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As they sat down Lady Betty contrived without notice to wipe her eyes with her hand. The next moment she was chatting to Hugh Sinclair in very tolerably archaic English. The ringlets she wore became her small and dainty-featured face, and she could afford to wear a dress which trusted to natural qualities. So could Bertha Mostyn, her friend, whose blond ringlets fell prettily over a high complexion. The men were sumptuous in lace and velvet; but their short hair gave them—and more especially Fairbrother-something of an appearance of Roundheads who had rifled their enemies' wardrobes. But Lord Mereworth wore his strange dress easily, as did Hugh Sinclair, a dark youth with rather a Roman face. Arthur Fairbrother, it was to be confessed, looked uncomfortable, and palpably dressed up, and his smile was a trifle rigid.
Truth to tell, his dinner had not been happy. The habit of 1660 suited him only in that it showed his sturdy calves, and they were hidden by the table. The language bothered him. He had tried conscientiously to get it up, but could never think of the phrase he wanted, whereas the others, who merely guessed at it, were never at a loss. Its strange terms gave them many opportunities for the chaff they loved, which they pushed to a point of rather forcible frankness. Mereworth and his friends were of a set which was quite free from any vulgarity there may be in prudery or mincingness of ex
pression: on the contrary, in its intimate moments it permitted itself much innocent plain-speaking, and the respectable Arthur Fairbrother had been shocked aforetime. On this occasion, the frankness of an earlier period assisting, he was most unhappy, and quite unable to respond. He should have reflected that the plainspeaking was a token of intimacy to him, since it would not have been used before a stranger not of their society; but he did not so reflect, and was the victim of an increasing embarrassment, which the others, in the jollity of the proceedings, did not notice. For even Lady Betty had been only once distressed, when her brother's little speech reminded her vividly of other times,-or perhaps she forced her gaiety to hide her feelings, and was too busy in doing so to remember poor Fairbrother's.
It was worse when she and Bertha Mostyn, her friend, were gone from the dining-room, and the three young men were left alone. I should have stated before that these five were the whole assembly, the two other people invited having made good excuses, or having felt unequal to the masquerade. Mereworth and Hugh Sinclair settled down to the telling of stories, and the stories were very frank and free, a pleasure being found in re-dressing old ones in archaic English - the archaism, of course, being much exaggerated, and recruited from many periods. Fairbrother was quite disgusted. He felt that the anticipated romance had
turned out very commonly, not remembering that such stories were by no means an unknown element of the conversation of 1660 England, and had been told with remarkable skill by its king. He sat rather sullenly, and his contribution to realism was mainly the drinking of a large quantity of claret and port in addition to that he had drunk at dinner. And wine, I regret to say, had never an amiable effect on Arthur Fairbrother, but inclined him to be quarrelsome. Mereworth, who for his share had been attentive to this part of the play, forgot to conciliate him, or took his sympathy for granted.
So another hour passed, while the red died out of the sky and the night grew black and cloudy. Then they went for a dish of tea to the drawingroom. A little later they decided to play cards; but Fairbrother, his sulkiness still on him, was disinclined. He watched them a while, and then said he would go back to the dining-room for another cup of claret.
"Odd's my life, the very thing!" cried Mereworth. "And we'll join you anon, sweet chuffikins. Or come back drunk, and we'll all love you." Lady Betty waved her hand, and brightly shook her ringlets. So Fairbrother went back to the dining-room, feeling dimly and quite wrongly that they were laughing at him.
The dining-room at Mereworth was separated from the drawing-room, which looked from the front of the house on to the wood, by the length and
breadth of the big hall, and its long windows looked on to the fields and the sea. The servants' quarters also, at the back of the house, were distant by its length, and they were celebrating their own especial feast. So that Fairbrother in the dining-room, gloomily drinking at the table, felt very much alone and deserted, and every bumper of claret intensified his discontent, and when he turned to port the effect was the same. The air of content you have seen him wear in London was rather due to physical wellbeing and social success than to a sunny temperament; and now that he had drunk not wisely and believed himself to be despised and neglected, his mood was extremely irritable. Being, however, with such faults as he may have had, a genuine Yorkshireman, his vague desire was to fight somebody rather than to sit sulking. He rose after a while, pushed his chair violently back, and began to pace the room angrily. He stopped opposite the portrait of Sir Eustace Flair and frowned at it. This was a nice sort of person (he reflected) for a family to commemorate a drunken, gambling blackguard. He had read the story in Grammont since his conversation with Mrs Ogilvie, being anxious to know what was to be known of the Flairs, and had read besides the story of Isabel Flair, Sir Eustace's sister, who made the formal garden round the corner; and he asked himself rather savagely if all the Flairs?He walked away to the long window, and opening it drank in
with a snort the air of a chilly May evening.
A man came out of the darkness suddenly and stood before him, and he stepped back a pace into the room. The man stepped in past him and stood in the light, and then Fairbrother stepped back again in amazement, for this man was neither Mereworth nor Sinclair, and yet he wore the habit they wore that night. He was tall and dark and handsome, and he wore black velvet and black silk stockings, and had a sword by his side. He smiled on Fairbrother, and saluted him with a sweep of a black plumed hat, which he then put again on his head.
"Who," said Fairbrother "who on earth are you?"
"Nay, look on me," said the other; 66 you should know your host."
"My host is Lord Mereworth.'
