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of hot, glaring sunshine, of dust, and noise, and fatigue, cease to haunt Ruth for many a day to come. She was one of those to whom excitement gives another and an intenser self. Of this she was dimly conscious, and when she had said that she could die for Rupert, she had perhaps not been far wrong. That extreme anger would urge her to a course almost equally desperate she had never guessed, but to give Rupert pain, to cause him chagrin and remorse, in short, to make him jealous and miserable as he had made her, she would have endured tortures. When people are thus minded, in other words, when they are in a passion, life always helps them on. Whether by accident or by malice, she had heard plenty of gossip about Rupert ; he had written no word of repentance; she knew that Lady Alice would shortly meet him ngain. Well, if her conduct was discussed between them, he should hear enough, both to hurt his provoking self-love, and to show that hers did not suffer. And Cheriton offered the sort of strange counter-attraction often felt on such occasions to any one else than the object of anger. She had always liked to talk to Cherry,' his love was flattering, and she instinctively knew that it was true. He was also a singularly attractive and loveable person, and in Ruth's sore-hearted rage she felt his charm. “It was nice to be with himbe did her good,' and if she could wound Rupert and please herself, the possible disappointment to Cheriton was not worth considering. But Ruth reckoned without her host. She neither allowed for Cheriton's ardour, nor for the effect that it would have on her; she did not know how definite her choice must be.
Cherry was not nearly so useful as his friend had expected; he was too tired to play games, and dancing, he said, gave him a pain in his side and made him cough, which was true, and would have been an equally good reason against wandering about in the shrubberies and distant paths with Ruth, where he incurred other dangers than night air and dewy grass. He was too happy to heed any of them. She listened, as Ruth knew how to listen, to his account of his Oxford life—his hopes and fears-bis future prospects--and she was carried away, spite of herself, by the single-minded earnestness with which he spoke. He interested her, and she forgot herself for the moment as they strolled along; the yellow sunset dying in the distance, the first star shining over the great house behind them. Suddenly Cheriton turned and took her hand.
*Ruth,' he said, I have told you all this because it is so sweet to see you listen. I have something more to tell you now.
I have a great many aims and ambitions—there's one dearer than the rest. I love my own people--my home-very much. I love you best, infinitely best. I always have loved you. Can you love me?'
"Oh, Cherry!' cried Ruth, in desperate self-defence, don't say so ! That sort of love is all a mistake. Keep to the other sort—it is a great deal better for you.'
• Better!'exclaimed Cheriton. One thing is best for me to have you wife. Oh, Ruth, my darling! ever since I was a boy I have loved
you. Can't you care a little for me? I think you can-I hope you can. You have always listened to me and understood me. I think
you know me better than any one does!' 'I know-you do care,' said Ruth, half to herself.
'It is my very life,' he said, and as she, trembling, hardly able to stand, made a half movement towards—not away from him-he threw his arms round her and drew her close. My darling !-oh, my darling! am I so happy k-ab! thank God! Thank God!'
Ruth burst into a passion of tears. Retreat was growing impossible; she hardly knew what she wished; anger, a sort of wild triumph, the difficulty of resisting this passionate pleading, the inconceivable joy of Cheriton's face and voice, added to the overstrained excitement of her previous feelings, completely overpowered her, till her sobs were uncontrollable, and with them came the strangest impulse to tell him all, the most incongruous confidence in the justice and sympathy of this passionate lover for the love and sorrows that would have wrecked his hopes. Ah! if she had but done so !
• Oh what a fool I have been l'cried Cheriton, exceedingly distressed. "Oh, Ruth, my darling! I have frightened you. I'll be patient ; I'll not say another word. See, here's a seat-sit down. I deserve that you should never speak to me again.'
Ruth let him lead her to the bench, and endeavoured to collect her
"I am not half good enough for you.
You don't know what you want,' she faltered.
Oh yes, I do. I know just what I want,' said Cheriton, softly and gently; but venturing to sit down beside her, and trying to reassure her by a little playfulness; but I don't know how to ask for it. Alvar might have shown me the way!'
Oh, you know well enough,' said Ruth, in a more natural tone, and in the few moments, while he sat watching her, her excitement cooled down, or rather hardened itself into shape. Her tears dried up, and she said "What would
father He will think me too happy! Will you forgive me for startling you and give me my answer now?'
He was half smiling, as he timidly put out his hand again. She had given reason enough to hope for the answer he wanted, and suddenly there darted into her mind as an excuse, a reason, an explanation of all this conflict of impulses, of the wish to pique Rupert to averge herself on the one side-to snatch something from life if she could not have all on the other-a thought— When Rupert knows he has such a rival, if he loves me, he will not give me up.' She yielded her hand to Cheriton's, and said quickly
Only promise me one thing. I did not think of this it is so sudden. I am going away to-morrow, to Mrs. Grey's, for a fortnight. Promise not to tell any one-your father, your brothers, till I come back. Give me time to-to get used to it first.'
Of course,' said Cheriton, reluctantly, 'that must be as you please. . But I long to tell them of my great happiness. And my father will care so much about it. But of course I promise. But I may write to you?'
"No-no-then every one will find it out!' said Ruth, with recurring agitation. “You—you don't know how I feel about it.'
Well, I have gained too much to complain,' said Cheriton, too loyal-hearted, and too inexperienced, for a single doubt. But Ruth, my Ruth, one thing-give me one kiss to remember!'
