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So her burden was lighter. But what could lighten the other load which lay on her heart? She hardly knew whether it were love or fear that she felt for Percival. The long days which had passed since she saw him, had only deepened the impression of that summer evening when they parted. His reply to her entreaty that he would come back to her had been exactly what she had feared—as gentle as he himself had been when they stood face to face in the old drawing-room at Brackenhill, and as inflexible. If she could forget him—if she could learn to care for Walter Latimer or Captain Fothergill - what a bright, easy, sungbiny life might yet be hers! No-ten thousand times, No! Better to suffer the weariness of dread, and doubt, and longing for Percival.
But Percival would have been astonished if he could have seen the darkly heroic guise in which he reigned over Sissy Langton's dreams.
WALKING TO ST. SYLVESTER'S.
ERTIE LISLE was sorely driven
and perplexed, for a few days after his triumphant performance on the organ. His letter was not a failure, but further persuasion was required to make his success complete; and during the brief interval he was persecuted by Gordon's brother.
Mr. William Gordon, when amiable and flattering, had an air of rough and hearty friendliness which was very well, as long as you held him in check. But when, though still amiable, he thought he might begin to take liberties, it was not so well. He was hard, coarse-tongued, and humorous. And wben Mr. William Gordon had the
hand, he showed himself in his true colours, as a bully and a blackguard. Bertie Lisle, not yet two-and-twenty, was
no" match for this man of thirtyfive. He owed him money-no great sum—but more than he could pay. Now that matters had come to this pass, Lisle was heartily ashamed of himself, his debts, and his associates; but the more shame he felt, the more anxious he was that nothing should be known. He had sought the society of these men because he had wearied of the restraints of his home life. Judith checked and controlled him unconsciously, through her very guilelessness. He might have had his liberty in a moment had he chosen, but the assertion of his right would have involved explanations and questions, and Bertie hated scenes. He found it easier to coax Lydia than to face Judith.
13. YOL XXXVIII. NO. 225.
But this state of affairs could not go on. Bertie had once fancied that he saw a possible way out of his difficulties, and had hinted to Gordon, with an air of mystery, that though he could not pay at once, he thought he might soon be in a position to pay all. If he hoped to silence his creditors for awhile with this vague promise, he was mistaken. Gordon continually reminded him of it. He had not cared to inquire into the source of the coming wealth, but if Lisle meant to rob some body's till, or forge Mr. Clifton's name to a cheque, no doubt Gordon thought he might as well do it, and get it over. If
you are going to take a plunge, what, in the name of common sense, is the good of standing shivering on the brink?
Unluckily, Lisle's idea presented difficulties on closer inspection. But as he had gone so far that it was his only hope, he made up his mind to risk all. He saw but one possible way of carrying out bis scheme. It was exactly the way which no cautious man would ever have dreamed of taking, and therefore it suited the daring inexperience of the boy. Therefore, also, it was precisely what no one would dream of guarding against. In fact, Bertie was driven, by stress of circumstances, into a stroke of genius. He took his leap, and entered on a period of suspense, anxiety, and sustained excitement, which had a wild exhilaration and sense of recklessness in it. He suffered much from a strong desire to burst into fits of unseasonable laughter. His nerves were so tensely strung that it might have been expected he would be irritable, and so he was sometimes; but never with Judith.
Thorne listened, night after night, for the man with the latch-key; but he listened in vain. He was only partly reassured, for he feared that matters were not going on well at St. Sylvester's. Indeed, he knew they were not, for Bertie had strolled into bis room one day, with a face like a thundercloud. The young fellow was out of temper, and perhaps a little off his guard in consequence. When Gordon amused himself by baiting him, Lisle was forced to keep silence; but in this case it was possible, if not quite prudent, to allow himself the relief of speech.
“What is the matter ? " said Percival, looking up from his book.
Bertie, who had turned his back on him, stood looking out of the window, and tapping a tune on the pane. “What's the matter?" he repeated. “Clifton has taken it into his stupid head to lecture me about some rubbish he has heard somewhere. Why doesn't some one lock him up in an idiot asylum? The meddling fool!”