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We drove-it was a crisp winter- setting eyes on her, devoted to her as between small plantations of young soon as Austin had mentioned her to firs, which looked like Christmas-trees me. met together for a party, only without I had not been long in the world, and the gifts hanging from their frosted had shown myself very tender-hearted branches.
wherever the sex bad been concerned. Through a lodge gate, and up a wide So had my father and my grandfather road, in view of more plantations and before me. Of this I was not then far older trees of various sorts, until at aware. I note the fact now, and beg the doorway of a gabled house the car- that it may be remembered. I had not riage stopped. Then such a bell sounded, forgotten my nurse, my first schoolthe like of which I had never before mistress, my Aunt Susan; nor Beatrice heard out of church, and men-servants Sarah, Carlotta Lucille, nor Julie, of came to see to my luggage. My luggage Frampton's Court. My heart was large was only a small portmanteau, and the enough to hold them all, it is true, man easily slung it off the foot-board of but it resembled a child's play-drawer, the driving-box, where it had been where the old dolls and tops are stowed hidden by four stalwart calves. That away, when the new one makes its apwas all. And the stately vehicle dis pearance. appeared, and might have turned into a Mrs. Comberwood, a handsome lady in pumpkin without astonishing me very the sleekest black velvet, resembling one much ; everything around was so new, of the portraits in the hall, welcomed me and yet, oddly enough, so familiar. in a motherly manner.
We stood in a grand old hall. Old “I am glad to see you, Master Colpictures, fitting into old panels ; a huge vin; I have often heard of you from fire-place, with fantastic carvings on Austin." and about it, and fantastic logs ablaze, Here we shook hands. I could not as they lay across ancient dogs, between say that I had often heard of her from which were feathery ashes, that looked as Austin, and so all I could do was to if grey parrots had been plucked there. look at Alice sheepishly. It must have Foxes' brushes, trophies of arms and been sheepishly, for she, standing with armour on the walls, doors in four one foot, of which I could only see recesses in the four corners, looking the shoe's point, resting on the steel just the very places whence persons of bar in front of the ancient fireplace, a mischievous turn might rush out sud- turned towards me and smiled a weldenly and say “bo” to the goose they come. wished to frighten.
I advanced towards her. “We're at home now," said Austin, “This is my sister Alice,” said Austin, helping me to take off my coat and by way of introduction. wraps. The remark was unnecessary; I had heard of her several times but it sounded so kindly in my ears, before he had mentioned her name just that I thanked him, and then replied, now. Cecil Colvin, my friends, was that “I was so glad.”
deeply impressionable at this time of "They're all in here," cried Dick, his life, and, as on soft wax, the image touching the handle of the door farthest of Alice was forthwith stamped on my from me on our left.
heart. Images and superscriptions in “Come in and see my mother,” said soft wax are very soon effaced. Heat Austin. “She's here with Alice." the wax once more, bring a different die,
I entered the drawing-room. I felt, and the former image will, at a touch, and I believe the Colvins experience have disappeared utterly, and for ever. generally the same feeling—that I was, But Alice had, in consequence of there and then, in love with Alice Com- Austin's night recitals of Scott, got berwood. No matter what her age, no mixed up in my mind with Sir Walter's matter what her looks, I was, without heroines, and then I had understood
No. 164.- VOL. XXVIII.
from her brother that we were down them, but they have never interested me, there to act something which she had and never will. Alice Comberwood's composed for us. I valued authorship, hand looked best against a clear, sharplyand Austin had read something of his defined white cuff, turned back over a own to me privately, and as a great tight sleeve. I will tell you what it favour, which struck me as very clever, was not. It was not a ghostly, transbecause it reminded me so strongly of parent hand, that would have appeared “Ivanhoe” and “Guy Mannering." in a Vandyke portrait, with long,
Let me recall this first meeting with tapering, pointed finger-tips, which seem Alice Comberwood.
as though they were only formed for Alice Comberwood, seventeen, the bird-like staccato passages on the piano real ruler in her father's house, regarded forte. by all with that imperfect love wherein Nothing unreal about Alice Comberthere is an admixture of fear. Yes, Alice wood's hand, as there was nothing unreal Comberwood, I will set you before me about Alice Comberwood. It was a firm, once again, after these many years, as with solid, fileshy hand, of even temper, soft your mother's admiring gaze fixed on in its mesmeric caress, truthful in its you, you stood smiling upon the gawky, decided grasp. awkward boy, whose silent tongue and Her gloved hand piqued curiosity like speaking eyes told you of the admira- a veiled Venus. It was a positive pleation with which you had inspired him. sure to see the glove withdrawn, and You took it, as a queen, as your right; then you wondered how you could have you took it from me as you would have ever admired the glove which lay lifeless taken it from anyone, but you secretly (and what so helpless and lifeless as a prized the homage of a simple, straight- crumpled glove ?) on the table beside forward boy, as the real metal of truth, her, suddenly dead and dull as the skin free from the alloy of flattery.
