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ness which had ended in making her ridiculous in her own sight and probably in his. And at the thought of this she dried her eyes and became scarlet and hot with shame by a new terror, that he must have seen through her constraint and silly flight, and with a man's natural vanity would have made a pretty near guess at its cause. Perhaps she thought, hoteyed with horror, he even knew the cause men were so odd, her husband might have mentioned his curious whim to him. And so in a pitiful state of mortification she spent the evening, sometimes blaming him, sometimes herself. However, when next morning came, she did the only thing which was left to her. She wrote him a little note saying how sorry she had been to leave him so suddenly, but she had felt overcome.
With the despatch of this she came to the quiet determination to receive him when he next came as she used in John's time, as an old friend without any constraint. And the end of it all was that Biddulph some weeks after came again up the hill, with doubts in his heart as to his reception, and was met with a warmth of manner which pleased, but left him more puzzled than ever at the ways of women, and widows especially.
Although Mary did not keep this up always, and some of her old constraint returned to her at times, yet it must have been only in a small degree, for gradually Biddulph found, living as he did only four miles away, that somehow or other most of his drives led past the "Borrowed Plume," and something always went wrong with the harness, or the mare wanted watering, or he had some business information to communicate which necessitated his getting down. She was lonely,
he would tell himself, and he owed it to poor John to take care of her. For there is always a certain satisfaction in looking after a pretty woman, and telling yourself that there is not a touch of sentiment in the feeling. For Biddulph had convinced himself of this, and told himself a dozen times a-day that it was only so.
Mary on these visits received him in varying moods, and used to make a point of mentioning something connected with John. It was like a prayer uttered before going into battle.
But gradually she got very used to his visits, and found herself looking forward to them; for life was monotonous, and even Biddulph's heavy facetiousness was a relief. The old emotions which had made her lose her head when first he called were dormant, but only dormant. Even the jar had lost its import, and was now always on her dressing-table. Mary even had thought of taking it downstairs, but lacked the courage. But Annie had come into her bedroom one day, and yielding to a sudden impulse, had taken up the jar and looked at it, saying, "Let's put it in the parlour. It's lost up here."
Then she remembered with a heightening of colour her last defeat in this direction; but, somewhat to her surprise, Mary said nothing but only nodded, and in triumph the blue jar was carried down and put on the old Jacobean dresser in the parlour which John had loved so well.
About this time a long course of self-deceit came to a climax with Henry Biddulph, resulting in mental perturbations and indecision to which he was little accustomed, and which was wearing his "too, too solid flesh" away with worry.
He had to decide one way or another what was honestly his position to Mary Tilbury. He had woke up one morning and realised suddenly, as he stared at his towel-horse, that he was a fraud, and he ought at once to acknowledge that his feelings had drifted into quite another channel since he had begun to set himself a course of dutiful attentions to his old friend's widow.
And as Henry Biddulph was an honest man and given to making up his mind suddenly, he sat down to breakfast with the firm determination that he would put matters to the test and settle it one way or another. Then he worked himself almost into a brain-fever thinking how he was to do it, and finally drove off with a new hat and gloves, his best whip, and a huge carnation of brilliant hue in his coat.
Mary was in the garden when he arrived, but came in soon after. Her hair was disarranged, and she was looking very pretty, dressed in pink cotton, and when she saw Biddulph a woman's intuition told her that her trial had come. Almost unconsciously she sat down. facing the jar. It seemed to give her help.
Now that Biddulph had come, all his courage had fled, and he talked about everything except what he had come for, casting about how to begin.
At last his wits and his courage came to his rescue, and with that solemnity of manner which shyness always imparted to him he said
"Mrs Tilbury, don't you find it very dull here?"
"Dull? not at all," was the prompt reply, and then the voice fell," though things are different now."
"You? Why, you've lived alone for-well, all your life."
"Yes; but I can't do it much longer. I suppose I shall have to marry."
