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night under the cart. Now, Miss Raymond, the only plan left us is to go on as quick as we can to the Heronry. It's barely five miles from this, and the track is fortunately over level country. We ought to do it in an hour and a half. My sister is there, and after you have had a good night's rest, I'll drive you to-morrow to the Beauforts'."


"You are really too kind. I suppose it is the best thing to do. gratefully accept your offer, but I am so distressed at having put you to all this trouble."

"No, no," he pleaded, "don't say that. All this to me is really nothing. The real misery is, that you should have had such a time of it. Now, pray, wrap up well. I fancy it's going to begin snowing again, but luckily the lamps will hold out for some time yet; and so now for the road."

It was past one on Christmas morning, and as if to do honour to the day, the snow now recommenced in downright earnest, though fortunately there was no wind. Had the road been any but a most clear and well-defined one, there is no saying what might not have happened; but Woolcombe knew the way, and the mare felt she was going home, and so they plodded on in silence, the wheels noiselessly wading through the snow, which soon piled itself in layers over the cart and its inmates. The poor girl, tired and fatigued, had fallen fast asleep, and unconsciously her head, declining lower and lower, at length rested on Woolcombe's shoulder. He at once saw what it was, for his companion's condition made him doubly on the alert, and drawing the wrap right over her, he steadied the sleeping girl, who slumbered on, undisturbed by the movement of his left arm around her; and so they jogged along,

and after a weary time of it, at last approached the house. Miss Raymond did not awake until the servants, who had been sitting up, came with lights; and then having been carefully lifted down, she stood with dazed eyes in utter bewilderment before them. But the bright room and the blazing fire soon recalled her numbed senses to activity, and with a feeling of warmth and comfort she sank into a roomy settee. Refreshments were brought at once, and Woolcombe, taking the butler aside, told him to call one of the maids, and let Miss Woolcombe know of the new arrival.

"Miss Woolcombe went away this morning, sir, before your telegram came."

"Good heavens! was ever anything so unfortunate? Where did she go?"

"To the Manor House. She thought you weren't coming at all."

"All my own stupid delay! By the by, Lomax, this lady is a Miss Raymond. She was to have been. met by Mrs Beaufort's carriage, which never turned up. What on earth is to be done?”

But Lomax had not an idea. "You see," suggested his master, "there's no housekeeper." "No, sir, there ain't," acquiesced Mr. Lomax.

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Well, there's the cook !"-this rather vaguely, as if he was not quite sure such an official was on the premises.

"Yes, sir, there's the cook, and the upper 'ousemaid."

"Of course! let's have the upper housemaid. Jane, isn't it? She'll do. For some one there must be to show Miss Raymond to a room. Send for her and tell her to come into the drawing-room."

Now the difficulty was for him to break to this young lady, so strangely drifted into his protec

tion, that the sister whose presence she had relied upon was not in evidence! There was no help for it. It was simply impossible for Miss Raymond to leave the house that night, and they must just make the best of the situation.

"I fear," said his guest, standing before the cheerful blaze of the fire, "that I am giving Miss Woolcombe a great deal of trouble. I do hope you won't let her be disturbed; but I never dreamt I could see her till to-morrow. Would you let one of the servants show me to my room?"

Under the circumstances, perhaps the best thing for Woolcombe would have been to accept the position in which they were so strangely placed, to allow his guest to retire, and inform her next morning, when she was thoroughly rested, that Cicely was not in the house, having suddenly left. But it seemed to the young squire that he was bound in simple honour, be the consequences what they might, to tell Miss Raymond exactly how he and she were situated.

"It is," he began, "really most provoking

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"What can be provoking in this charming house?" she said, glancing round the pretty room, and trying, dead tired as she was, to brighten up. "Here am I just beginning to become myself, and you try to damp my spirits."

"Not for the world would I do So. But I fear I must seem to you something like an imposter." Here he hurriedly went on. "The fact is, my sister, believing I was not coming, has, I find, left this-or, as it really was, yesterday-morning, and is now at the Beauforts'."

