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ceptible hesitation, bad decided to trust him rather than her daughter. It was so. Lydia considered that her mother was stingy, and that finery was indispensable while she was husband-hunting.
“ You see, there'll be one less to feed, and it would only bother her, and you've always been so regular with your money," - said Mrs. Bryant, wistfully.
“Oh, I see, perfectly," Thorne replied. “I won't trouble Mis Bryant about it. It shall be all ready for you when you come back, of course. A pleasant journey to you."
The old lady went off, not without anxiety, but very favourably impressed with Percival's lofty manner. And he thought no more about it. But the time came when he wished that Mrs. Bryant had never thought of visiting Mrs. Smith of Bethnal Green at all.
Easter fell very late that year, far on in April, and it seemed to Judith that the holidays would never come. At last, however, they were within a week of the breaking-up day. It was Sunday, and she could say to herself, “ Next Thursday I shall be free.”
Bertie and she had just breakfasted, and he was leaning in his favourite attitude against the chimneypiece. She had taxed him with looking ill, but he had smilingly declared that there was nothing amiss with him.
“Do you sleep well, Bertie ?" she asked wistfully.
“ Pretty well. Not very much last night, by the way. But yon are whiter than I am-look at yourself in the glass. Even if you deduct the green
Judith gazed into the verdant depths. “I don't know how much to allow,” she said thoughtfully. “ By the way, Bertie, I'm not going with you to St. Sylvester's this morning."
“All right,” said Bertie.
“I have a fancy to go to St. Andrew's for once," said Judith, arranging the ribbon at her throat as she spoke. * Just for a change You don't mind, do you?”
“ Mind – no !” said Bertie, but something in his voice caused her to look round. He was as pale as death, grasping the chimney piece with one hand, while the other was pressed upon his heart,
“ Bertie ! You are ill! Lean on me." The little sofa was close hi and she helped him to it, and ran for eau-de-Cologne. When she came back he was lying with his head thrown back, white, and still, vet looking more like himself than in that first ghastly moment. Presently the blood came back to cheek and lip, and he looked up and smiled. “ You are better?” she said anxiously.
"Oh yes! I'm better. I'm all right. Can't think what made me make such a fool of myself.”
“No-don't get up. Lie still a little longer," said Judith, standing over him, with the wicker flask in her hand. “Oh, how you frightened
“ Don't pour any more of that stuff over me," he answered, languidly. “You must have expended quarts. I can feel little rivulets of it creep-creeping at the roots of my hair."
“But, Bertie, what was the matter with you ?”
“I hardly know. It's all over now. My heart seemed to stop beating just for a moment. I wonder if it did, really? Or should I have died? Do sit down, Judith. You look as if you were going to faint too."
She sat down by him. After a minute Bertie's slim, long fingers groped restlessly, and she held them in a tender grasp. So for some time they remained hand in hand. Judith watched him furtively, as he lay with closed eyes, his fair boyish face pressed on the dingy cushion, and a great tenderness lighted her quiet glance. Suddenly Bertie's eyes opened, and met hers. She answered his look of inquiry.
“ You are all I have, dear. We two are alone, are we not? I must be anxious if you are ill.”
He pressed her hand, but he turned his face a little away, conscious at the same moment of a flush of self-reproach, and of a lurking smile. “ Don't!” he said. “ I'm not ill. I'm all right now-never better. Isn't it time for me to be off? I say, my dear girl, if you don't look sharp, you'll be late at St. Andrew's."
“St. Andrew's!” she repeated scornfully. “I go to St. Andrew's now, and think all the service through that my bad boy may be fainting at St. Sylvester's! No, no; I shall go with you."
“Thank you,” said Bertie, sitting up, and running his fingers through his hair, by way of preparation for church, “I shall be glad, if you don't mind.”
"That is,” she went on, “ if you are fit to go at all.”
“Oh yes. I couldn't leave old Clifton in the lurch, for anything short of sudden death, and even then he'd feel himself ill-used. Stay at home because I felt faint! It would be as much as my place is worth,” said Bertie, with a smile, of which Judith could not understand the fine. irony.
“ I'll go and get ready," she said. But she went to the door of Percival's sitting-room and knocked.
“Come in," he answered, and she opened it. He was stooping over his fire, poker in hand. She paused on the threshold, and, after breaking a hard lump of coal, he looked over his shoulder. “ Miss Lisle! I beg your pardon. I thought they had come for the breakfast things."
“Oh!” she said, in a slightly disappointed tone. “ You are not
A rapid change of mind enabled him to answer truthfully, “Yes, I
Percival had known by her tone that she wanted him to go to church. But he did not know which church claimed his attendance, so he answered cautiously, “Oh, I hardly know. I think I should like some one to make up my mind for me. Are you going with your brother?'
“ Yes,” said Judith. “ He isn't very well to-day. I was rather frightened by his fainting just now."
“ Of course I'll go with you," said Percival. " I'll be ready in two minutes. Been fainting? Is he better now?"
“Much better. Will you really?” And Judith vanished.
Percival was perhaps a little longer than the time he had named, but he soon came out in a very different character from that of the young man who had lounged over his late breakfast, in his shabby coat. He looked anxiously at young Lisle as they started, but Bertie's appear ance was hardly such as to call for immediate alarm. He seemed well enough, Percival thought, though perhaps a little excited. In truth, there was not much amiss with him. He had got over the uneasy sense of self-reproach; the sudden shock which had caused his disinay was past, and as he went his way, solemnly escorted by his loving sister and his devoted friend, he was suffering much more from suppressed laughter than from anything else. Everything was a joke, and the narrowness of his escape that morning was a greater joke than all. “By Jove ! what a laugh we will have over it, one of these days !” thought Lisle, as he put on his surplice.