By your favour, kind sir. This is indeed Mereworth House, yet no lord am I, as I have a soul they tell me will be damned. And yet I am your host." He walked to the portrait of Sir Eustace Flair, and stood under it. "I am plain Sir Eustace Flair, at your service."
Fairbrother looked. There was indeed a very strong resemblance, and to Fairbrother's eye the portrait might well have been that of the intruder. Fairbrother put his hand to his forehead, and for a moment thought that the event might be a delusion of wine, or that he had fallen asleep and was dreaming. Then he thought it might be one of the disappoint
VOL. CLXV.-NO. MII.
ing guests, arrived late and unexpected. But no he knew they were not coming. He walked towards the door, but the stranger took a step quickly from the picture and put himself in front of it.
"You would leave your host somewhat suddenly. But I have answered your question, and you should answer mine. 'Tis needless, notwithstanding: you are Master Fairbrother, are you not?"
"How the devil did you know my name?"
"Good Master Fairbrother, you are welcome to my poor house, but you are not the most courteous guest it has received."
"Stand out of my way," said Fairbrother angrily, and taking hold of the stranger's arm he gave it a savage pull, which did not however move him from his position. But it caused a
change in the man's demeanour his smile vanished, and a flash of passion came into his face. "Uncivil churl!" he said, and struck Fairbrother with his open hand on the cheek. Fairbrother aimed a blow at his face, which he warded easily, and the next moment he had drawn his sword, and pointed it at Fairbrother's breast.
"If we're to fight, you and I," he said, passionately, "it shall be seriously. Draw your sword. Stay, it's not a gimcrack thing, is it? They gave it you here? Right, I see; I know it. Draw, damn you! Can you fence? I know you can; draw, if you're not a coward!”
"Yes, I can fence; but I'm not going to fight like a mad2 z
"Am I to have back my ring?" She met his eyes, perplexed. He had almost banished appeal from them, but his lips twitched.
"Honour, Betty. It pledges you to nothing but a feeling, and I shall never remind you. Am I to have back my ring?" "No, Herbert. I shall keep your ring.'
He gave a slow sigh of relief, and leaned back on the little green chair. Lady Betty spoke quickly, digging at the ground. "Understand, Herbert. This man - the man I'm going to marry-is fond of me, I know, and I don't dislike him. I'm going to be to be a good wife, you know."
"Yes, yes," he said, smiling; "I understand. But you care for me and you keep my ring. Of course I knew you'd marry -you can't help yourself-and I've not come back with a fortune at the right poetical moment. Tell me about it. It's money, I suppose?"
"You saw him last night. Bob says he was talking him when you went by."
"That fellow! Yes; I saw him, and I loathed him. I loathe the type. It's all right chopping wood or fighting in the ranks; but I can't stand it carrying its clumsy manners into drawing-rooms and giving the tone to all England. Curse him! A sleek, confident, stupid, purse-proud pig! Betty, I can't let you go to a creature like that."
Lady Betty laughed for the first time. "You'd have said something of that kind whoever it was, and he's not like that. He's rather a sportsman: he can fence awfully well, and
ride decently too. One of these days you'll have to like him, and we'll all be friends. Not now. You'd only quarrel with Bob if you came to us. You see he thinks you might spoil things. It's no use talking about it. Tell me about yourself."
"Oh, if you like He had gone to Coolgardie and worked like a nigger in a mine for some months. It was not amusing, but he said it relieved his feelings. Then he had fallen in with a man who was making a fortune there— a good fellow, a gentleman, and yet, more oddly, a scholar, and with it all a keen man of business-the only combination of the sort Herbert had met, and indeed it is strange to most of us, his seniors. This man liked to talk with him in long nights when it was too hot to sleep, and gave him work in his office, and lent him money for a speculation in which he had made £200. Whereupon he determined to come to England to spend it. His friend called him a fool, and said he would never be rich, but gave him leave to go. So he had come back, himself hardly knowing why-to leave his narrative for a moment - nor quite understanding the old memory and affection, which was hardly passion then, and yet drew his wavering steps more surely than his faint hope of moneymaking stayed them. But when he came, he dreaded the old friends for whom he did not care, and the questions to which he had so poor an answer. So he thought he
would avoid them all, and having seen Betty Flair only, and heard the certain news he expected, go back to the mining and his good friend, Holland.
"There's no use in my staying. I suppose you're going down to Mereworth for Whitsuntide. You gave up the old 31st custom after I was sent into exile, didn't you? That was nice of you."
"Yes; but this year Hugh Sinclair persuaded Bob to revive it."
"No? But I wish I were going. I suppose Bob wouldn't ask me? I'd leave England the next day, and it would be something to remember."
"Arthur Fairbrother's coming."
"Thank you, that's enough. He'll be a beautiful figure in a cavalier suit. You'll enjoy it immensely."
Herbert, dear, don't be a brute. I didn't wish to ask him, but Bob seems so anxious to please him." She lifted her little troubled face, and Herbert begged her pardon. Then he said: "I have one thing to say before you go. If you marry this Fairbrother chap you'll have ever so many thousands a-year, and all the English society you want. If you marry me. - no, wait till I've finished-you can come back to Coolgardie, and you'd be desperately dull. But you'd be treated with respect. And I'd work. Holland told me that if I once convinced him I'd put my back into it, and be devoted to the business and give all my mind to it, he'd see I made a