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"I ain't to be sleepy I suppose—why should I be?” she answered, but added hurriedly, "No, no, you shall be called all right."
“ You good girl," whispered Lisle, and he went noiselessly away. A dim gaslight burned half-way up the stairs and guided him to his
He had only to softly open and close his door and all was well. Judith had not been awakened by the cat-like steps of the man who was not old Fordham. She had fallen asleep very happily, with a vague sense of hopefulness and well-being. She had no idea that Bertie had just flung himself on his bed to snatch a little rest, with a trouble on his mind, which, had she known it, would have effectually banished sleep from her eyes; and a hope of escape, which would have nearly broken her heart. Her burden had been laid aside for a few hours, and through her dreams there ran a golden thread of melody, the unconscious remembrance of that evening's songs and music.
BERTIE AT THE ORGAN.
BERTIE was duly called, and came down the next morning, punctually enough, but somewhat weary and pale. A slight headache was supposed to account for his looks. Lydia complained of the same thing over her breakfast of bacon downstairs. But Fate was partial, for Bertie's marble pallor and the faint shadow beneath his eyes were utterly unlike poor Lydia's dull complexion, and heavy, red-rimmed eyelids. She was conscious of this injustice, and felt in a dim way that she had proved herself capable of one of those acts of self-devotion, which are the more admirable that they are sure not to be admired. But the longer she thought of it, the more she felt that this noble deed was not one to be repeated. One must set bounds to one's heroism. "I can't go on losing my beauty sleep in this fashion,” said Lydia to herself. “I do look such a horrid fright the next day."
When Judith had gone to Standon Square Bertie yawned, stretched himself, got out his little writing-case, and sat down to write a letter. He spent some time over it, erasing and interlining, balancing himself on two legs of his chair, while he looked for stray words on the ceiling, or murmured occasional sentences to judge of the effect. At last it was finished, and, being copied in a dashing hand, looked very spontaneous indeed. “I think that ought to do it,” he said to himself, as he smoked his pipe, glancing over the pages. “I think it will do it.” He smiled in the pride of triumphant authorship, but presently there came a line between his brows, and a puzzled expression to his face. “I'll be shot if I know how it is to be managed afterwards. People do it—but how? I wonder if Thorne knows. If law is at all catching, a year of that musty office must have given him a touch of it," _isle considered the matter for a few minutes, and then shrugged his shoulders. "It won't do, I'm afraid. I daren't try him. I'm never quite clear how much he sees and understands, nor what he would do. And Gordon kno." There was another reverie. Finally he arose, knocked the ashes out of his pipe, and stretched himself once more. “ I've got to depend on myself, it seems to me. I must set my wits to work and astonish them all. But oh, if yawning were but a lucrative employment, how easily I could make money, and be quit of the whole affair !”
Bertie took a great interest in his personal appearance, and was frank and unaffected in bis consciousness of his good looks. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in the bottle-green mirror, and stopped short in considerable anxiety. “ Brain-work and these late hours don't suit me," he said. “Good heavens! I look quite careworn! Well,
may pass for the effect of a gradually breaking heart-why not?”
A glance at his watch roused him to sudden activity. He carefully burnt every scrap of his original manuscript, feeling sure that Lydia would read his letter if she had the chance. He looked leniently on this little weakness of hers. “Very happy to afford you what little amusement I can in the general way," he soliloquised, as he directed an envelope ; “but I really can't allow you to read this letter, Lydia, my dear.” Apparently he was in a distrustful mood, for after hesitating a moment he got some wax, and sealed it with a ring he wore. Then, putting it carefully in his pocket, be tossed a few sheets of blotted music paper on the table, left his writing-case wide open, took his hat and a roll of music, and went out in the direction of St. Sylvester's, trying to work out his problem as he walked. He was not, however, so deep in thought that he had no eyes for the passers-by, and his attention was suddenly attracted by a servant-girl dawdling along the opposite pavement. He watched her keenly, but furtively, as if to make quite sure, and when she turned down a side street, he followed, and speedily overtook her.
