Henry Dunbar, by Mary Elizabeth Braddon

Chapter 20

New Hopes May Bloom.

Jocelyn’s Rock was ten miles from Maudesley Abbey, and only one mile from the town of Shorncliffe. It was a noble place, and had been in the possession of the same family ever since the days of the Plantagenets.

The house stood upon a rocky cliff, beneath which rushed a cascade that leapt from crag to crag, and fell into the bosom of a deep stream, that formed an arm of the river Avon. This cascade was forty feet below the edge of the cliff upon which the mansion stood.

It was not a very large house, for most of the older part of it had fallen into ruin long ago, and the ruined towers and shattered walls had been cleared away; but it was a noble mansion notwithstanding.

One octagonal tower, with a battlemented roof, still stood almost as firmly as it had stood in the days of the early Plantagenets, when rebel soldiers had tried the strength of their battering-rams against the grim stone walls. The house was built entirely of stone; the Gothic porch was ponderous as the porch of a church. Within all was splendour; but splendour that was very different from the modern elegance that was to be seen in the rooms of Maudesley Abbey.

At Jocelyn’s Rock the stamp of age was upon every decoration, on every ornament. Square-topped helmets that had been hacked by the scimitars of Saracen kings, spiked chamfronts that had been worn by the fiery barbs of haughty English crusaders, fluted armour from Milan, hung against the blackened wainscoting in the shadowy hall; Scottish hackbuts, primitive arquebuses that had done service on Bosworth field, Homeric bucklers and brazen greaves, javelins, crossbows, steel-pointed lances, and two-handed swords, were in symmetrical design upon the dark and polished panels; while here and there hung the antlers of a giant red-deer, or the skin of a fox, in testimony to the triumphs of long-departed sportsmen of the house of Jocelyn.

It was a noble old house. Princes of the blood royal had sat in the ponderous carved oak-chairs. A queen had slept in the state-bed, in the blue-satin chamber. Loyal Jocelyns, fighting for their king against low-born Roundhead soldiers, had hidden themselves in the spacious chimneys, or had fled for their lives along the secret passages behind the tapestry. There were old pictures and jewelled drinking-cups that dead-and-gone Jocelyns had collected in the sunny land of the Medicis. There were costly toys of fragile Sèvres china that had been received by one of the earls from the hand of the lovely Pompadour herself in the days when the manufacturers of Sèvres only worked for their king, and were liable to fall a sacrifice to their art and their loyalty by the inhalation of arsenicated vapours. There was golden plate that a king had given to his proud young favourite in those feudal days when favourites were powerful in England. There was scarcely any object of value in the mansion that had not a special history attached to it, redounding to the honour and glory of the ancient house of Jocelyn.

And this splendid dwelling-place, rendered almost sacred by legendary associations and historical recollections, was now the property of a certain Sir Philip Jocelyn — a dashing young baronet, who had been endowed by nature with a handsome face, frank, fearless eyes that generally had a smile in them, and the kind of manly figure which the late Mr. G.P.R. James was wont to designate stalwart; and who was moreover a crack shot, a reckless cross-country-going rider, and a very tolerable amateur artist.