'Go then-go! some one will find us l'cried Ruth, and startled by approaching footsteps, she rushed away from him; but the treacherous kiss was given, though she felt in a moment that she would almost have died to recall it. She had revenged herself ; she hated herself ; she already began to try to excuse herself.
A. little later, while troops of gaily-dressed children were dancing in the lighted hall, and the out-door guests were rapidly departing, Alvar was standing on the terrace, wondering what could have become of his brother. More than one person had remarked that he looked delicate and overworked ; and Alvar felt anxious as he saw him come slowly up from the grounds towards him. •Where have you been, Cherry?' he said. “Are you not well?
Cheriton smiled rather dreamily. - Oh yes, quite well,' he said. There was a far-away look of blissful, peaceful content in his eyes, as if it were indeed well with him ; an expression of perfect, thankful happiness, as far removed from the ordinary state of this tolerably comfortable work-a-day world as one of great wretchedness and misery; and as remarkable. As Alvar looked at him, they heard the cry of a little child. Cheriton turned and saw trotting along the terrace in the dusk a very little boy, left bebind by some of the schools now trooping out of the park. Cherry lifted him up in his arms and smiled kindly at him, trying to make out whom he belonged to, and the child clung to him, quite at ease with him. 'Milford School ; ah ! I see their flag. Come, my lad, we'll go and find them. There, don't cry, nobody must cry to-night, of all nights in the year.'
When Lady Milford has been so kind,' said Alvar, for the child's benefit.
"Ahl every one is kind !' said Cherry, with a little laugh, as he carried away the child, and we must-say thank you.'
* Faint heart never won fair lady.' •What has become of Dis?' Lady Compton was inquiring later in the evening; 'I have not seen her since tea.'
"She went up to her room a while ago. This was Dorothy's information. She said she had a headache.'
* Poor dear! I must go and see after her,' said the kind woman, soon as the rest of these people are gone. There are not many now. Here are these children, Miles,' she went on, with a little troubled expression, “afraid to go up to bed because of the Blue Lady! But really it is time.'
The two little girls looked towards her appealingly.
'Here, I'll take them,” said Miles, springing up and giving a hand to each. Come along, my dears! You won't be afraid if brother goes too.'
' 'Tis getting very dark,' they whispered as they went across the oakpanelled ball, clinging fast to his hand, one on each side.
Why, I hope we shall see her,' he answered gaily. I promise you I'll lay the ghost, if I hunt her all my life.'
* Brother,' whispered Nancy, as they went up the broad staircase altogether, 'why are you in mourning still? We have left off our black for Muriel.'
He looked at the little girl with a grave smile.
'I am in mourning for somebody else,' said he, gently. Perhaps I shall be all the rest of my life. Way, what is the matter, Nancy?' 'I-I thought I heard—some one breathe,' faltered the child.
Oh, my dear!' he returned, laughing kindly at her and clasping closer her little, cold, quivering hand, I hope we are all breathing.' Roddice's bedroom door was half open as they passed.
They could see her slender figure in the window, her hand up, putting away a tumbled wave of hair from her fo:ehead. Miles hesitated a minuteshould he speak? Then he thought it was better to break the spell from the first.
'Dis,' he called out, 'will you come and undress these children ? Positively they are afraid to go to bed alone.'
Oh, yes,' she said, with scarcely a quiver in her voice. "Of course I will.'
She turned round and came to them quite calmly, her face very pale, her hair a little ruffled. Nothing more.
Miles was just going to wish the little girls' good-night,' when they suddenly shrank up to him with a little smothered cry
Oh, brother ! see !' He glanced up hastily from their pale frightened faces, and saw a little blue figure fitting away befure them down the gallery.
* Don't be afraid, I'm going after her,' he whispered, and hastily passed their clutching hands from his to Roddice's—how the colour flashed up in her face, and her fingers quivered as they touched his for a second !
Miles rushed precipitately after the retreating form. Hearing the steps behind, she half turned her head, then gave chase, and flew on through the long gallery.
The passages at Mildenhall are very long, and narrow, and dark. The Blue Lady had a good start of Miles, and she got to the turn of the passage into the farthest wing of the house, and escaped down it, full three minutes before he came to it. There was a little rustling sound-a door clapped violently to. When the young man rushed round the corner there was not a thing to be seen but the blank wall on either side.
The girls were following at a distance, the children quaking, but reassured by Roddice's confidence in Miles being there. Their high heels came tip-tapping gingerly over the boards towards him.
He was standing knocking with his hand all along the wall.
* There's some sort of a trap-door here. Stay, let's see,' said he, putting his hand to his forehead and considering. This is the very end of the house. Yes, inside there,' striking the wall again, 'is “the little old room," as you call it, that only opens down the broken steps into the garden.'
With that he seized a broom that was standing against the housemaid's cupboard, and re-commenced battering and buffeting along the panelling till all the passage reverberated.
Oh !' whispered Nancy, terrified, he will break the house down.' And even as she said it, one of the panels sprang back with a crash and fell inwards.
In an instant Miles had vaulted over and dropped himself down to the floor beneath. It was six feet or so below the level of the gallery. The girls peering in saw a narrow, dark room lined with oak, an old white-haired man crouching in a chair, and, standing up protectingly before him, with a hand on his, a little lady in a blue gown, with a pale, alarmed face.
The next minute Miles, with an inarticulate cry—'What, Molly ! What, sweetheart !'-had caught her into his arms.
She, after the first second of amazed uncertainty, gave herself into his clasping, and could not speak for tears.