Miss Raymond looked at him rather blankly. Then the vague suspicions on her mind vanishing as she glanced up at her host's

vexed and most troubled countenance, she cast all consideration for herself aside, and thought merely of the position as it affected him.

"Of course it is awkward," she gravely remarked, "but I see no help for it. You could not tell this when you brought me here."

"It is not indeed of myself I am thinking, Miss Raymond," he earnestly said, as he approached nearer to her. "I know how awkward all this is for you, and with no lady in the house to receive you; but on such a night— tired and fatigued as you are, too -you can't possibly go elsewhere.

"Why should I? No, Captain Woolcombe, I place myself in your hands. You have done your best for me. No blame attaches to you."

"Perhaps not," he slowly said, "but if there's no blame on me, there may be however, we need not enter on possibilities. Let us say no more on the subject. I honour you for your pluck. And here is Jane. She is my sister's favourite, and you will be safe with her. Jane!" turning to the girl who had come in, please take Miss Raymond to the room prepared for her, and stay with her. Be careful as to this. She is tired to death,, and must not be left to herself."

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"But, indeed," began his guest. "No," he rejoined, almost sternly, and yet with a tender softness in his voice. "Pray oblige me in this, Miss Raymond. It is no great favour, surely; and some day," he vaguely added, "I may tell you why I asked it."

"Be it so, then, if this is your wish. Good night."

"No; I'll see you safely housed for the night."

As the servant turned to leave the room, Miss Raymond timidly

approached her host, a dim sense of his meaning in all these preparations stealing over her, and with a little tremor in her sweet voice, and the faintest rise of colour that enhanced her beauty, she almost whispered

"Captain Woolcombe, you are very kind. My own brother could not be more thoughtful. As you say, it is best. I will keep Jane with me."

In a swift and rapid glance, Woolcombe took in the tender grace of face and figure before him, but this was no time to weary her with pretty compliments; and, in truth, his feeling for her had risen beyond the stage in which bare compliments could have been uttered. He merely said, "Let me show you up-stairs. It's nearly three o'clock. Why, you will never look as you did at the station if you don't soon get some sleep."

"How did I look at the station?" she demurely demanded, with her little head bewitchingly poised on one side as she put the query.

"Honestly, I dare not tell you," he laughed. "Perhaps some day I shall find the necessary courage." "I must have been a very dreadful personage."

use," he rejoined. "Appalling is nearer. But I must keep you up no longer. I shan't expect you to breakfast. Here is your room, and Jane in waiting. Again, good night!"


As the door closed on her, he stood for an instant or two in a dreamy way, and then leisurely descended the stairs. To the surprise of Mr Lomax, who had gone fast asleep in the hall, his master, throwing his greatcoat over his arm, and snatching up a rug, preceded him, and passing through the kitchen, let himself out, dismissing the servant, and plodded through the snow to the stables, ostensibly with a view to seeing whether the mare had been looked after. groom and mare had long before gone to sleep; and so, making up the fire in the harness-room, he smoked a peaceful pipe, his feet planted high up on either side of the hob. He sat there for some time, pleasantly musing over the events of the night, till at last wearied nature came to his rescue, the pipe dropped out of his mouth, and he sank into most profound slumber, only awakening, cold and stiff, when the coachman, coming in next morning, found him before the embers of a still smouldering

Dreadful is not the word to fire.

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"Magnificently!" and quickly turning the subject, "I hope you are ready for breakfast?"

"Indeed, I am delightfully hungry. But," and here she stopped.

"Yes. Ah! I see you are thinking of those most detestable Beauforts. Well, you may make your mind easy. I have sent off a man with a letter to my sister, requesting her to explain everything." "And you will have me sent there after breakfast ?"

"My dear Miss Raymond, just look at the weather. It's been snowing hard ever since we parted, and does not look like stopping now. I doubt if a trap can possibly reach the Manor House. If it can, I will, of course, drive you myself. I asked Cicely to come over at once; and if the road is at all practicable, you may depend on it she will come. I know as well as you do how anxious you must be to go," he added, wistfully.