Sir Philip Jocelyn was not what is usually called an intellectual man. He was more warmly interested in a steeplechase on Shorncliffe Common than in a pamphlet on political economy, even though Mr. Stuart Mill should himself be the author of the brochure. He thought John Scott a greater man than Maculloch; and Manton the gunmaker only second to Dr. Jenner as a benefactor of his race. He found the works of the late Mr. Apperly more entertaining than the last new Idyl from the pen of the Laureate; and was rather at a loss for small-talk when he found his feminine neighbour at a dinner-table was “deeply, darkly, beautifully blue.” But the young baronet was by no means a fool, notwithstanding these sportsmanlike proclivities. The Jocelyns had been hard riders for half-a-dozen centuries or so, and crack shots ever since the invention of firearms. Sir Philip was a sportsman, but he did not “hunt in dreams,” and he was prepared to hold his wife a great deal “higher than his horse,” whenever he should win that pleasant addition to his household. As yet he had thought very little of the future Lady Jocelyn. He had a vague idea that he should marry, as the rest of the Jocelyns had married; and that he should live happily with his wife, as his ancestors had lived with their wives: with the exception of one dreadful man, called Hildebrande Jocelyn, who, at some remote and mediaeval period, had been supposed to throw his liege lady out of an oriel window that overhung the waterfall, upon the strength of an unfounded suspicion; and who afterwards, according to the legend, dug, or rather scooped, for himself a cave out of the cliff-side with no better tools than his own finger-nails, which he never cut after the unfortunate lady’s foul murder. The legend went on further to state that the white wraith of the innocent victim might be seen, on a certain night in the year, rising out of the misty spray of the waterfall: but as nobody except one very weak-witted female Jocelyn had ever seen the vision, the inhabitants of the house upon the crag had taken so little heed of the legend that the date of the anniversary had come at last to be forgotten.

Sir Philip Jocelyn thought that he should marry “some of these days,” and in the meantime troubled himself very little about the pretty daughters of country gentlemen whom he met now and again at races, and archery-meetings, and flower-shows, and dinner-parties, and hunting-balls, in the queer old town-hall at Shorncliffe. He was heart-whole; and looking out at life from the oriel window of his dressing-room, whence he saw nothing but his own land, neatly enclosed in a ring-fence, he thought the world, about which some people made such dismal howling, was, upon the whole, an extremely pleasant place, containing very little that “a fellow” need complain of. He built himself a painting-room at Jocelyn’s Rock; and-whistled to himself for the hour together, as he stood before the easel, painting scenes in the hunting-field, or Arab horsemen whom he had met on the great flat sandy plains beyond Cairo, or brown-faced boys, or bright Italian peasant-girls; all sorts of pleasant objects, under cloudless skies of ultra-marine, with streaks of orange and vermilion to represent the sunset. He was not a great painter, nor indeed was there any element of greatness in his nature; but he painted as recklessly as he rode; his subjects were bright and cheerful; and his pictures were altogether of the order which unsophisticated people admire and call “pretty.”

He was a very cheerful young man, and perhaps that cheerfulness was the greatest charm he possessed. He was a man in whom no force of fashion or companionship would ever engender the peevish blasé-ness so much affected by modern youth. Did he dance? Of course he did, and he adored dancing. Did he sing? Well, he did his best, and had a fine volume of rich bass voice, that sounded remarkably well on the water, after a dinner at the Star and Garter, in that dim dewy hour, when the willow shadowed Thames is as a southern lake, and the slow dip of the oars is in itself a kind of melody. Had he been much abroad? Yes, and he gloried in the Continent; the dear old inconvenient inns, and the extortionate landlords, and the insatiable commissionaires — he revelled in the commissionaires; and the dear drowsy slow trains, with an absurd guard, who talks an unintelligible patois, and the other man, who always loses one’s luggage! Delicious! And the dear little peasant-girls with white caps, who are so divinely pretty when you see them in the distance under a sunny meridian sky, and are so charming in coloured chalk upon tinted paper, but such miracles of ugliness, comparatively speaking, when you behold them at close quarters. And the dear jingling diligences, with very little harness to speak of, but any quantity of old rope; and the bad wines, and the dust, and the cathedrals, and the beggars, and the trente-et-quarante tables, and in short everything. Sir Philip Jocelyn spoke of the universe as a young husband talks of his wife; and was never tired of her beauty or impatient of her faults.