shed by the water-snake on the bank. She had been standing in a medita- Most women appear to advantage in tive attitude before the fire, her fingers a riding-habit, Alice to more advantage interlaced. Now she unclasped her than most. Logically you can infer how hands, and stretched forth one to me. a habit became her.
I have ever been inclined to judge of Something more on this hand, and I female character by the hand. Not as have done. It was a hand that would the fortune-teller, who, from the lines write a plain, straightforward, yea for engraved on the open palm, predicts a yea, nay for nay letter, in unangular chadestiny; but, by the whole hand, and racters that bear little resemblance to the hand's movements, I will warrant the ordinary meagre regularity and myself, if going by first instincts only, pointed-Gothicness of a school-girl's to be right in my appreciation of indi- style. vidual character. As to prediction of She had never been a satisfactory results, to that I do not pretend. To pupil. Ordinary persons are satisfactory predicate of a firm character, that in pupils. Ordinary girls could copy with certain circumstances it will act firmly, exactitude : Alice could not. To copy is to ignore inconsistency. Allow- led her on to fanciful additions. Shesaw, ing much for accident, you must intuitively, what she wanted in a book allow more for inconsistency. So, on or a picture, and adapted it, after her thinking over this matter of hands, I own fashion. She unconsciously imiconclude that I have an inclination tated, and a certain sort of originality towards hands, and when called upon grew out of her imitation. Later on to pronounce judgment at all, would she would have called this eclecticism, rather form my opinion of a woman by and have wondered at herself for her her hand, than by her face. I do not say wilfulness. Facts were to her only the this of men. I do not care formen's hands. foundations of romance. She mentally There probably is great character in dressed up anybody who was pre
sented to her, just as, when a child, peated his mother, quite annoyed at she had insisted upon undressing any child of hors bearing such an apa dressed doll in order to clothe pellation. its sawdust-stuffed body in the cos- “He," Austin went on, alluding untume that pleased her. She would ceremoniously to me, "was called ride a tilt for those whom she had “Elephant.'" chosen to call her friends; but was I didn't like this before Alice, and I inclined to scarify such as were ob- coloured. Alice smiled. This made it noxious to her. Religion moderated her worse. I think I should have been eagerness to scarify; and her attempts angry, for I wasn't much given to tears, to reduce the precepts of charity to except when anger was abortive, if she social practice, resulted either in silence hadn't remarked, or commonplaces. With her large, “Well, I don't see why he should be bright, inquiring eyes, clear complexion, called Elephant.” and dark wavy hair, she could have No more did I. passed anywhere for a genuine Irish Austin informed her: “Because, beauty. But her parentage was pure when he was a new boy, he was so big Saxon.
and awkward, and had such large ears.” “I am sure you must be very cold,” “You shouldn't repeat such things, she said to me; “ come to the fire. Austin, at all events, of your friend," Why, your hands are like ice.”
said Mrs. Comberwood. Thereupon she made way for me, and “He doesn't mind it," answered her I began to feel myself of some import- son. “Do you ?” ance. Mrs. Comberwood asked after I replied that I didn't mind it, of my father, Sir John, whom she hadn't course, from him, but that I disliked it the pleasure of knowing, and requested from others. Now was my opportunity some details about the Colvin family, for explaining to Alice that the title with which I willingly furnished her. had fallen into disuse by this time,
“You have no brothers or sisters ? ” and that in point of fact I was no said Alice. “You are the only one, are longer the “Elephant ;" but there was you not?"
a boy whom they called “Rhinoceros, “Yes, I am the only one."
and two others, the Biffords, whose “You and Austin are great friends?" names, up to the time of their leaving,
Her brother put his arm round her were “Fatty" and “Puggy." waist affectionately.
Alice thought these vulgar. “Yes," I replied, "very great friends.” “I hate anything vulgar in names,"
“We have a room together, you she said ; "and I don't think I like know," said Austin.
funny names; they ought to be stopped, “Yes, I do know," returned his sister, unless they're exactly suited to the "and you keep Master Colvin awake people." with Scott's novels."
