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my income through Mr. Graham, I have half believed that my resources were unlimited, and that if I could only summon courage to ask for more, I could have it to any extent. Now I feel that I must confine my outlay to my means. But the subject is disagreeable, so we will not say anything more about it. We are rather late, I fear,” and slackening her reins, Ella drove on briskly, along the headland, which, jutting into the sea, formed a small and sheltered bay.
The Wiltons having previously arrived, the gaily painted boats were drawn up, and the party soon seated beneath the awnings, which intercepted the fervid rays of the sun. A sultry afternoon in July is not the most favourable to piscatorial exertions, and the amateur fishermen relinquishing their unsuccessful efforts, abandoned themselves to the dolce far niente which the heat rendered peculiarly agreeable. Scarcely a breath of air stirred the pennant that flapped against the slender mast of each little craft; not a wavelet broke the flashing column of sunlight, or disturbed the reflection of the vessels, on the glassy surface, save where the water rippled back from the prows of the boats, which glided onwards, drifting with the tide, and sometimes propelled by a stroke of the oars. The tiny vessels floated alongside, their occupants chatting merrily; and, with: mirth and music and luncheon, and some stories from a traveller lately returned from the glorious South, the hours passed away, and resting in the shade of the white canopy, laughing with the rest, discussing the plans for the next day's festivities, or, with half-closed eyes, listening to the voyager's tales, and dreaming of Naples, that glorious" keystone of an arch of azure,' with the vine-clad sides of its tranquil bay, and of the marble palaces of Venice, rising proudly from the moonlit sea, while in the summer night innumerable gondolas skim across its calm lagoons—Ella scarcely noticed how the time had flown, and was surprised when the clock of the village church, on the summit of the hill overlooking the bay, struck six. With the rising tide, however, they had returned towards the shore, and were not far from their starting point. The keel of the boats grated on the beach, and Ella sprang out hastily. Mrs. Maitland followed more slowly, in stepping down her foot slipped and she fell forward. In vain she tried to rise; her ankle was sprained, and, with an exclamation of agony, she sank down again. What was to be done? They were already late, not a moment was to be lost, and yet it was torture to her to move. How could she bear the jolting of the phaeton, over the mile of rough and stony way, which they must pass before they reached the well-kept road. Ella's ready thought overcame the difficulty. “Let us move Mrs. Maitland to the coast-guard's cottage,” she said to Mrs. Wilton, "and then do not wait for us, but, as you pass Greyhurst gate, please to leave word that the carriage is to be sent immediately, to meet us at the other side of the bay. The pain will soon subside, and we can drive quickly across the sands, while the tide is low. The motion will be easier." They did as she desired and left her.
Nearly an hour elapsed while Ella bathed the swollen ankle, before Mrs. Maitland could stir, and then, concealing her suffering, she insisted on starting, for Mr. Graham had promised to be with them at seven o'clock ; business required him to return to London by the coach which passed the gates at half-past nine ; she knew that much must be done before then.
Unheeding the warning of the coast-guard's boy, who had held the ponies, Ella determined to cross the beach, but the sand, wetted and loosened by the incoming tide, clogged the wheels, and as the surf rolled under the feet of the high mettled ponies, they became almost unmanageable. To turn back was as bad as to proceed, besides the loss of time, so on they went, the water deepening at every step, until at last the chaise caught against a sunken rock, and all Ella's soothing could not quiet the frightened animals. Their situation was becoming dangerous. They were half a mile from the shore, the tide was rising every moment, and there seemed to be little chance of the phaeton being extricated. But the companions in this unpleasant predicament were well suited for the emergency : Ella had much courage but little fortitude ; Mrs. Maitland could endure, but not act, so she leaned back, silent, pale, and terrified, while her charioteer, flushed and excited, alternately encouraged the ponies, and touched them sharply with the whip. As they still plunged violently, she jumped down, and, standing beside them patted their arched necks, until they grew more gentle, and then, taking the rein, she backed them, and turned aside from the stone.
“ Ella, Ella, you will take cold !" cried Mrs. Maitland.
“Better that than be drowned,” replied Ella, laughing, “ We shall go on more quickly, if I walk by the ponies, and each minute is of consequence-see the water is above their fetlocks already."
“Will you not keep nearer the cliffs, my dear,” suggested her companiou, shivering from cold perhaps.
“ And realize the well-known scene in the Antiquary, without the chance of assistance from old Edie Ochiltree? You would not find it easy to scale the perpendicular rocks.”
“How can you laugh, Ella ?”
“ Because I really do not think that we have any cause to fear. A quarter of an hour more--steady, Turk!-- and we shall be on dry land again. How fortunate that the evening is calm, for the sand is so level here that each wave rolls nearly up to the beach. It is rather pleasant to wade through this cool water : the worst of it is that I can scarcely avoid the stones ; you must be dreadfully shaken sometimes."
“Never mind me, we do not seem to be getting on at all. Oh dear !"--A wave broke against the phaeton, filling it with water, and sprinkling Ella with a shower of spray, which she shook off merrily.
What a long quarter of an hour it was, and how glad they were when, having at last reached the beach, where a groom met them and took charge of the tired ponies, they found the carriage ready at the appointed place.
The drive home was uncomfortable enough, Mrs. Maitland said little, but moaned with pain ; her companion, now that the necessity for exertion was over, was silent as herself, dreading the evening's business, yet not sorry when they drove quickly up the avenue, and stopped at the door.