"Suppose!" cried Mary, ironically; "you must not sacrifice yourself. There are other ways out of the difficulty-you might live with your sister."
"I once thought," said Biddulph, pursuing the even tenor of his remarks, for he was determined now to say his say, and she should not laugh him out of it"I once thought you might find it dull also. What is life alone?"
The question seemed to open a large field of speculation, and Mary stared hard at the table-cloth, her heart beating a little faster than she liked.
"And if I am dull and think of marriage, and you are dull, why should not you think of it also? I am sure, if you would have married me, I could have made you happy," he went on, and his words were like the man, very simple. "I'd stand by you and love you."
Mary winced and the colour left her face, for he had unwittingly used the same words as John had done when speaking of him.
She looked up at him, and her glance took in the blue jar. It seemed to be watching her and waiting for her answer.
"You are very good," she said, tremulously, "to think of me; but there are reasons why I could not marry you." "Sure?" "Yes."
"Perhaps it is too soon? But John would not have minded, I'm sure." He spoke almost as if to himself. It seemed quite natural to refer to her dead husband. They "I find living alone very dull," had all been great friends, and he said Henry, stolidly.
knew he was doing nothing un
loyal. But it was useless, so he only sighed and felt slightly puzzled. The possibility of being refused had never occurred to him. But with
a fine instinct he tried to disem
barrass her, and putting on a sudden and painfully artificial air of cheerfulness, he let his eyes wander round the room, desperately thinking of something to say, while Mary folded her handkerchief into various shaped packets and wished the interview was over. "Pooty piece, that dresser," remarked Henry, after a constraining pause, when he was ready to say anything to break the silence. "And the jar-the blue one. I likes its colour. Looks lovely with that light on it, eh! What's wrong?"
Mary's head was bowed forward. Was she crying? And becoming cumbrously solicitous, Henry got up and stood by her side. He even took her hand, for there was no resistance, only sobs.
"I haven't hurt yer, have I?”
said Henry, the perspiration standing on his forehead from stress of anxiety. "I wish I hadn't come. We were good friends, and now you think badly of me. And only yesterday, I thought you'd have been so pleased! I was going to tell you that I'd found the double of that jar, the very brother of it. I saw it in Cokeford. I seemed to know it at once."
"Why did you not say so before?" murmured Mary from the middle of her handkerchief.
"Say it earlier," repeated Henry, in a perplexed manner,- "what? that I liked the jar? Why not? I forgot the match I found, when you would not have me." "Oh, you hurried me so."
What, will yer have me and t'other blue jar?"
And for answer Mary looked up and smiled.
And old John Tilbury had his way, and Henry Biddulph reigned in his stead.
H. GARTON SARGENT.
EVOLUTION AND THE AMATEUR NATURALIST.