“This is lucky!", he ejaculated. “I didn't expect to see you, Susan. What are you doing bere?”
She was a slight, plain girl, with a fairly intelligent face, whose expression was doubtful. Sometimes it showed a willingness to please, oftener it was sullen, now and then merely thoughtful. Just at this moment, as she looked up at the young organist, it was crafty and greedy. “I'm taking a note," she said. “ Miss Crawford's always a sending me with notes or something."
“You don't mind being sent with notes, do you ?” said Bertie, blandly.
“ That's as may be," the girl answered.
“I should have thought it was pleasant work. At any rate, it's as easy to take two as one, isn't it?
“I have to take 'em 'cause I'm paid to, you see-easy or not." “Oh, of course, you ought to be paid.” His fingers were in his waistcoat pocket, and some coins that chinked agreeably were transferred to her hand, together with the sealed letter. “ You've saved me a walk to Standon Square,” he said.
The girl laughed, looking down at her money. “It wouldn't have hurt you, I dare say. You oughtn't to make much of a walk there. How about an answer ?”
“Oh, I shall get an answer when I come to-morrow." He nodded a careless farewell, and went a little out of his way to avoid Gordon's brother, who was visible in the distance.
Susan turned the missive over in her hand. “It's sealed tight enough," she remarked to herself. “ What did he want to do that for ?" She eyed it discontentedly. "I hate such suspicious ways. Wouldn't there be a flare-up if I just handed it over to the old maid! I won't, though, for she's give me warning, and he's a deal more free with his money than she'd ever be-stingy old cat ! But wouldn't there be a flare-up! My!” And Susan, who had an ungratified taste for the sensational, looked at the address and smiled to think of the power she possessed.
Before she slipped the letter into her pocket she sniffed doubtfully at the envelope, and tossed her head in scorn. “I thought so! Smells of tobacco !” It was true, for Lisle, as we know, had smoked while he revised his composition. “If I were a young man going a courting, I'd scent my letters with rose or something nice, and I'd write 'em on pink paper-I would !” Susan reflected. But Lisle was wiser. There is no perfume, for a young ladies' school, like a whiff of cigar smoke. To that prim, half convent-like seclusion, where manners are being formed, and the proprieties are strictly observed, it comes as a pleasant suggestion of something worldly and masculine, just a little wicked, and altogether delightful.
So Lisle went on his way to St. Sylvester's, lighter of heart for having met Susan, and got rid of the letter. While it was still in his pocket nothing was absolutely settled, in spite of that half-crown which had represented inexorable destiny the night before. But now that it was gone, further thought about it was happily unnecessary, and honour forbade him to draw back. It was true, however, that he was still face to face with the difficulty which had been in his mind when he met his messenger so conveniently.
He caught a street Arab, and promised him twopence, if he would come and blow for him while he practised. But he began by playing absently and carelessly, for, since the letter had been despatched, his problem had become infinitely more urgent, and it thrust itself between him and the music. His fingers roved dreamily over the keys, bis eyes wandered, as if in spite of himself, to the east end of the church. All at once be came out with an impatient “How do people manage it?” and he finished the muttered question with a strong word, and a big chord.
A moment more, and his face'is illuminated with the inward light of a sudden idea. He lets his hands lie where they happened to be, he sits there with parted lips and startled eyes. The idea is almost too wonderful, too simple, too obvious, and yet—"By Jove!” says Bertie, under his breath.
