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clasped with a jewel. Mrs Hesketh had made
over to Winny all the few trinkets she pos-
sessed, and Winny wore her mother's pearl
ring to-night, and fastened her black velvet
with a little oval brooch and pendant locket,
composed of an amethyst and rows of seed

* You are a perfect darling, Winny ! I wonder
whether you have any notion how pretty you
are ? ' Mildred said contemplating her with a
sort of feminine rapture.

Winny's eyes softened and sweetened, but
she said quite coolly : ' Oh yes ! I am not im-
posing, but I call myself nicely finished.'

* Nicely finished, indeed ! That's a new



descriptive term — is it the way you speak of
your heroines ? When Is our book to be
written that we planned together, Winny — eh ? '
They were on their descent downstairs now,
Winny tucked under Mildred's arm in the old
Manor School style, and feeling quite at home

* O Mildred, I have nearly completed a
tale — lo7t£', long enough for a whole volume —
I get up at five o'clock at Hall Green, and so
I have an hour before the children are ready —
lessons begin at seven. I've brought it', Winny
whispered, all at once becoming serious, earnest,
impressive, and comic.

* We will read it up in my room to-morrow,'
said Mildred confidential in her turn. 'And
I have made a song — a song that will sing —
I have made the melody too. You shall hear

They were now at the drawing-room door,
and Winny, released from her friend's embrace,
trimmed herself straight, and entered first.
There was a hubbub of laughter and conversa-
tion in the room — Mr Hutton laying down the


law, Mr Melhulsh, the vicar, propounding a
contrary argument, and emphasising it with
one forefinger on the other palm ; Mr Durant
lying back in an easy chair, gazing at the ceiling,
Mrs Hutton the elder listening perplexed, Mrs
Hutton the younger listening amused.

A sudden silence fell. Mr Hutton jumped
up, and greeted the visitor with hospitable
warmth, Mr Melhuish shook hands with Mil-
dred, and bowed to her introduction of her
friend. Mr Durant withdrew his eyes from the
ceiling, and turned them on the young stran-
ger with an amiable fastidious scrutiny. ' She
is a little lady,' was his private reflection. Then
everybody went to tea — to supper — whatever
you please to call it — not dinner : the family
at the farm dined punctually at one o'clock.

Winny sat between Mr Durant and her host,
and Mildred had Mr Melhuish very attentive
between her and her sister-in-law. Mr Melhuish
was a cheerful young country pastor, with a
strong voice and a loud laugh, and an early
pledge of clerical rotundity in a double chin
and prominent waistcoat. Mr Hutton was a


farmer who farmed his own land to a profit,
and understood his business thoroughly. He
kept his hunter, took out his shooting-licence,
and lived in all respects as the smaller landed
gentry live, to which fast diminishing rank the
Huttons of Foston-under-Wold belonged.

The ladies of the family talked but little :
Mr Melhuish and Mr Hutton were still the
chief speakers. Winny was glad of her chicken-
wing and cup of tea. Mr Durant close by her,
drank claret instead, and Mr Melhuish did
likewise. They were not invited guests, but
chance guests — very frequent ones. There
were no formal parties at the House, but there
was plenty of hospitality. Both these gentle-
men lived as bachelors, and had a general per-
mission to drop in and share whatever was
going. There was always something going as
succulent as a solitary dinner, and Mr Melhuish
especially preferred what he called pot-luck to
his cenobite's meal. Mr Durant commonly dined
at home, and strolled to the House with his
after-dinner cigar, and back again, by way of
passing the evening, but to-day Mr Hutton


had bidden him come at seven, for IMildred's
clever friend was coming, and they should want
somebody to talk to her. Yes, Winny had
been spoken of beforehand as ' Mildred's clever
friend,' and almost a prejudice created ; but as
she showed her wit to-night mostly by her
silence, her reputation for cleverness was not
remembered against her any more. If Durant
had come on pretence of talking it was a sheer
pretence; for he was almost as silent as his
neighbour, and he went away early — did not
stay many minutes in the drawing-room after

But the pastor lingered. He was too, too
plainly in the presence where he would ever
be ; and when Mildred, at his humble request,
opened the piano, and sang him a song, the
expression of his jolly face was that of a man
in sweetest clover. Ten o'clock struck by the
clock in the hall, and still he lingered. Young
Mrs Hutton excused herself on the plea of a
little voice in the nursery, and vanished; old
Mrs Hutton folded up her knitting, and re-
marked to Winny that she ought to rest well