Loving eyes followed him as he went to his place, and his name was fon/lly breathed in loving prayers.
THE LAST MUSIC LESSON.
On the Tuesday morning Bertie was late for breakfast, and came in yawn. ing rather ostentatiously. Judith protested good-humouredly. “ Lie in bed late, or yawn, but you can't want to do both. Why, it is eleven hours since you went up to bed.” This was perfectly true, but not so much to the point as she supposed.
Ever since the mysterious fainting fit, Judith had watched him with tender anxiety, and it seemed to her that there was something strange in his manner that morning. She did not know what it was, but had she held any clue to his thoughts, she would have perceived that Bertie was astonished and bewildered. He looked as if a dream had suddenly be come a reality, as if a jest had turned into marvellous earnest. Ne smoked his pipe, leaning by the open window, with a serious, and almost awe-struck expression in his eyes. One might have fancied that he was transformed, visibly to himself, and was perplexed to find that the
change was invisible to others. Judith could not understand this quiet gravity.
She came up to him, and laid her hand caressingly on his shoulder. He did not turn, but pointed with the stem of his pipe across the street.
“Look,” he said. “ There's a bit of houseleek on those tiles. I never saw it till to-day.”
“ Nor I.”
"It looks green and pleasant,” said Bertie in a gentle meditative voice. “I like it."
“Our summer garden," Judith suggested.
“I wonder if there's any houseleek on our roof,” he went on after a moment.
“We will hope so, for our neighbours' sake,” said his sister. “It's a new idea to me. I thought our roof was nothing but tiles and catsprincipally cats.”
Bertie smoked his pipe, and surveyed the houseleek as if it were a newly discovered star. Everything was strange and wonderful that morning. Vague ideas floated in the atmosphere, half seen against the background of common things. The mood, born of exceptional circumstances, was unique in his life. Had it been habitual, there would have been hope of a new poet, or, since his taste lay in the direction of wordless harmony, of a great musician.
“ You won't be late at the Square, Bertie dear ? said Judith.
“No. I'll not be late,” he answered absently. He felt that the pale gold of the April sunlight was beautiful even in Bellevue Street.
“ The last lesson,” she said. Bertie, suddenly roused, looked round at her with startled eyes.
“What! had you forgotten that the girls go home to-morrow?” cried Judith in great surprise. She had counted the days so often.
He laughed, shortly and uneasily, "I suppose I had. Queer, wasn't it? Yes, it's my last lesson, as you say. If I had only thought of it I might have composed a Lament, taught it to all my pupils, and charged a fancy price for it in the bill.”
"That would have been very touching. A little tiresome to you, perhaps, and to Miss Crawford-_"
“Bless you ! She's always asleep,” said Bertie, knocking the ashes out of his pipe, and pocketing it. I might teach them the Old Hundredth, one after the other, all the morning through. She wouldn't know. So your work ends to-morrow ?”
“Not quite. The girls go to-morrow, but I have promised to be at the Square on Thursday. There's a good deal to be done, and I should like to see Miss Crawford safely off in the afternoon.”
“ Where's the old woman going?”
“ To Cromer for a few days. She lived there as a child, and loves it more than any place in the world.”
“Does the poor old lady think she'll grow young again there?" said Bertie. “Well, perhaps she will,” he added after a pause. “At any rate she may forget that she has grown old.”
Punctually at the appointed hour, the young music-master arrived in Standon Square. It was for the last time, as Judith had said. Miss Crawford looked older, and Miss Crawford's cap looked newer, than either had ever done before. She put her weak little hand into Bertie's, and said some prim, kindly words, about the satisfaction his lessons had given, the progress his pupils had made, and the confidence she felt in his sister and himself. As she spoke she was sure he was gratified, for the colour mounted to his face. Suddenly she stopped in the midst of her neatly worded sentences. “You are like your mother, Mr. Lisle," she said ; "I never saw it so much before." And she murmured something, half to herself, about her first pupil, the dearest of them all. Bertie, for once in his life, was silent and bashful.
The old lady rang the bell, and requested that Miss Macdonald might be told that it was time for her lesson, and that Mr. Lisle had arrived During the brief interval that ensued, the music-master looked furtively round the room, as if he had never seen it before. It seemed to him almost as if he looked at it with different eyes, and read Miss Crawford's life in it. It was a prim, light-coloured drawing-room, adorned with many trifles, which were interesting as indications of patience, and curious in point of taste. There was a great deal of worsted work, and still more crochet. Everything that could possibly stand on a mat, stood on a mat, and other mats lay disconsolately about, waiting, as cabmen wait for a fare. Every piece of furniture was carefully arranged, with a view to supporting the greatest possible number of antimacassars. There were water-colour paintings on the walls, and bouquets of wax flowers bloomed gaily under glass shades on every table. There were screens, cushions, pen-wipers. Bertie calculated that Miss Crawford's drawingroom might yield several quarts of beads. He had seen all these things many times, but they had acquired a new meaning and interest that day.
Miss Macdonald appeared, and Miss Crawford seated herself on a pink rose, about the size of a Jersey cablage, with two colossal buds, and rested her tired back against a similar group. At the first notes of the piano her watchful and smiling face relaxed, and she nodded wearily in the background. It did not matter much. The young master was grave, silent, patient, conscientious. In fact it did not matter at all. Having slept through the earlier lessons, the schoolmistress might well sleep throngh this. It was rather a pity, that instead of taking a placid and unbroken rest on the sofa, she sat stifly on a worked chair, and started into uneasy wakefulness between each lesson, dismissing one girl and sending for the next with infinite politeness and propriety. At last she said, “ And will you have the kindness to tell Miss Nash ?”
Bertie sat, turning over a piece of music, till the sound of the opening