The poor about Jocelyn’s Rock idolized the young lord of the soil. The poor like happy people, if there is nothing insolent in their happiness. Philip was rich, and he distributed his wealth right royally: he was happy, and he shared his happiness as freely as he shared his wealth. He would divide a case of choice Manillas with a bedridden pensioner in the Union, or carry a bottle of the Jocelyn Madeira — the celebrated Madeira with the brown seal — in the pocket of his shooting-coat, to deliver it into the horny hands of some hard-working mother who was burdened with a sick child. He would sit for an hour together telling an agricultural labourer of the queer farming he had seen abroad; and he had stood godfather — by proxy — to half the yellow-headed urchins within ten miles’ radius of Jocelyn’s Bock. No taint of vice or dissipation had ever sullied the brightness of his pleasant life. No wretched country girl had ever cursed his name before she cast herself into the sullen waters of a lonely mill-stream. People loved him; and he deserved their love, and was worthy of their respect. He had taken no high honours at Oxford; but the sternest officials smiled when they spoke of him, and recalled the boyish follies that were associated with his name; a sickly bedmaker had been pensioned for life by him; and the tradesmen who had served him testified to his merits as a prompt and liberal paymaster. I do not think that in all his life Philip Jocelyn had ever directly or indirectly caused a pang of pain or sorrow to any human being, unless it was, indeed, to a churlish heir-at-law, who may have looked with a somewhat evil eye upon the young man’s vigorous and healthful aspect, which gave little hope to his possible successor.

The heir-at-law would have gnashed his teeth in impotent rage had he known the crisis which came to pass in the baronet’s life a short time after Mr. Dunbar’s return from India; a crisis very common to youth, and very lightly regarded by youth, but a solemn and a fearful crisis notwithstanding.

The master of Jocelyn’s Rock fell in love. All the poetry of his nature, all the best feelings, the purest attributes of an imperfect character, concentrated themselves into one passion, Sir Philip Jocelyn fell in love. The arch magician waved his wand, and all the universe was transformed into fairyland: a lovely Paradise, a modern Eden, radiant with the reflected light that it received from the face of a woman. I almost hesitate to tell this old, old story over again — this perpetual story of love at first sight.

It is very beautiful, this sudden love, which is born of one glance at the wonderful face that has been created to bewitch us; but I doubt if it is not, after all, the baser form of the great passion. The love that begins with esteem, that slowly grows out of our knowledge of the loved one, is surely the purer and holier type of affection.

This love, whose gradual birth we rarely watch or recognize — this love, that steals on us like the calm dawning of the eastern light, strikes to a deeper root and grows into a grander tree than that fair sudden growth, that marvellous far-shooting butterfly-blossoming orchid, called love at first sight. The glorious exotic flower may be wanting, but the strong root lies deeply hidden in the heart.

The man who loves at first sight generally falls in love with the violet blue of a pair of tender eyes, the delicate outline of a Grecian nose. The man who loves the woman he has known and watched, loves her because he believes her to be the purest and truest of her sex.

To this last, love is faith. He cannot doubt the woman he adores: for he adores her because he believes and has proved her to be above all doubt. We may fairly conjecture that Othello’s passion for the simple Venetian damsel was love at first sight. He loved Desdemona because she was pretty, and looked at him with sweet maidenly glances of pity when he told those prosy stories of his — with full traveller’s license, no doubt — over Brabantio’s mahogany.

The tawny-visaged general loved the old man’s daughter because he admired her, and not because he knew her; and so, by and bye, on the strength of a few foul hints from a scoundrel, he is ready to believe this gentle, pitiful girl the basest and most abandoned of women.

Hamlet would not so have acted had it been his fate to marry the woman he loved. Depend upon it, the Danish prince had watched Ophelia closely, and knew all the ins and outs of that young lady’s temper, and had laid conversational traps for her occasionally, I dare say, trying to entice her into some bit of toadyism that should betray any latent taint of falsehood inherited from poor time-serving Polonius. The Prince of Denmark would have been rather a fidgety husband, perhaps, but he would never have had recourse to a murderous bolster at the instigation of a low-born knave.

Unhappily, some women are apt to prefer passionate, blustering Othello to sentimental and metaphysical Hamlet. The foolish creatures are carried away by noise and clamour, and most believe him who protests the loudest.