VOL. I. o


after her long journey, and Mildred closed the
piano ; but, still he did not go. Not until Mr
Hutton yawned, and mentioned the necessity of
being early in the morning to ride to Lownde
market, did he say that he thought it must be
almost time to shut up. Nobody asked him to
stay a little longer. He went, and Mildred
laughed at him ; for which her mother rebuked
her, and her brother observed that Melhuish
was becoming a bit of a bore, and he wished he
would take himself off at ten, if he must needs
come so often.

' He is gone, at last, and now, Winny dear,
we'll go ; for by your eyes you are sleepy/ said
Mildred gaily.

' Good-night, girls — don't talk till the small
hours,' said Mr Hutton, and his mother repeated
the admonition more gravely.

But what was the use of it ? The friends
had not met for over a year, and their drowsy
eyes were still open and their tongues busy
when the clock in the hall tolled one. Then
they made a strong resolution to talk no more,
and except for Mildred saying: 'Winny, are


you asleep yet ? I just want to tell you ' — they
kept it ; for Winny did not answer. She was
accustomed to sleep her very^ best, as a matter
of duty to her work next morning, and she
was already lost in the downy oblivion of



The interminable quality of feminine con-
fidences may well be a wonder to men. It
was not ten o'clock when Mildred Hutton
carried Winny off under her arm to walk In
the walled garden — a fruit garden apart from
the house — and they were walking there still
when the bell rang that gave. warning of dinner
— three mortal hours of unceasing talk, and for
one word of WInny's, one thousand of Mil-
dred's. Winny had, Indeed, no story to tell,
and Mildred had two.

There was a commodious arbour In that
garden, and there they entered for a space
Avhile Mildred showed Winny one of those
libels on the human face divine that passed
current as portraits In the nonage of photo-
graphy. Winny studied it profoundly. ' I


should say it was a fine face — a good face,'
was her opinion deHvered with brevity and

'It is a beautiful face,' said Mildred, and
took the libel into her hand tenderly. * Poor
Frank ! When shall I see him again ? Shall
I ever see him again, Winny ? '

' You don't write — you never hear of each
other except through third persons — and you
have not met since you exchanged rings two
years ago.' Winny was only reciting the
heads of INIildred's confession reflectively.
After a considerable pause, she asked : * You
love him ?'

' Dearly, dearly' said Mildred, and that was
the text of all that came after. She rose up
suddenly, and took Winny into her embrace ;
and round, and round, and round they went,
monotonous miles round that walled garden,
discoursing of poor Frank, his home, his father
and mother, his brothers and sisters, friends
and connections, and all about him.

Winny speculated once whether he amused
himself this while, and if he did, how ?


' Because,' added she, ' I am thinking of
that Mr Melhuish.'

Mildred coloured, and laughed a little.
* My mother encourages him. I don't — In-
deed, WInny, / don t] she asseverated. ' But
if Frank and I are to be parted, he would be
as good as another. I am not like you ; I
should be a miserably discontented woman
if I had to live solitary. And they all think
Melhulsh a kind fellow.'

This sounded dreadful to WInny — shocking.
She stood still, and looked at her friend,
amazed, incoherent. ' I should call that almost
as bad as the seventh commandment — to
marry Mr Melhulsh, while you can say of
Frank that you love him " dearly, dearlyT '

Mildred made no answer, she only walked a
little faster — to break out presently in another
strain. * You know nothing about it, WInny !
You have such fine theoretical notions. I
should never be astonished to hear that you
had fallen in love perversely.'

^ Don't predict me such a calamity, Mildred,'
expostulated WInny, laughing but rueful. ' Idle


words of that sort have a way of bringing them-
selves to pass. There's my brother Dick — one
day, In a pet, uncle Hayland told him that the
men of our family never did any good, and when
Dick wants an excuse for his laziness, and the.
scrapes it gets him into, he quotes his uncle,
and asks, how can he help it ? '

' I did not mean to be unkind ! ' Mildred
took her companion's face between her two
hands with repentant affection. * But you
have that look in your eyes, Winny. If you
fancy there is nothing in love but what you
can foresee and control, some day, to your
sorrow, you'll find out your mistake.'

