his book-room went the Squire, and rang the bell, and ordered up his daughter.
“Sit down child,” he said; “I want to have a little talk with you.”
Silvia, the pluckiest little girl in England (the country of plucky girls), was rather frightened. A flush of distress flickered over her pretty face. She loved her father always, but she sometimes feared him; and it may
supposed that at this moment she had some slight reason for the latter feeling. He, not wishing to trouble his darling child, yet wishing to know what was in her heart, began thus :
“Silvia, my pet, what was the matter with you last night at dinner?”
“I don't know, Papa. Was there anything the matter with me?” “ Child! why are you not as frank with as your brother?
Do you know his secrets ?"
“No, indeed, Papa."
“I like the promptitude of that negative. It has never occurred to you that he was rather fond of Louisa Saint Osyth; yet he is tearing his hair terribly because Louisa is not to be found to-day.”
Silvia said nothing.
“Now," said the Squire, after several puffs of his pipe, “ I want you, child, to prove yourself-I won't say my daughter, but a daughter of the old house of Silchester. What's our motto, child ? "
“ God's aid, no fear,” said Silvia.
“Well, adhere to that. When your brother and Louisa found out they liked one another, your brother told me at once. My objection is solely the slight one that she is a trifle older than he. But why, my dear little Silvia, could you not tell me you had a fancy for Walter Nugent ?"
“ Because I don't like him a bit, Papa, said Silvia, in tears; “and he is so dreadfully persuasive, and I am afraid of him.”