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THE MYSTERY OF " MRS. BLENCARROW.…

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(NOW 11111ST PUBLISHED.] y ■ THE MYSTERY OF MRS. BLENCARROW. By Mrs. OLIPHANT. Author of The Chronioles of Carlingford., 'k, The S0;1 of his Father," Sk Tom/ &0., &0. I k flLL RIGHTS RESERVED. ] CHAPTER IX. r7" t^chief ^per ^$5yfc~ £ ~'sons in this mm £ •. > strange drama were doing or thinking was hid under an impenetrable veil to all the world. Life *i§j at Blencarrow went on as usual. The frost was now l f keen and the pond was bearing; the youngsters forgotten everything except the delight the ice. Even Emmy had been dragged and showed a little colour in her pale Cheeks and a flush of pleasure in her eyes at she made timid essays in the art I bating, under the auspices of her yfothers, "When she proved too timid for a j progress they put her in a chair *Hd drew her carriage from end to end of the P°?«» growing more and more rosy and i Fl ^rs* Blencarrow herself came down J* e afternoon to see them at their play, >ince the pond at Blencarrow was l*med, there was a wonderful gathering of Poople whom Reginald and Bertie had JQVited, or who were used to corne as soon as "was known that the pond was bearing." ^en the lady of the house came on to •his cheerful scene everybody hurried to do cer homage. The soandal had not taken tIPOtt or else they meant to show her that her would not turn againBt her. Perhaps the cessation of visits had been but au aooident, such as sometimes happens in those :wintry days when nobody cares to leave home; or perhaps publio opinion after the first shock of hearing the re- port against her had come suddenly round again, as it sometimes does, with an impulse at indignant disbelief. However that might be, ehe received a triumphant welcome from everybody. To be sure it was upon her own ground. People said to each other that Mrs. Blenoarrow was not looking very strong, but exceedingly handsome and interesting; her dark velvet and furs suited her, her eyes were wonderfully dear, almost like the eyes of a Child exceptionally brilliant; her colour went and came. She spoke little, but she was very gracious and made the most charming picture, everybody said, with her children about; Jimmy, rosy with unusual excitement and exercise, clinging to her arm, the boys making circles round her. ■ C « Mamma, come on the chair-we will take you to the end of the pond." Put mamma on the chair," they shouted, laying hold upon her. She allowed herself to be persuaded, and they flew along, pushing her before them, their animated, glowing faces, full of delight, Showing over her shoulders. ?* Brown, come and give us a hand with Hiimma. Brown, just lay hold at this side. Brown t Where's Brown ? Can't he hear F" the boys cried. Never mind Brown," said Mrs. Blen- CMMW: I like my boys best." b Ah but he is such a fellow," they ex- claimed, "He could take you over like light- lng. He is far the best skater on the ice. *arn mamma round, liex. and let her see Brown." iso, my darlings, take me back to the Vft I a"i getting a little giddy," she said, t f»ut as they obeyed her they did not fail to Point out the gyrations of Brown, who was inl as they said, the best skater on the ?*' Blencarrow saw him very well— nedid not lose the sight—sweeping in won- e i C'rc'es about the pond, admired by everybody. He was heavy in repose, but he J^as a picture of agile strength and knowledge b S° a^ernoon pass^j all calm, Wight, and tranquil, and, according to every ppearance, happy, as it had been for years. more charming scene could scarcely be, summer not brighter—the glowing «*°es lit up with health and that jy^'SWfcting chill which suits the hardy orth; the red sunset making all the heavens Kjow m emulation; the graceful, flying move- "wnts of »o many lively figures the boyish and laughter in the clear air; the ani- of everything. Weakness or trouble o 110t come out into such places; there was ottimg but pleasure, health, innocent enjoy- natural satisfaction there. Quite a au orow^ stood watching Brown, the ^w«d, as he flew along, making every kind circle and iigure, as if he had been on iogg__far the best skater of all, as the boys 4 l~: He was still there in the ruddy wiiight, when the visitors who had that Privilege had streamed into the warm hall l°f tea, and the nimble skaters had ais- apPeared. Jbe hall was almost as lively as the pond been, the red firelight throwing a sort of fitf i «tment 0ver a^> an<^ falling in J»r?n- "ames. Blencarrow had not been so of th 8*nce ^be night of the ball. Several Hot it 70unS Birchams were there, though •Def« nlr motber, and Mrs. Blenoarrow had I' an<* w^b a smile of meaning, for Kitty in the hearing of every- •Biin-' They aH understand her smile and the 0eVi~v? *^ded a thrill of excitement to the • <f^^s of the afternoon. inv*n* borrid little thing! HoW could she other *Uch B story?" PeoPle «aid to each j^ougb there were some who in the corners that Mrs. Blenoarrow it out »6' #he could keep UP;to brazen ptOB?Zen out! A woman ao dignified, so |f»y 80 8°lf~POSsessed; a princess in her Iran! queen mother. As the afternoon begin ^er strength failed a little; she Solon* breathe more