' No woman can cheat her fate,' Winny
rejoined. * It is just because I believe your
love for Frank to be true, strong and per-
manent, that I protest against Mr Melhuish.
I put myself, in imagination, in your place.'

Winny could not quite do that. She saw
Mildred's natural sweetness strangely thwarted,
thoughts of herself ever uppermost, an irritable
restless humour urging her to constant change
and excitement. She sought for peace in a


vast effusion of reminiscences, but found only
a more feverish impatience. She was some-
times very unhappy, very uneasy ; one hour
dull and melancholy, the next nettlesome and
perplexing. Her sister-in-law was long since
tired with hearing her, and the whole family
would have rejoiced if the jovial and comfort-
able vicar could have effected a diversion of
her love-sick mind in his own favour. Young
Mrs Hutton quickly discerned that Mildred's
friend was not throwing the weight of her
influence into that scale, but the contrary, and
set her down as a romantic young woman —
and when a happy matron, the mother of four
boys, calls a young virgin romantic, she means
her anything rather than a compliment.

The day lagged somewhat after dinner, but
the house could never be oppressively quiet
with those active little children in it, and
WInny amused the two who were not at siesta.
Mildred, moody, exhausted and silent, sat
sewing until four o'clock, when she abruptly
proposed to walk along the road to meet her
brother, returning from Lownde.


'You will find it dusty, and very hot yet,'
said her mother in a voice of remonstrance ;
but Mildred only said : ' Come, Winny,' as if
impatient of a check, and Winny submissively

It was, indeed, the hottest hour of the day,
and the summer dust lay deep, and white as
lime upon the road ; but Mildred plunged
afresh into her sea of troubles, and knew
nothing but that its waves were running almost
over her head.

* Sometimes I think I shall go mad,' said
she vehemently. ' O Winny, can you not com-
fort me with your cool reason ? '

* What was your last news of him, and how
old is it ? ' Winny inquired.

* On the tenth of May, I heard of him. Miss
Cradock was at Norminster, and met him in
the street — you know Miss Cradock lives at
Lownde, and we stayed at his father's house
together the first time I was there. She is
rich, and if Frank had chosen her instead of
me, that would have pleased them all. But he
did not'


* Did he send you any message ? '

' He said there was no change at home — 1
understood what he meant me to know by that.
He is in as much subjection to his parents as a
young Frenchman. Old Madame, his grand-
mother, is French, and from her the whole
household takes its tone. Such a tiny despot,
Winny, and she objected to my great size.'
Mildred could not help a laugh at this recol-
lection, and Winny contrived to keep the talk
at that level.

' There is the post — what prevents him writ-
ing ? He cannot be kept in leading-strings
for ever,' she said.

' Have I not told you ? My mother is proud,
and she made me promise that I would neither
receive his letters nor write to him until I am
of age. I am not so penniless as they imagine.
I shall have four hundred pounds a year of my
own the day I am one-and-twenty. And that
is only six weeks off — my birthday is in

* O Mildred, live in hope ! I don't see any
lawful impediment that can hinder your happi-


ness If he be constant. Let the French grand-
mother hear that you have a comfortable
dot — the dot goes for very much in French

' It is the first consideration. I never told
Frank that I should have any money — I never
gave it a thought, nor he either probably. And
when my want of it was made an objection my
mother forbade me to tell him '

' Somebody else may have told him. The
time draws near when he must assert his own
will or give you your release — that is why you
are disquieted — I think I'll trust him. I like
his face In his portrait ' — WInny looked wicked.

* There you go, WInny, making sport of us !
I know you are laughing at what you call my
exaggerations. I wish I had a glass to show
you the curl of your lip at this minute.'
Mildred seemed to rail, but she was pleased.
She brightened altogether, became oblivious of
length and distance, and went on and on until
Winny, ready to drop with fatigue, spied a
stile by the road, and asked if they had not
better rest.