Philip Jocelyn and Laura Dunbar met at that dinner-party which the millionaire gave to his friends in celebration of his return. They met again at the ball, where Laura waltzed with Philip; the young man had learned to waltz upon the other side of the Alps, and Miss Dunbar preferred him to any other of her partners. At the fête champêtre they met again; and had their future lives revealed to them by a theatrical-looking gipsy imported from London for the occasion, whose arch prophecies brought lovely blushes into Laura’s cheeks, and afforded Philip an excellent opportunity for admiring the effect of dark-brown eyelashes drooping over dark-blue eyes. They met again and again; now at a steeple-chase, now at a dinner-party, where Laura appeared with some friendly chaperon; and the baronet fell in love with the banker’s beautiful daughter.

He loved her truly and devotedly, after his own mad-headed fashion. He was a true Jocelyn — impetuous, mad-headed daring; and from the time of those festivities at Maudesley Abbey he only dreamed and thought of Laura Dunbar. From that hour he haunted the neighbourhood of Maudesley Abbey. There was a bridle-path through the park to a little village called Lisford; and if that primitive Warwickshire village had been the most attractive place upon this earth, Sir Philip could scarcely have visited it oftener than he did.

Heaven knows what charm he found in the shady slumberous old street, the low stone market-place, with rusty iron gates surmounted by the Jocelyn escutcheon. The grass grew in the quiet quadrangle; the square church-tower was half hidden by the sheltering ivy; the gabled cottage-roofs were lop-sided with age. It was scarcely a place to offer any very great attraction to the lord of Jocelyn Rock in all the glory of his early man-hood; and yet Philip Jocelyn went there three times a week upon an average, during the period that succeeded the ball and morning concert at Maudesley Abbey.

The shortest way from Jocelyn’s Bock to Lisford was by the high road, but Philip Jocelyn did not care to go by the shortest way. He preferred to take that pleasant bridle-path through Maudesley Park, that delicious grassy arcade where the overarching branches of the old elms made a shadowy twilight, only broken now and then by sudden patches of yellow sunshine; where the feathery ferns trembled with every low whisper of the autumn breeze: where there was a faint perfume of pine wood; where every here and there, between the lower branches of the trees, there was a blue glimmer of still water-pools, half-hidden under flat green leaves of wild aquatic plants, where there was a solemn stillness that reminded one of the holy quiet of a church, and where Sir Philip Jocelyn had every chance of meeting with Laura Dunbar.

He met her there very often. Not alone, for Dora Macmahon was sometimes with her, and the faithful Elizabeth Madden was always at hand to play propriety, and to keep a sharp eye upon the interests of her young mistress. But then it happened unfortunately that the faithful Elizabeth was very stout, and rather asthmatic; and though Miss Dunbar could not have had a more devoted duenna, she might certainly have had a more active one. And it also happened that Miss Macmahon, having received several practical illustrations of the old adage with regard to the disadvantage of a party of three persons as compared to a party of two persons, fell into the habit of carrying her books with her, and would sit and read in some shady nook near the abbey, while Laura wandered into the wilder regions of the park.

Beneath the shelter of the overarching elms, amidst the rustling of the trembling ferns, Laura Dunbar and Philip Jocelyn met very often during that bright autumnal weather. Their meetings were purely accidental of course, as such meetings always are, but they were not the less pleasant because of their uncertainty.

They were all the more pleasant, perhaps. There was that delicious fever of suspense which kept both young eager hearts in a constant glow. There were Laura’s sudden blushes, which made her wonderful beauty doubly wonderful. There was Philip Jocelyn’s start of glad astonishment, and the bright sparkle in his dark-brown eyes as he saw the slender, queenly figure approaching him under the shadow of the trees. How beautiful she looked, with the folds of her dress trailing over the dewy grass, and a flickering halo of sunlight tremulous upon her diadem of golden hair! Sometimes she wore a coquettish little hat, with a turned-up brim and a peacock’s plume; sometimes a broad-leaved hat of yellow straw, with floating ribbon and a bunch of feathery grasses perched bewitchingly upon the brim. She had the dog Pluto with her always, and generally a volume of some new novel under her arm. I am ashamed to be obliged to confess that this young heiress was very frivolous, and liked reading novels better than improving her mind by the perusal of grave histories, or by the study of the natural sciences. She spent day after day in happy idleness — reading, sketching, playing, singing, talking, sometimes gaily sometimes seriously, to her faithful old nurse, or to Dora, or to Arthur Lovell, as the case might be. She had a thorough-bred horse that had been given to her by her grandfather, but she very rarely rode him beyond the grounds, for Dora Macmahon was no horsewoman, having been brought up by a prim aunt of her dead mother’s, who looked upon riding as an unfeminine accomplishment; and Miss Dunbar had therefore no better companion for her rides than a grey-haired old groom, who had ridden behind Percival Dunbar for forty years or so.

