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Is this your bride, Lord Thomas? (she sayd)
Metbinks she looks wondrous browne.
Give me the knife, Dick ; this corner must be cut to fit.'
• Wondrous browne ?' thought Raymond. "No! No one will ever say that I have married for money. In a few years' time this face will be more than a sufficient excuse for any act of folly. And I, unfortunately, am no longer capable of committing an act of folly; we grow so wise as we grow old !
•I shan't offer to assist,' he said aloud, in his laziest tone. "I was never good at that kind of thing. Isn't it-less trouble—to buy your bird-cages ready made?'
Possibly. It certainly costs less !' answered Dagmar coolly; and there was another pause.
• Despise her not, faire Ellin (he sayd),
Despise her not unto me,
Than all her whole bodie.'
In the middle of this chanson the knife slipped, but Day, with characteristic pride, completed it with more than usual clearness. Then she remarked composedly- .
• Talking of fingers, I have cut mine.'
'I should think you have!' cried Raymond indignantly, springing up and taking possession of the little brown hand. • Dick! go and fetch something to bind it up with—and be quick about it.'
It is nothing to mind,' said she; but she stood still and let him hold her hand, lightly but firmly, to check the little wound from bleeding.
Why don't you let Dick do the rough part of the work ?' he asked, still indignant.
He would only cut himself much more often than I do.' • Better for him to chop his hands to pieces than for you. What was that you were singing just now
6. Better I love thy little finger,
Than all- ?”
They were standing close together; her hand, by the exigencies of the situation, surrendered to both of his; and he looked at her with something more like passion in his eyes than had been there for years, and yet, even then, in the bottom of his heart, he was remembering that it was to his first love that the ballad-hero spoke those impassioned words.
Dick came bouncing into the room, with old linen enough—begged from the housekeeper—to have bound up the wounds of a regiment that had been in action, and Raymond bound up the little wounded finger with an air of proprietorship that was half provoking to the real owner thereof.
Do be more careful another time,' he said. You might hurt yourself in good earnest some day, and you can't suppose all this carpentering business is worth such a risk.'
Dagmar thanked him, but made no promises, and did not laugh at him, which was perhaps more surprising.
Perhaps she was too much taken back,' for before her cousin relinquished the little ill-used hand he lifted it to his lips, more with the air of one who takes payment than one who solaces a childish injury, with a kiss to make it well.'
The rain did not abate ; but after luncheon Maurice Claughton put on his macintosh and faced the elements. He was not accustomed to spending the whole day indoors, and had already perhaps had enough of the Squire's company and advice, while the rest of the party had all letters to write, except Dagmar, who had disappeared, and Dick, who was buried in a book.
So Maurice went out, and up the road towards the Court. He must by this time have got over his nervous shrinking from the deserted home of his ancestors, or he would never have cared to face it on such a day as this, when the wind sighed through the deserted rooms, and spots of damp came out everywhere like ineffaceable bloodstains, and even the little cheery room that Dagmar had approved looked a very temple of dreariness.
He walked through the rooms, making another tour of inspection, with more care and more personal interest than he had shown upon the former occasion. But there was an odd questioning look upon his face all the while. He might have been debating with himself whether it had been wise to have left the sunny foreign shores for this.
He went into the garden and greenhouses, and stood about a long while in the rain, talking to the gardener and planning alterations. Then he went out into the park and up into the hanging woods above the house-woods that to-day were wrapped in mist, with every decaying leaf heavy with clinging raindrops.
Maurice splashed on, unheeding discomfort, perhaps not feeling it. Of all things he hated to feel himself a coward, and he was conscious now of having been one. Carefully as he had inspected the house he had not entered the large drawing-room, nor so much as opened its door, from sheer unwillingness to meet the eyes of that portrait of his father that hung above the tall carved mantelshelf.
“This is pure unreason !' he said to himself impatiently. Next time I will go in there, and face it, and have done with it once for all.'
He turned downwards to get out of the wood, and struck into a winding sandy road, that led steeply down the outer ridge of the hill, skirted the churchyard, and so went downward to the village.
He was striding along, aware of being in the right direction, and careless of how long the way might be, so long as it gave him leisure for thought, when turning a corner he came suddenly upon Dagmar Tyndal.
She was dressed in a long white macintosh, shining with rain, with a large loose hood drawn partly over her head. She carried an umbrella, apparently as a sort of compliment to the elements, for though it was open it was tilted backwards over her shoulders till the rain splashed unchecked against her glowing cheeks and the brown waves of her hair. And in her face was that look of dreamy enjoyment that was perhaps its prevailing expression. She was thinking of some poetical and apt description of just such a day and scene; and was so happy in it that twice as much wind and rain would by no means have discomposed her. • You here ?' said Maurice, in surprise. "But will you not get wet?'
Not very. By no means so wet as you are at this moment.' • Oh! I have been through the woods,' said Maurice, turning back to walk by her side. But you, where are you going?'
• To the church,' she answered, showing him the basket that she carried on her arm, a rough brown basket filled with single dahlias and glowing with colour. It is a Saint's day to-morrow,' she went on, taking out one or two of the topmost flowers and shaking the moisture from them. •And Mr. Layton likes the flowers to be kept fresh for Saints' days and Sundays; so I go up and look to them.'
• Even in the rain ?'
• It does not always rain. And if it did I don't think I should much mind.'