quioklv, to change Aft* lnst*ntaneously from red to pale. &h* j^orept into the clear, too dear eyes. 52* loot ber by turns with a aearoh- someone to appear everything. When tbe visitors' I carriages came to take them away the sound of the wheels startled her. I thought it might be your uncles coming back," she said to Emmy, who always watshed I her with wistful eyes. Mr. Germaine had gone back to his psr- 40T-,agc through the moonlight with a more troubled mind than he had, perhaps, ever lron;<hl before from any house in his parish. A. cl«r £ y.uar. has to hear many strange stories, but this, which was in the course of being I enacted, and at a crisis so full of excitement, occupied him as no tale of erring husband r-v wife, or son or daughter going to the bad-- such as are also so common everywhere—had ever done. But the thing which excited him most was the recollection of the silent figure behind, sitting bowed down while the penitent made her confession, listening to everything but making no sign. The clergyman's interest was all with Mrs. Blencarrow he was on her side. To think that she-such a woman-could have got herself into a posi- tion like that seemed incredible, and he felt with an aching sympathy that there was nothingbe would not do to get her free, nothing contrary to truth and honour. But granted that inconceivable first step, her position was one which could be understood; whereas all his efforts could not make him understand the position of the other-the man who sat there and made no sign. How could any man sit and haar all that and make no sign silent when she made the tragical suggestion that she might be contradicted—motionless when she. herself did the servant's part and opened the door to the visitor- giving neither support nor protest nor service—taking no share in the whole matter except the silent assertion of his presence there? Mr. Germaine could not forget it; it pre-occupied him more than the image, so much more beautiful and commanding, of the woman in her anguish. What the man could be thinking, what could be his motives, how he could reconcile himself to, or how he could have been brought into such a strange position, was the subject of all his thoughts. It kept coming uppermost all day it became a kind of fascination wpon him wherever he turned his eyes he seemed to see the strange image of that dark figure, with hidden face and shaggy hair pushed about, between his supporting hands. Just twenty-four hours after that extra- ordinary interview these thoughts were in- terrupted by a visitor. "A gentleman, sir, wishing to see you." It was late for any such visit, but a clergy- man is used to being appealed to at all seasons. The visitor came in. A tall man wrapped in a large coat, with the collar up to his ears. It was a cold night, which accounted sufficiently for any amount of covering. Mr. Germaine looked at him in surprise, with a curious sort of recognition of the heavy out- line of the man but he suddenly brightened as he recognised the stranger and welcomed him cheerfully. Oh! it is you, Brown come to the fire and take a chair. Did you ever feel such cold ?" Brown sat down, throwingback his coat and revealing his dark countenance, which was cloudy, but handsome, in a rustic, heavy way. The frost was wet and melting on his crisp, curly brown beard he had the freshness of the cold on his face, but yet was darkly pale as was his nature. lie made but little response to the vicar's oheerful greeting, and drew his chair a little distance away from the blaze of the fire. Mr. Germaine tried to draw him into conversation on ordinary topics, but, finding this fail, said, after a pause: You have brought me, perhaps, a mesa- age from Mrs. Blencarrow F" lie was disturbed by a sort of presentiment, an nneasy feeling of something coming, for which he could find no cause. No, I have brought no message. I come to you," said Brown, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees, and his head supported by his hands, on my own account." Mr. Germaine uttered estrange cry, "Good heavens he said, it was you Last night ?" said Brown, looking up at him with his deep-set eyes. Didn't you know ? Mr. Germaine could not contain himself. He got up and pushed back his chair. He looked for a moment, being a tall man also and strong, though not so strong as the Hercules before him, as if he would have seized upon him and shaken him, as one dog does another. You he cried. The creature of her bounty! For whom she has done every- thing Obliged to her for all you are and all you have Brown laughed a low, satirical laugh. "I am her husband," he said. The vicar stood with rage in his face, gazing at this man, feeling that he could have torn him limb from limb. How dared you ?" he said, through his clenched teeth how dared you ? I should like to kill you. You to sit there and let her appeal to you, and let her open to me and close the door, and do a servant's office while you were there!" "What do you mean?" said Brown. "1 am her husband. She told you so. It's the woman's place in my class to do all that; why shouldn't she ?" I thought," said the Vicar, that bow- ever much a man stood by his class, it was thought best to behave like a