His street Arab means to earn his twopence, and in spite of the silence he pumps away in a cheerful and conscientious manner, till he shall be bidden to stop. The organ protests, in a long and dolorous note, and startles the musician from his reverie. Forthwith he begins to play a stirring march, and the rejoicing chords arise, and rush, and crowd beneath his fingers. Has he indeed found the solution of his great perplexity? Apparently he thinks so. He seems absolutely hurried along in triumph on these waves of jubilant harmony. A ray of pale March sunlight falls on his forehead and shines on his hair, as he tosses his head in the quickening excitement of the moment. His headache is gone, his weariness is gone. The notes seem to gather like bands of armed men, and rush victoriously through the aisles. But, even as he plays, he laughs to himself, a boyish happy laugh, for this great idea which is to help him out of all his difficulties is not only a great idea, but a great joke. And the march rings louder yet, for, with every note he plays, his thought grows clearer to his mind, plainer and more feasible. There is a gay audacity about the laugh which lingers in Bertie's eyes, and on his lips, as if Dan Cupid himself had just been there, whispering some choice scheme of roguish knavery, some artful artlessness, into the young man's ear. Bertie does not acknowledge that his inspiration has come in such a questionable fashion. He says to himself, “It will do, I feel it will do—isn't it providential! Just when I was in despair !” This is a more suitable sentiment for an organist, no doubt, for what possible business can Dan Cupid have at St. Sylvester's? Louder and louder yet pours the great stream of music, and that is a joke too, for Lisle feels as if he were shouting his secret to the four winds, and yet keeping it locked in his inmost soul, taking the passers-by into his confidence in the most open-hearted fashion, and laughing at them in his sleeve. But the musician is exhausted at last, and the end comes with a thundering crash of chords.
“Here, boy, here's sixpence for you; you may be off. We've done enough for to-day, and may go home to Bellevue Street.” But it seems to Bertie Lisle, as he picks up his roll of music and comes down the aisle, that Bellevue Street too is only a joke now.
WHERE THERE'S A WILL THERE'S A WAY.
APRIL had come, and the best of the year was beginning with a yellow dawn of daffodils. The trees stood stern and wintry, but there were little leaves on the honeysuckles and the hawthorn hedges, glad outbursts of song among the branches, and soft, shy caresses in the air. Sissy Langton, riding into Fordborough, was delicately beautiful as spring itself. She missed her squire of an earlier April, and his absence made an underlying sadness in her radiant eyes, which had the April charm. That day ber glance and smile had an especial brightness, partly because spring had come, and, though countless springs have passed away, each comes with the old yet ever fresh assurance that it will make all things new. Partly because it was her birthday, and, while we are yet young, there is a certain joy of royalty which marks our birthday mornings. But most of all because that day gave her the power to satisfy a desire which had lain hidden in her heart through the long winter months.
It was the Fordborough market-day, and already, though it was but eleven o'clock, the little town was waking up. Sissy, followed by Mrs. Middleton's staid servant, rode straight to the principal street, and stopped at Mr. Hardwicke's office. Young Hardwicke, reading the paper in his room, was surprised when clerk announced that Miss Langton was at the door, asking for his father. He forgot the sporting intelligence in an instant. “Well, isn't my father in ?”
No, Mr. Hardwicke went out about twenty minutes earlier, and did not say when he should be back. They had told Miss Langton, and she said, “ Perhaps Mr. Henry
Mr. Henry was off like a shot. He found Sissy on her horse at the door, looking pensively along the street, as if she were studying the effect of dusky red on palest blue-chimney-pots against the April sky.
“So Mr. Hardwicke is out?" she said, when they had shaken hands. “ I'm so sorry. I wanted him so particularly."
“Is it important? Are you in a great hurry?” said Henry. “He won't be long, or he would certainly have left word, on a market-day especially. Could you come in and wait a little while ?” he suggested. "I suppose I shouldn't do as well ?”
“I don't know," said Sissy, looking a little doubtfully at the tall fresh-coloured young fellow, who smiled frankly in reply.
“Oh, it isn't at all likely,” said Mr. Henry, with delightful candour. “ The governor can't, for the life of him, understand how I make so many blunders. I've a special talent that way, I suppose, but I don't know how I came by it." “Then perhaps it had better be Mr. Hardwicke. If it were a waltz,
_" and she laughed. “But it isn't a waltz, it is something very important. Do you know anything about wills?”