Philip Jocelyn generally went to Lisford upon horseback; but when, as so often happened, he met Miss Dunbar and her companion strolling amongst the old elms, it was his habit to get off his horse, and to walk by Laura’s side, leading the animal by the bridle. Sometimes he found the two young ladies sitting on camp-stools at the foot of one of the trees, sketching effects of light and shadow in the deep glades around them. On such occasions the baronet used to tie his horse to the lower branch of an old elm, and taking his stand behind Miss Dunbar, would amuse himself by giving her a lesson in perspective, with occasional hints to Miss Macmahon, who, as the young man remarked, drew so much better than her sister, that she really required very little assistance.

By-and-by this began to be an acknowledged thing. Special hours were appointed for these artistic studies: and Philip Jocelyn ceased to go to Lisford at all, contenting himself with passing almost every fine morning under the elms at Maudesley. He found that he had a very intelligent pupil in the banker’s daughter: but I think, if Miss Dunbar had been less intelligent, her instructor would have had patience with her, and would have still found his best delight beneath the shadow of those dear old elms.

What words can paint the equal pleasure of giving and receiving those lessons, in the art which was loved alike by pupil and master; but which was so small an element in the happiness of those woodland meetings? What words can describe Laura’s pleading face when she found that the shadow of a ruined castle wouldn’t agree with the castle itself, or that a row of poplars in the distance insisted on taking that direction which our transatlantic brothers call “slantindicular?” And then the cutting of pencils, and crumbling of bread, and searching for mislaid scraps of India-rubber, and mixing of water-colours, and adjusting of palettes on the prettiest thumb in Christendom, or the planting a sheaf of brushes in the dearest little hand that ever trembled when it met the tenderly timid touch of an amateur drawing-master’s fingers; — all these little offices, so commonplace and wearisome when a hard-worked and poorly-paid professor performs them for thirty or forty clamorous girls, on a burning summer afternoon, in a great dust-flavoured schoolroom with bare curtainless windows, were in this case more delicious than any words of mine can tell.

But September and October are autumnal months; and their brightest sunshine is, after all, only a deceptive radiance when compared to the full glory of July. The weather grew too cold for the drawing-lessons under the elms, and there could be no more appointments made between Miss Dunbar and her enthusiastic instructor.

“I can’t have my young lady ketch cold, Sir Philip, for all the perspectives in the world,” said the faithful Elizabeth. “I spoke to her par about it only the other day; but, lor’! you may just as well speak to a post as to Mr. Dunbar. If Miss Laura comes out in the park now, she must wrap herself up warm, and walk fast, and not go getting the cold shivers for the sake of drawing a parcel of stumps of trees and such-like tomfoolery.”

Mrs. Madden made this observation in rather an unpleasant tone of voice one morning when the baronet pleaded for another drawing-lesson. The truth of the matter was that Elizabeth Madden felt some slight pangs of conscience with regard to her own part in this sudden friendship which had arisen between Laura Dunbar and Philip Jocelyn. She felt that she had been rather remiss in her duties as duenna, and was angry with herself. But stronger than this feeling of self-reproach was her indignation against Sir Philip.

Why did he not immediately make an offer of his hand to Laura Dunbar?