gentleman whatever you were." "There you were mistaken," said Brown. He got up and stood beside Mr. Germaine on the hearth, a tall and powerful figure. I am not a gentleman," he said, but I've married a lady. What have I made by it P At first I was a* fool. I was pleased with whatever she did. But that sort of thing don't last. I've never been anything but Brown the steward, while she was the lady and mistress. How is a man to stand that P I've been hidden out of sight. She's never acknowledged me, never given me my proper place. Brought up to supper at the ball by I those two brats of boys, spoken to in a gracious sort of way,' My good Brown/ And I her husband—her husband, whom it was her business to obey." "It is a difficult position," said Mr. Ger- maine, averting his eyes. H DiffIcult I I should think it was difficult, and a false position, as you said. You spoke to her like a man last night; I'm glad she got it hot for once, By I am sick and tired of it all." I hope," said the Vicar, not looking at him, that you will not make any sudden j exposure, that you will get her consent, that you will respect her feelings. I don't say that you have not a hard part to play; but you must think what this exposure will be for her." Exposure!" he said, "I can't see what shame there is in being my wife naturally I can't see it. But you need not trouble your head about that. I don't mean to expose her. I am sick and tired of it all; I'm going off to begin life anew——" You are going off?" Mr. Germaine's heart bounded with sudden relief; he could I scarcely believe the man meant what he said. Ye8, I'm going off-to Australia. You can go and tell her. Part of the rents have been paid in this week; I have taken the. for my expenses." He took out a pooket-book aid held it owt to the Vicar, who started aid laid a sudden hand on his arm. You will not do that -not take money," be cried. It No, no that cannot be." fl Why not? You may be sure she won't betray me, 1 am going for her good and my own I don't make any pretenoe; it's been a i failure all round. I want a wife of my own age and my own kind, not a grand lady who II is disgusted with all my natural ways. A man can't stand that," he cried, growing darkly red, She kept it under at first, But I am not a brute, whatever you think. I have done all I can for her, to save her from what you call the exposure, and I take this money II fairly and above board; you can tell her of it. I wouldn't have chosen even you for a confi- dant if she hadn't begun. You can go and tell her I sail for Australia from Liverpool to-morrow, and shall never see her more." Brown," said the Vicar, still with his hand on the other's arm, I don't know that I can let you go." You'll be a great fool then, Brown said. The two men stood looking at each other, the one with a smile, half of contempt, half of resolution, the other troubled and uncer- tain. They will say you have gone off with the money—absconded." "She'll take care of thai." the money-absconded." Brown, are you sure she wishes you to go ? The exposure will come, ail the same; every- thing is found out that is true and she will be left to bear it alone without any support." There will be no exposure," he said with a short laugh; "I've seen* to that, though you think me no gentleman. There's no need for another word, Mr. Germaine; I've a great respect for you, but I'm not a man that is to be turned from his purpose. You can come and see me off if you please, and make quite sure. I'm due at the station in an hour to catch the up train. Will you come, and then you can set her mind quite at ease and say you have seen me go f Mr. Germaine looked at his comfortable fire, his cosy room, his book, though he had not been reading, and then at the cold road, the dreary changes of the train, the sleepless night. After a time he said, I'll take your offer, Brown, I'll go with you and see you off." If you like, you can give me into custody on the way for going off with Mrs. Blencar- row's money. Mrs. Blencarrow's money not even that," he cried with a laugh of bitter- ness. She is Mrs. Brown and the money's the boy's, not her's, or else it would be law-! fully mine. Brown," said the vicar, tremulously," you are doing a sort of generous act-God help us —which I can't help consenting to, though it's utterly wrong; but you speak as if you had not a scrap of feeling for her or any one." "I haven't," he cried fiercely, "after three years of it. Half the time and more she's been ashamed of me, disgusted with me. Do you think a man can stand that. By I neither can nor will. I'm going, he continued, buttoning his coat hastily; you can come or not, as you please." "You had better have some supper first," said the Vicar. Ah that's the most sensible word you have said," cried Brown. Was it bravado, was it bitterness, was it relief in escaping, or the lightness of despair P Mr. Germaine could never tell. It was some- thing of all these feelings, mingled with the fierce pride of a peasant slighted, and a certain indignant contemptuous generosity to let her go free--the woman who was ashamed of him. All these were in Brown's thoughts.

CHAPTER X.

VARIETIES,

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