The stile was in the shadow of the bushy
hedge-row, and Winny stepping over it, they
perched on the top-bar facing one another, and
Mildred remarked with apparent surprise, that
they had come over two miles, and that they
would have to walk back the same way. While
between the hedges the country had been hidden
from view, but now Winny had a fine prospect
at her feet — in the foreground a great field of
wheat, ripening to the harvest ; in the middle-
distance a picturesque tiled house in a garden,
from the gateway of which a broken avenue of
yew-trees stretched across pastures full of cattle
to the parish church of Rushmead, the next
village to Foston. The back-ground was of
woods and distant hills. The westering sun
glittered in the upper windows of the house
which had fivQ gables in front, three on one
side of the porch, and two on the other. It
was admirably constructed to retain the dusky
shadows towards evening, and. won Winny's
artistic eye in an instant.

' Do you ever sketch now, Mildred ? I


must have a drawing of that house in the valley.
Who lives there ? ' she asked.

' Oh, that is Rushmead Old Hall, Durant's
house — my brother farms his land. It is really
very pretty when you are near it, and well
kept, though he is not much there,' Mildred
said unconcernedly. ^ I have given up my
sketching, but you shall go some day.'

Winny Hesketh felt a curiosity about Mr
Durant, and it was consonant with her specu-
lations that he should be the master of that
ancient and lonely house in the fields. She
did not ask any questions, but Mildred
being in the vein, with very slight en-
couragement went on to talk of him, and
Winny listened with an interest that grew by

* Leonard Durant was destined for holy
orders, but he did like the prodigal son in the
parable — he asked his father to give him the
portion that fell to him, and w^ent ranging about
the world instead of going into the Church. I
don't mean that he was wild, but he was an
enterprising young fellow, and could not resign


himself to a quiet life. He was the third son
when he left home, but when he came back
there was no one to welcome him — only the
empty house. His father and his two brothers
had died in his absence, and Rushmead was
his. The neighbours tried to clip his wings,
and keep him there, but in less than six months
he tired of it ; so my brother took the land,
and he was soon off again. He is an incor-
rigible vagabond now, but such a pleasant,
generous man — we all like Leonard Durant at
our house. He is a prime favourite with my
mother. She would have liked him for a son-
in-law once upon a time — before my sister Kate
was married to Merlewood.'

Winny was not astonished to hear that. Mr
Durant seemed to her a man to be universally
a favourite.

While Mildred was still speaking there was
the sound of a horse upon the road. The rider
appeared in sight, and it was Mr Hutton. He
reined up when he saw the girls, and asked
how they came to be there— adding without
pause for explanation : * Don't let Mildred walk


you off your feet, Miss Hesketh — she Is apt to
forget that a little pony cannot trot so fast and
far as a tall horse without distress. The visita-
tion is at Rockbro' next week, Milly — I shall
have to go with Melhuish. It would be a nice
outing for you girls if Miss Hesketh has not
seen Rockbro'. I'll speak to my mother if
you would both like it.'

Mildred would like it extremely. Winny
had not seen Rockbro', and would like it too.
' Fanny will go to look after you — Fanny is
my wife. Miss Hesketh. We will put up at
the Crown, and make two days of it. If you
intend to come home to tea, it is time you were
moving — you will not be waited for.' With this
warning admonition Mr Hutton cantered

The girls immediately set their faces towards
the House, and walked apace, yet not so
fast but that Mildred had breath to tell how it
was at Rockbro' she had parted last from
Frank, and how it was from friends of his
there she had her most direct intelligence of


Mr Hutton chose a propitious moment for
speaking to his mother — on Sunday afternoon
in the walled garden, whither they had all
adjourned for dessert and child-play in the
arbour. Mr Durant was there. He had just
stepped over to see how they were getting on
at the House (his custom often of a Sunday
afternoon) and when Mr Hutton had won his
mother's consent (a visibly reluctant consent
with regard to her daughter), he turned to his
neighbour, and said : ' You had better come
with us, Durant — make one more of our party.
The more, the merrier.'

Durant seemed to debate with himself the
pros and cons. At length he answered : ' I
don't care if I do. But Jem has lamed my
brown horse, and how am I to get there ? You
will all ride, of course.'

' Yes. Fanny would hardly go else, nor Mil-
dred either, I suspect. That is half the fun of the
expedition — to cross the wolds, and have their
horses at Rockbro'. But there is Miss Hesketh,
by the by — do you ride. Miss Hesketh ? '

Winny blushed, ashamed of her utter in-


capacity, but confessed that she never rode in
her Hfe.