Mrs. Madden had expected the young man’s proposal every day for the last few weeks: every day she had been doomed to disappointment. And yet she was perfectly convinced that Philip Jocelyn loved her young mistress. The sharp eyes of the matron had fathomed the young man’s sentiments long before Laura Dunbar dared to whisper to herself that she was beloved. Why, then, did he not propose? Who could be a more fitting bride for the lord of Jocelyn’s Rock than queenly Laura Dunbar, with her splendid dower of wealth and beauty?

Full of these ambitious hopes, Elizabeth Madden had played her part of duenna with such discretion as to give the young people plenty of opportunity for sweet, half-whispered converse, for murmured confidences, soft and low as the cooing of turtle-doves. But in all these conversations no word hinting at an offer of marriage had dropped from the lips of Philip Jocelyn.

He was so happy with Laura; so happy in those pleasant meetings under the Maudesley elms, that no thought of anything so commonplace as a stereotyped proposal of marriage had a place in his mind.

Did he love her? Of course he did: more dearly than he had ever before loved any human creature; except that tender and gentle being, whose image, vaguely beautiful, was so intermingled with the dreams and realities of his childhood in that dim period in which it is difficult to distinguish the shadows of the night from the events of the day — that pale and lovely creature whom he had but just learned to call “mother,” when she faded out of his life for ever.

It was only when the weather grew too cold for out-of-door drawing lessons that Sir Philip began to think that it was time to contemplate the very serious business of a proposal. He would have to speak to the banker, and all that sort of thing, of course, the baronet thought, as he sat by the fire in the oak-panelled breakfast-room at the Rock, pulling his thick moustaches reflectively, and staring at the red embers on the open hearth. The young man idolized Laura; but he did not particularly affect the society of Henry Dunbar. The millionaire was very courteous, very conciliating: but there was something in his stiff politeness, his studied smile, his deliberate speech, something entirely vague and indefinable, which had the same chilly effect upon Sir Philip’s friendliness, as a cold cellar has on delicate-flavoured port. The subtle aroma vanished under that dismal influence.

“He’s her father, and I’d kneel down, like the little boys in the streets, and clean his boots, if he wanted them cleaned, because he is her father,” thought the young man; “and yet, somehow or other, I can’t get on with him.”

No! between the Anglo–Indian banker and Sir Philip Jocelyn there was no sympathy. They had no tastes in common: or let me rather say, Henry Dunbar revealed no taste in common with those of the young man whose highest hope in life was to be his son-in-law. The frank-hearted young country gentleman tried in vain to conciliate him, or to advance from the cold out-work of ceremonious acquaintanceship into the inner stronghold of friendly intercourse.

But when Sir Philip, after much hesitation and deliberation, presented himself one morning in the banker’s tapestried sitting-room, and unburdened his heart to that gentleman — stopping every now and then to stare at the maker’s name imprinted upon the lining of his hat, as if that name had been a magical symbol whence he drew certain auguries by which he governed his speech — Mr. Dunbar was especially gracious. “Would he honour Sir Philip by entrusting his daughter’s happiness to his keeping? would he bestow upon Sir Philip the inestimable blessing of that dear hand? Why, of course he would, provided always that Laura wished it. In such a matter as this Laura’s decision should be supreme. He never had contemplated interfering in his daughter’s bestowal of her affections: so long as they were not wasted upon an unworthy object. He wished her to marry whom she pleased; provided that she married an honest man.”

Mr. Dunbar gave a weary kind of sigh as he said this; but the sigh was habitual to him, and he apologized for and explained it sometimes by reference to his liver, which was disordered by five-and-thirty years in an Indian climate.

“I wish Laura to marry,” he said; “I shall be glad when she has secured the protection of a good husband.”

Sir Phillip Jocelyn sprang up with his face all a-glow with rapture, and would fain have seized the banker’s hand in token of his gratitude; but Henry Dunbar waved him off with an authoritative gesture.

“Good morning, Sir Philip,” he said; “I am very poor company, and I shall be glad to be alone with the Times. You young men don’t appreciate the Times. You want your newspapers filled with prize-fighting and boat-racing, and the last gossip from ‘the Corner.’ You’ll find Miss Dunbar in the blue drawing-room. Speak to her as soon as you please; and let me know the result of the interview.”