"No, no, Captain Woolcombe ! pray don't put it in that way. But you see, " and here she stopped in pretty confusion.

"I quite see. These awful rules of propriety, and that dreadful Mrs Grundy, appear on the scene, and of course spoil everything."

"It's not exactly that," she hesitated.

"I'm afraid it is just exactly that. But perhaps my sister will turn up."

"How can she if the roads are impassable ?"

"They are not impassable to pedestrians, though I firmly believe that no carriage can go.'

"Then why can't I walk there?" "We might manage it, but we must, at any rate, give the weather a chance. It may clear later on, and if the snow hardens we might try and tramp it."

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"So be it. I therefore dismiss all unpleasant thoughts. make tea for you?” "Will you?

How nice that will be ! You look quite as if you were the mistress of the house." "Do I?" she shyly said. "A poor substitute for Miss Woolcombe, I fear."

"I have my own opinion as to that, --not that Cicely is not the dearest girl possible."

And so chatting gaily, the two got through the meal, and then rose and looked out on the lawn, where the snow still fell, but not heavily.

"A dreary prospect, in sooth," he said. "I don't think there's much chance of Cicely coming." "Then it does not look hopeful for our trip."

"Indeed it does not. Of course, as far as I am concerned, I don't want you to go, but I suppose that wretched Mrs Grundy insists upon it."

"Mrs Grundy, Captain Woolcombe," looking at him reprovingly, "plays a very useful rôle on occasions.'

"Does she?" he rejoined, discontentedly. "Perhaps so. None the less is she a nuisance."

"But see! the snow has stopped, and I declare there is an opening in the sky. I believe, after all, it's going to be fine."

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"Deny yourself?" Well, if you will have it in that way. At any rate, I shall certainly stay at the Manor House."

She turned to him quite naturally and simply. "Yes, do. It will be pleasant for me. You must know I have not seen Mrs Beaufort since she was married, some six or seven years ago, and I never met her husband. Is he nice ?"

"Tom Beaufort is a capital fellow," replied Woolcombe, heartily. "There are a lot of people in the house. My brother Trevor will come if he can get leave; he is at the depot. By the way, your name seems very familiar to me. I wonder it never occurred to me before. I was A. D. C. in Egypt to a General Raymond. Any relation of yours? '

"He is my uncle,"

enjoyed, she would have broken down altogether."

"I fancy so. It is not every one has your pluck. Now, can you excuse me while I go and make inquiries as to the state of the road? I'll be back in half an hour. First, let me show you into the morningroom. I have had it throughly warmed, and you will be very cosy there."

Leaving his guest safely ensconced, he set about ascertaining whether the road to the Manor House was practicable, and learnt that no wheeled conveyance could possibly get there till the snow subsided. Returning to Miss Raymond, he informed her what the state of affairs was, and asked if she still felt inclined to dare the long walk, with all the chance of being buried in a snow-drift.

"Well, you see, Captain Woolcombe, it's the proper thing to do, I suppose; and as there now seems every chance of its keeping clear, I think the sooner we start the better."

Just then Lomax came into the room holding a cigar-case, which he handed to his master.

"James found this in the harness-room, sir. I hope you did not catch cold, sleeping there last. night, sir.”

"No, no," hastily said Wool"A dear old fellow he was, too. combe, in some confusion. "It's. In India now, is he not ?" all right. I fell asleep over the fire, and I suppose this dropped out."

"No, in town. Mother and I live with him. Mother did not like my coming alone, but there was no help for it, for my maid was quite laid up with a cold. It's just as well she did not go through last night's business."

"I am sure," he laughed, "I am not sorry she was absent. But that is selfish of me to talk like this. She would have been invaluable to you."

When the butler had disappeared, Miss Raymond turned to her host reproachfully. "You make me very unhappy, Captain Woolcombe. I put you to enormous trouble, and finally I drive you out of your own house. Yes, I saw you last night go across the yard. I am sure you intentionally meant to sleep in the harness-room."

"No. Well, the fact is, I lit "No; in such weather as we my pipe and-fell asleep."

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