THE sun has risen over the great eastern plain that now constitutes the German Ocean. From his dwelling place, consisting of a riverside cave, the entrance of which is screened by roughly interlaced branches, strides one of our ancestors of the early stone age. He is a brawny, hirsute savage, hard-featured and ruddy like a modern tramp, with his face and naked limbs stippled over with tattoo marks. His dress, such as it is, is made of skins of the deer and wild cat, and is drawn together by a belt hold ing a flint axe. In his hand is his bow, and hanging behind his left shoulder a rough quiver of flint-tipped arrows. After a keen look at the sky and up and down the valley, he moves stealthily away among the bracken and brambles towards a spot where the spotted deer of the forest are wont to drink at the stream. As he steps silently along, his eyes and ears are alert for the least indication of the presence of prey or of dangerous neighbours. A hundred facts have already been observed and commented upon (although perhaps unconsciously) before he arrives at the river-bank. He has, in fact, during this short "journey to business" been reading his morning paper, including the Weather Forecast, the News of the Night, and the State of the Markets as they affect his own special calling. As is the case with most of us when we read our modern newspapers, many of the items displayed before his eyes do not awake any interest. For instance, the varnished petals of the buttercups which reflect the golden sunlight are there to catch
the attention of the wild bees, which are already fussing around them. Such advertisements do not concern him at all, and he does not trouble himself about them any more than we trouble ourselves about the wants of people with whom we have no points of contact. As he nears the trampled spot where the thirsty herds approach the water he hears the shrill cackle of a blackbird away in the forest some hundred paces beyond the deer-path, and the screech of a jay accompanied by the warning "pink pink" of a pair of chaffinches coming from a spot nearer to him. Instantly he slips behind the bole of a tree, and stands motionless and alert with an arrow upon the string, for he has received sure intelligence that some beast of prey is prowling near, and it is necessary that he should gain the fullest information before proceeding. As he stands there, still as the tree trunks about him, do you imagine that his mind (although the nearest alphabet is fifty thousand years off in the future) is sluggish or inactive? It would be well for us if we could bring such keen and apposite thoughts to bear upon our avocations whenever we wished as those which are now coursing through his brain! A dozen different theories, suggested by the signs, are being sifted with lightning rapidity and with masterly discretion by the machinery inside of that rugged, weather-beaten head. At the same moment every faculty is keenly astretch for further information which may aid in the conclusion he must come to before he stirs hand or foot. Is it merely a belated fox slinking
home to his earth in the oak-grove? He knows that fox well, and all his kindred within an area of several square miles. Or is some larger and more terrible beast, some huge brindled machairodus, or cave-bear, prowling among the woods in front of him? Within a few minutes while he stands there, scarcely moving an eyelid, he has received news enough from the disturbed birds and beasts in the valley to fill a column in the Times.' By comparing the different notes of alarm which reach his ears he learns at length that there are two sources of provocation afoot: one is comparatively near to him, and is merely a fox or wild cat, he cannot tell which—for the chaffinches and the jays have the same name for both; but the other, where first he heard the blackbird's vehement outcry, is a larger beast, which, from the shifting cries of protest, seems passing slowly down the river - bank.
As far as he can judge, considering its beat and the time of day, it is a sabre-toothed tiger on the prowl for deer. These conclusions have been come to, not only through the gathering of innumerable facts, but by means of elaborate logical processes, and a power of judging the comparative value of evidence which would do credit to a modern Lord Chancellor.
At length he cautiously moves forward and comes upon the slot of the antlered herd. A glance tells him that they have been startled before reaching the brook, and have made their way at headlong speed back into the forest. Further scrutiny of the ground reveals the fact that a huge machairodus has leaped from behind a bush, has clawed the flank of one deer without seizing it, and after galloping clumsily some twenty
yards after the herd, has given up the pursuit, and turned down the river-bank in the direction from whence came the blackbird's shriek of warning. The keen eyes of the savage wander over the ground in search of one further piece of evidence of the utmost importance. At length he sees where the hoof of a flying hind has displaced a pebble. Bending down and shading his eyes from the dazzling sunlight, he examines the damp surface of the stone intently; and when he rises, ten seconds later, he could tell you, if you were to ask him, that the events recorded in the writing on the ground happened almost exactly half an hour before he arrived at the spot! If he were ready to reveal his methods you would probably learn that in making this calculation he took account of the temperature of the air, the direction of the wind, the character of the pebble and of the soil in which it had lain embedded. Plainly such problems could not be solved with success without an immense and most accurate knowledge of natural phenomena, an alert imagination, and logical ability of no mean order.
We will now wish him "good hunting," and return across the centuries. For, although it would be very interesting to accompany him on his day's round and watch his method of getting a living, we have "other fish to fry "; and having, I think, captured what we want for the purpose during our early excursion, we will no longer embarrass our archaic progenitor with our clumsy civilised ways.
Whether or no this imaginary family portrait is correct in its details, I think we may be tolerably positive as regards one particular. It was an invariable and essential mental habit with him