It is not often that the heiress of a million or thereabouts is quite so readily disposed of. Sir Philip Jocelyn walked on air as he quitted the banker’s apartments.

“Who ever would have thought that he was such a delicious old brick?” he thought. “I expected any quantity of cold water; and instead of that, he sends me straight to my darling with carte blanche to go in and win, if I can. If I can! Suppose Laura doesn’t love me, after all. Suppose she’s only a beautiful coquette, who likes to see men go mad for love of her. And yet I won’t think that; I won’t be down-hearted; I won’t believe she’s anything but what she seems — an angel of purity and truth.”

But, spite of his belief in Laura’s truth, the young baronet’s courage was very low when he went into the blue drawing-room, and found Miss Dunbar seated in a deep embayed window, with the sunshine lighting up her hair and gleaming amongst the folds of her violet silk dress. She had been drawing; but her sketching apparatus lay idle on the little table by her side, and one listless hand hung down upon her dress, with a pencil held loosely between the slender fingers. She was looking straight before her, out upon the sunlit lawn, all gorgeous with flaunting autumn flowers; and there was something dreamy, not to say pensive, in the attitude of her drooping head.

But she started presently at the sound of that manly footstep; the pencil dropped from between her idle fingers, and she rose and turned towards the intruder. The beautiful face was in shadow as she turned away from the window; but no shadow could hide its sudden brightness, the happy radiance which lit up that candid countenance, as Miss Dunbar recognized her visitor.

The lover thought that one look more precious than Jocelyn’s Rock, and a baronetcy that dated from the days of England’s first Stuarts — that one glorious smile, which melted away in a moment, and gave place to bright maidenly blushes, fresh and beautiful as the dewy heart of an old-fashioned cabbage-rose gathered at sunrise.

That one smile was enough. Philip Jocelyn was no cox-comb, but he knew all at once that he was beloved, and that very few words were needed. A great many were said, nevertheless; and I do not think two happier people ever sat side by side in the late autumn sunshine than those two, who lingered in the deep embayed window till the sun was low in the rosy western sky, and told Philip Jocelyn that his visit to Maudesley Abbey had very much exceeded the limits of a morning call.

So Philip Jocelyn was accepted. Early the next morning he called again upon Mr. Dunbar, and begged that an early date might be chosen for the wedding. The banker assented willingly enough to the proposition.

“Let the marriage take place in the first week in November,” he said. “I am tired of living at Maudesley, and I want to get away to the Continent. Of course I must remain here to be present at my daughter’s wedding.”

Philip Jocelyn was only too glad to receive this permission to hurry the day of the ceremonial. He went at once to Laura, and told her what Mr. Dunbar had said. Mrs. Madden was indignant at this unceremonious manner of arranging matters.

“Where’s my young lady’s trussaw to be got at a moment’s notice, I should like to know? A deal you gentlemen know about such things. It’s no use talking, my lord, there ain’t a dressmaker livin’ as would undertake the wedding-clothes for baronet’s lady in little better than a month.”

But Mrs. Madden’s objections were speedily overruled. To tell the truth, the honest-hearted creature was very much pleased to find that her young lady was going to be a baronet’s wife, after all. She forgot all about her old favourite, Arthur Lovell, and set herself to work to expedite that most important matter of the wedding-garments. A man came down express from Howell and James’s to Maudesley Abbey, with a bundle of patterns; and silks and velvets, gauzes and laces, and almost every costly fabric that was made, were ordered for Miss Dunbar’s equipment. West-end dressmakers were communicated with. A French milliner, who looked like a lady of fashion, arrived one morning at Maudesley Abbey, and for a couple of hours poor Laura had to endure the slow agony of “trying on,” while Mrs. Madden and Dora Macmahon discussed all the colours in the rainbow, and a great many new shades and combinations of colour, invented by aspiring French chemists.

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Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31