• Perhaps not,' said Maurice, smiling. I have found out already that you are one of the happy people who enjoy everything.'
Dagmar opened her eyes. She was so young that she had no opinions concerning herself, only surmises. And every expression of other people's opinion was highly interesting to her, so long as it seemed truthful and not too complimentary.
I don't know !' she said meditatively. I enjoy pleasant things, of course, but there is nothing remarkable in that; and as for the unpleasant
• Ob, Miss Tyndal, you know little indeed of the world if you think that most people enjoy pleasant things. All my life I have had to do with people who were travelling for their pleasure, and they say that foreign travel is pleasant-yes! But I have seen very few who condescended to enjoy themselves, and fewer still who permitted themselves to look as if they did.'
He was struggling with the gate that opened from the road into the churchyard as he spoke, and to Dagmar's surprise he followed her through it, and up the gravelled path towards the church.
They opened the heavy duor, and entered the church, dim and somewhat oppressive-looking in the grey rainy light.
Dagmar went up to the altar, took off the brazen vases, and carried
them into the tiny vestry, while Maurice walked noiselessly about with his bat in his hand, looking at the quaint old monuments that disfigured the walls.
Presently as she arranged and rearranged she was aware that he had found his way after her, and was standing near her and looking silently on.
Have you plenty of flowers ?' he asked, as she half turned her head. Remember the greenhouses are close at hand, and I shall never feel that I am really master here till I have gathered some of the fruits of my land.'
'I should like another fern or two,' she answered, looking critically at her handiwork. But for the Court greenhouses to pay toll to the church will be something new.'
*Change is good for all of us,' he answered sententiously, and departed, coming back in a few moments with a huge handful of ferns, at the sight of which Dagmar exclaimed in dismay
Oh, how could you cut those lovely things so recklessly? Simpson will be awfully angry.'
It matters very little, I think, whether he is angry or not,' answered Maurice composedly. “And the things are common enough, are they not? It seems to me that I have seen acres of them.'
'Perhaps so, but not in England. We have ferns in plenty about here, but very poor and common compared with these.?
Those I see in the lanes seem to me just as pretty,' he answered, in a self-justifying tone, as Dagmar with a dismayed look disentangled the handful so roughly gathered. Believe me, it is quite a mistake to think that foreign productions are any better than English ones.'
'Do you really think so?' she asked doubtfully. You ought to know, but
'I believe that England is the finest country it the world,' he broke in earnestly, leaning against the surplice cupboard and looking down upon her. “Yes, and as far as I have seen the most beautiful!'
Dagmar made a little exclamation of surprise. *I am sorry for that,” she said soberly ; 'I have seen no country but England at present, and I have been looking forward to seeing many more beautiful countries. How surprised you must have been, then, when you first came to England.'
No!'he answered. “I had always known what it was like; that it was the fairest, most orderly, and most blessed land in the world.'
* Then why did you stay away from it so long?'
Dagmar spoke upon impulse, as she very often did, and repented the instant the words were out of her mouth. The swift colour dyed her face and neck crimson almost before her brain had time to realise that she had asked an unwarrantable question. Maurice must have seen her confusion, but he took no notice of it.
• There were-many reasons,' he said, half abstractedly, looking through the small leaded panes of the vestry window. My exile VOL. 14.
was happy enough-if it was exile—and I always felt it so. And there was—some one—who did not wish me to come.'
It was the nearest approach he had ever made to speaking of his dead friend, and Dagmar looked up with a little thrill of interest. His eyes met hers for an instant with an eloquent wistful glance, that seemed to say, as the eyes of dogs do at times, 'I would speak out if I could. Then he recovered himself suddenly and half turned away.
"At first, when I was a boy,' he went on, 'I used to think of England as of the Terrestrial Paradise, a delightsome land, but not one to be visited at will. Of late I have always known that I could come when I would, and that when I came I ought to stay—for a time at least. So there was always something to be done first, or some place to be seen; and but fur your father's urgent letter, which brought on a sudden virtuous resolution, I should not have been here now.'
"I have done !' said Dagmar, caressing the delicate fronds into shape with dainty finger-tips. “And here are half your spoils not used. I shall take them home with me.'
She carried the vases back into their place, standing for a moment before the altar in the dim light that filtered through the darkstained window. Maurice stood below the chancel steps and looked up at her, dangling her basket upon his finger and waiting very contentedly.
That is a very hideous piece of work, that window,' he said softly, as they went down the church together. • Is your priest a man of no taste, or how does he contrive to endure it?'
‘He has very good taste, I believe. But he knows that things which cannot be cured must be endured ; and that there are many things in this dear old edifice which must be attended to before any. thing can be done to that window.'
• Is it a question of money, then?'
*Well, yes! You see, Mr. Layton is not rich, and there are not many people in the village who have money to spare. Moreover, I believe the chancel belongs to you.'
• To me? Oh, yes! I think I did hear something about it. I will rebuild it for him if he likes.'
Not on any account, cried Dagmar vivaciously. You may put in new seats if you like; but I will never forgive you if you touch those venerable old walls.'
Maurice laughed, and put his strong hand to steady the umbrella against the driving wind and rain. They went on down the road, between the dripping hedges and the walls dark with wet, talking fast and confidentially, and making plans for the perfect restoration of the little old church.
Meanwhile, Mr. Tyndal had not been without his perplexities. As he sat alone in his study that afternoon, word was brought that