' Then I'll drive Miss Hesketh In the phaeton
— the grey mare can do the distance ? ' said Mr

* Yes, she can do it easily,' Mr Hutton replied.
' But we will find you a mount, Durant. There
is -the bay colt, if you like ! '

Then Mrs Hutton suggested that Bob could
be spared to drive Miss Hesketh, and their
bags and boxes ; and he would be useful also at
Rockbro' with the horses. Mr Hutton said
* Yes — perhaps that would be the best ar-

* It will be rather dull work for my dear little
Winny,' whispered Mildred, pouting and caress-
ing her.

Winny looked up in Mildred's face with
sweet eyes, and answered despotically : 'No, It
won't! If Bob is not surly, I am not proud.
I shall make him talk ; and tell me wold-country

Durant was observing her. She was rosy,
eager and shy ; she wanted to be in nobody's



way. He was a warm-hearted, impulsive
person, and thought it a pity the little thing
should not have her pleasure like the rest. And
in that sentiment he spoke. * I'll be your
friend's escort, Miss Mildred, if she will allow
me. I'll try to be as good company as Bob,
Miss Hesketh. I know the wold-country
stories, too.'

It was then taken for settled. Mildred was
sorry that Winny would not have the exhilara-
tion of the beautiful ride by the bridle-track
over the wolds — the phaeton must follow the
road, of course. But Winny bade her not spoil
her own enjoyment by any regret ; for she was
sure the drive would be beautiful too, and an
immense treat to her.



The night before the proposed expedition to
Rockbro' when the girls went up to bed,
Mildred stopped at the stair-case window, and
said : ' Listen to the rain, Winny — and that's
thunder. What a pity if we cannot go to-
morrow ! '

A pity, indeed ! Nevertheless, with the
buoyant confidence of hopeful youth, they pro-
ceeded to pack their best bonnets and pretty
evening silk dresses for the table-d/hote at the
Crown, and a variety of other matters not very
likely to be called into requisition, but desirable
to have in case of need. Winny's feeling was
that providence could not be so unkind as to
disappoint them of their innocent frolic — a brief,
intense pleasure for these country girls, to be
considered in proportion to the general dulness


of their bucolic lives. And Winny's trust in
the good-will of providence was not misplaced.
She opened her eyes at four o'clock in the
morning, rose, and looked out. The dawn was
clear, the air fresh, the summer trees, long
athirst, were glittering still with the abundance
of rain ; the far-seen, winding road had lost its
lime-white glare, and was cool, moist brown —
the July dust was thoroughly laid, and the
storm of last night had most opportunely pre-
pared them a day of ten thousand.

Mr Hutton came downstairs smart as a
bridegroom, with a flower in his button-hole,
and a new blue tie. Mr Melhuish, invited to
come to breakfast, did not fail, and everybody
wore a festive countenance. It had been agreed
that Bob should drive Miss Hesketh to Rush-
mead, which was all on the way to Rockbro,' to
pick up Mr Durant, but when the phaeton was
brought round to the garden door at the House,
Durant was there — he was ready, and thought
he might as well walk over as wait, kicking
his heels at the church corner.

The phaeton was to have an hour's start of


the riders, but Mildred promised her friend that
they would be at the Crown first ; because the
drive by the road was longer than the bridle-path
across the wolds, and the grey mare would want
a longer bait mid- way the journey. Mildred,
in her riding-habit, was a new sight to
Winny, and she became it admirably. Winny
herself, in a brown dunstable bonnet trimmed
with three shades of brown ribbon, a white net
quilling under, and a blue pent-house, technically
called an ' ugly,' over, to save her eyes and
complexion from the sun, had an air of extreme
seclusion ; and when ]\Irs Hutton the elder had
seen her scrupulously enveloped in a drab dust
cloak, for the preservation of her fawn carme-
lite dress, anybody meeting the phaeton upon
the road might have asked Mr Durant what
old woman he had got there. That, however,
could not prevent Winny's eyes shining with a
clear lustre or her cheeks blushing like roses
— she had such a happy face when she was
happy, an expression that created a sympathy.

As they drove off, Mr Hutton with gay
good-humour cried after them : ' Take care of


her, Durant ; don't upset her ! I daresay she Is
precious to somebody ! *

' Or will be ! ' replied Durant in the same
vein, throwing a glance behind him.

Winny looked back too — at Mildred bare-
headed, shading her eyes from the sun, at Wiffle,

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