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JOHN-A-DREAMS.

CHAPTER I.

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MASTER IRVIE.

A SMALL boy sat on the polished floor of the drawing-room, and his feet dangling in an aimless manner touched the grass border, which lay before the tall French windows. He looked across the row of formal flower-beds, and the broad terrace of level green; across the park, which sloped slowly away toward the distant river. He saw the blue smoke hang motionless above the unseen village, and the point of light which marked the vane upon the church spire. Beyond was luminous haze, which brooded on the pastures where the stream ran slowly. In this veiled distance the child's fancy was busy, and his dreams moved on to music. Behind him, in the cool shaded room a lady half-turned from the light was playing the piano. She was interpreting Mozart with much taste, but with a certain ostentation of delicacy. Her head was bent slightly on one side, a tender smile of appreciation was on her lips, and her long slim fingers touched the notes with an excessive grace. Miss Harefel had been a beauty. That drooping head had learned to bend before admiring glances. Exquisites of a later day had turned to look at the willowy figure. Now it was the hand which was famous. Near the musician sat her sister-in-law, Lady Harefel, matron and mistress of the house. She leaned back in the easiest position: there was a world of comfort in her fair round face, and her plump fingers knitted mechanically before her.

She delighted in music and knitting. The small boy in the window was also fond of music. He made no sound, and his feet hung listlessly; but one little hand grasped the window-sill with nervous force, and the fingers of the other moved tremulous beside him on the floor. His eyes were wide open and feverishly bright; his face changed every moment, and now and then his eyebrows twitched with a quaint spasmodic movement. Presently Miss Harefel sighed, and allowed her long white hands to fall lightly on her lap. Her small nephew started up. “Don't stop,

" he cried; "do go on, aunt Susan, please.” His aunt bent slowly forward, and kissed him on the forehead, as he stood flushed and restless by the grand piano.

Why, Irvine,” she said, in a low tone of satisfaction, “your eyes are wet.”

Irvie, dear,” said Lady Harefel from her armchair, “run away, like a good boy, and play with the other children."

“But I don't want to play," said the child, sharply.

"Don't you wish to please me ?” Master Dale stood shifting his feet.

Lady Harefel nodded sagely at her sister-in-law. “Really, Susan, I do not think it wise to get him into this over-wrought condition. Come, Irvie, be a good boy, and run away.”

“ But I don't want to.”
“But you ought to want to.”
“I can't.”

“ Irvie, don't be naughty,” said Lady Harefel, as she put out a motherly arm and drew him to her. “I think you want a dose, my dear. That is why you are naughty."

Her remark suggested a question, which had puzzled the boy in church on the previous Sunday. He looked at her with big eyes, as he asked, “ If I take enough physic, shall I go to heaven ?”

Master Dale was in the habit of asking strange questions, but his aunt Ellen never failed to be astounded and embarrassed. She put him a little further off, and stared at him. “ You must not ask such shocking things,” she said, gravely. Some day, when you are older, you will understand. Run away and play, there's a dear, and don't ask questions."

“I don't want to,” he cried again, with a stamp of the little foot, and the tears brimming over.

“Irvie, when I ask you!”

He almost jumped in his perplexity. Presently he threw his arms round her neck and kissed her passionately. “You will love me, if I do?” he cried.

“Of course, dear,” said his aunt, soothingly, and passed a soft hand over his ruffled hair. He kissed her again, and darted through the window.

Lady Harefel looked at Miss Susan, and slowly shook her head. “ Is it wise?” she asked.

The other lady sighed and smiled. "Perhaps not,” she said ; “but it is so sweet to see the play of emotion in his dear little face."

“I tremble for his future," observed the matron, placing her feet on the footstool, and picking up her knitting

The musician ran her long fingers once more over the keys with a half smile, contemplative, tender, humorous. Then she closed the instrument, picked up a wide straw hat, which was copied from a bewitching picture of Sir Joshua, and threw a becoming shadow on the face, and so passed through the window into the sunlight. The charm of the peaceful afternoon summoned from the past an interesting episode in Miss Harefel's life; and the graceful lady walked up and down the terrace repeating her old phrases, and wooing back her old sensations. At last she awoke to the outer world, and stood still preparing herself to enjoy a picture. She dearly loved the picturesque. Below her in the park, and at no great distance from the house, were two oak-trees, giant twins, neighbours, but not too near, with room to spread their mighty roots and grasp the soil, with strong winds to baffle, that they might knit and knot themselves as they grew, with sun and rain to make them broad and deep. Round these two trees a rustic dance was winding. First came Master Irvine, dancing on and making noiseless

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