“Is Mr. Graham here?" she inquired hastily; and hearing he was impatiently waiting for her, she ran up stairs, and having changed her wet clothes, and provided for the comfort of Mrs. Maitland, entered the room where he and Mr. Wilton and some other gentlemen, whose presence was requisite, were sitting.
In an agitated manner she apologized for having kept them waiting, briefly explained the circumstance which had compelled her to trespass on their patience, and hoped that dinner had not been delayed on account of her absence.
No: they had dined, and were quite ready for business ; so she ushered them into the library, and faint and cold, yet with cheeks glowing painfully, she listened to the documents read to her, and signed various papers, discharging her guardians from all future trust and responsibility. When the usual formalities were gone through, Ella, in a few simple words, expressed her sense of the obligation she owed them for the trouble they had taken in her affairs ; thanked them for their care, and begged them to accept as tokens of her gratitude two valuable and appropriate presents, which were received with pleasure. And then Mr. Graham, who had longed outstayed his time, took his departure in a chaise which was to take him by a cross road to the next town, where he might meet the coach ; and her other visitors, accepting her renewed invitation for the morrow, left soon afterwards.
The next day there was a grand fête at Greyhurst. In the park, preparations were made for the celebration of rare old English games, with the usual prizes for rustic feats of agility and strength; and on the lawn vari-coloured pavilions, rising from among thickets of the choicest exotics, were erected to receive the more distinguished guests. At noon the tenants, clad in their best, thronged the road towards the lodges, and three hours after, carriage after carriage rolled up the approach; groups of gaily attired company, the élite of the county, were received by Mrs. Wilton, and then sauntered away towards different parts of the domain. A costly brooch, the reward of the most successful archeress, and a golden arrow, for whichever of those gentlemen, who chose to try their skill with the bow, showed himself the most accomplished follower of the Huntress-Queen, were contended for; and then other amusements succeeded, until the hour for breakfast, which was served in a long tent, before the house and open towards
Mrs. Wilton presided. Neither Miss Thornton nor Mrs. Maitland had been seen during the day, but as fashionable people went to be entertained, and cared little for their en. tertainers, they were not missed ; or if any one inquired for them, the visitors were clustered in so many separate groups, that each thought they were elsewhere.
Late in the evening, the guests, who had dispersed after the déjeuner, met again in the superb suite of rooms, on which Ella had lavished so much expense and trouble to render as magnificent as possible, for a ball was to conclude the fête ; and Mrs. Wilson again did the honours, assisted by her daughters, who did not altogether regret the opportunity of shining in Miss Thornton's lustre, without being eclipsed by the brilliant heiress.
And where was the young lady-mistress of this fair home, at whose word these scenes of enchantment had arisen ? Not in the bright saloons, where light young feet kept time to the inspiriting strains of a band ; not in the gorgeous drawingrooms, where lively jest and repartee passed gaily; not in the cool and fragrant twilight of the conservatory, whither the sound of music and glad voices came faintly on the dewy air; but resting on a couch in a distant apartment, turning with feverish restlessness from side to side, pressing her throbbing brow on the pillow, and caring only to shut out all light and noise—and this on the evening to which she had so often looked forward with delight. She attempted several times to go down stairs, and sat up, supporting her aching head on her hand, while her maid arranged her dress, but every endeavour ended with her lying down for a short time longer. She had sent a note to Mrs. Wilton, begging her to undertake the duties of hostess, as she herself felt quite unable to receive her expected visitors; and quite at ease concerning the success of her plans, she stayed in the hushed and darkened room, until the guests departed, the house was quiet, and the morning dawned.
Mrs. Maitland was still lame ; so, satisfied that all was going on well below, and knowing that even if anything were amiss, her presence would be of little use, she remained with Ella, entreating her to send for a doctor. This Ella refused to do, declaring that she had only taken cold, and should soon be better.
As day after day passed, she grew worse ; physicians were at length called in.
The next week left a blank in her memory, broken only by the recollection of delirious phantasies.
The crisis of the fever came; it was favourable; she began to recover.
But her progress was retarded by the anxious thoughts that crowded in upon her. Often, in the silence and the gloom of her chamber, when the shaded lamp threw long and ghostly shadows on the ceiling, and when the weary watcher beside her had fallen asleep, and her breathing and the monotonous ticking of the watch on the table alone broke the stillness, the scenes of her past life rose up before her; first her infancy, watched over by a gentle mother, then her girlhood, poor in love but rich in high and ardent hopes, and then her later years so wasted.
Exhausted by illness, she lost all buoyancy of spirit; the remembrance of her debts perpetually haunted her, and what was, at worst, but a temporary embarrassment, was magnified by her imagination into irretrievable ruin.
And as Mrs. Maitland bent over her, and caught the murmured words that betrayed what was passing in her mind, she thought how ill her own duty had been performed, and how far she was answerable for the poor girl's errors; and severe were her self-upbraidings for the blamable weakness that had, in part, led to those evils.
The mellow light of an autumnal sunset streamed in at the windows of the morning-room as Ella came down stairs for the first time since her birthday; and, as the sun sank behind a bank of purple clouds, she turned to her old friend, who stood beside her, and, taking her hand, said, smiling sadly, " It was just such an evening as this, three years ago, that we