“Nelly's a funny name," observed We both laughed. Then Alice said Dick, who had now joined the party. to her brother,
“Nelly's my eldest sister,” explained “What do the boys call him at Austin." school ?"
“ Elder, Austin, not eldest. The “Nickname ?” asked Austin.
comparative must be used where there “No, nothing rude; I won't hear it, are two, the superlative where there are Austin." She held up her hand to more.” warn him.
“Dear me !” ejaculated her mother, “ It is nothing rude. You know pretending to perk herself up. Elders they used to call me Owl in the Ivy- who are unacquainted with the process bush,' because, when I first went, I had of extracting the yolk of an egg by such long hair."
suction, do not like being instructed on “Owl in the Ivy-bush, indeed !" re. the subject by juniors, even when the instruction is conveyed obliquely. A berwood's wishes were not quite law in ball striking you just as it glances off his own house, any more than they an angle of a wall hits hard. Besides, were in the courts where he profesflesh and blood feel the blow; the wall, sionally appeared as solicitor instructing first struck, did not.
counsel. “We're very particular,” she added I found myself in a new world. ironically.
What did I know of Low, High, Evan“If we are to learn grammar, let us gelical, Anglican, and such terms at speak it,” said Alice.
that age ? Nothing at all. I just remem“And what," I asked, becoming bered having heard Dr. Carter telling bolder, " is your elder sister's name?” the senior usher how, on being invited
“McCracken," answered Alice, with to some clerical meeting in the neigha sparkle of fun in her eyes.
bourhood, be and two friends had It was impossible not to laugh. We appeared in their black gowns, while all laughed, except Mamma, who begged the others were all in surplices and us to consider what an excellent house hoods. Mrs. Carter denounced this as wife sister Nelly was; and what a good tomfoolery, and we boys (at dinner) unman Mr. McCracken.
consciously imbibed her notion (if any "Ah !” exclaimed Alice, moving to at all) on this subject. The matter the table, “he's so dreadfully low." was one in no way interesting to me.
“Low ! my dear Alice !” cried Mrs. Had I not been invited to take a part Comberwood, quite startled : “I never in some New Year's festivities, and to heard you say such a thing before, and pass a merry holiday-time at Ringhurst ! I hope I never shall again. Of your Undoubtedly. brother-in-law too! Low! he's a per Between seven and eight the steam fect gentleman—and a clergyman—and of a great fuss pervaded the house. you who say you have so much respect There was bustling among servants, firesfor the clergy- ".
were suddenly and savagely attacked, “So I have, Mamma. For all clergy- logs were piled on recklessly, chamber men on account of their office, not for candles were reviewed in a line on the their individual opinions. I was speak- hall table, where they appeared in heavy ing of Andrew McCracken as a clergy. marching order, armed with their burman. Of course he's a gentleman, or nished extinguishers and their snuffers Nelly wouldn't have married him. As by their side. Then the family musa gentleman, he is what he ought to be. tered in the hall. As a clergyman, he is what he ought The master was expected every minute. not to be."
In point of fact he had already “But you called him low,' Alice," passed bis usual time. Mamma's anxiety Mrs. Comberwood reminded her.
showed itself in the various reasons she “Well, dear, I thought you would gave to prove that there was no cause have known that · Low' meant Low for it. Nor was there. Church-Evangelical.”
“He's not a bit later than he was last “He has a right to his opinions : night,” said Dick. though, as far as I go, and I go quite “Rather earlier, if Papa comes now," far enough, I'm sure, I think Nelly observed Alice, walking to the door. migbt manage to have the service more We heard the wind threatening outcheerfully conducted.”
side, as much as to say boldly,“ Coming! “She gives in to him,” said Alice, Of course he's coming; only mind I'm with a toss of the head.
against him to-night, and the more I “Ah!” said her mother, thinking, try to keep him back the more urgent perhaps, that at this point it would be will he be to press forward." Then the as well to drop the subject. Alice was voice was lost among the firs and larches, sharp enough, she was perfectly aware, as with a sharp gritty sound, the sharper to have seen long since that Mr. Com- and the more gritty as it neared the hall door, came the wheels of the dog-cart, cels; for he was of that order of paterbroken by the horse's slinging trot, like familias which looks upon fish in a the conductor's bâton beating common straw-plaited basket from London as a time on a wooden desk to the opening peace-offering for venial sins. of the overture to “Semiramide.” The “Now, Stephen, do come in," urged last fortissimo, the last bar, and the his wife. bell was rendered unnecessary, though Then Stephen Comberwood came in. rung, by the rapidity wherewith the As, however, he is a very big man, and butler threw open the front door. & person of some importance, I must