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THE STORY OF A LADY AND HER LOVER.
"HE dinner to which the family sat down after this ride somewhat
alarmed the stranger-relative who so suddenly found himself mixed up in their affairs. He thought it could be nothing but constrained and uncomfortable. But this did not turn out to be the case. Anne knew nothing at all about what her father had been doing, and from Rose's light nature the half comprehended scene at luncheon, when her mother had wept and her father's face had been like a thundercloud, had already faded away. These two unconscious members of the party kept the tide of affairs in flow. They talked as usual-Anne even more than usual, as one who is unaware of the critical point at which, to the knowledge of all around, he or she is standing, so often does. She gave even a little more information than was called for about her visit to the Woodheads, being in her own mind balf ashamed of her cowardice in staying away after the scene of the morning. On the whole she was glad, she persuaded herself, of the scene of the morning. It had placed her position beyond doubt. There had seemed no occasion to make any statement to her father as to the correspondence which he had not forbidden, or indeed referred to. He had bidden her give up her lover, and she had refused; but he had said nothing about the lover's letters, though these followed as a matter of course. And now it was well that he should know the exact position of affairs. She had been greatly agitated at the moment, but soon composed herself. And in her desire to show that she was satisfied, not grieved by what had happened, Anne was more than usually cheerful and communicative in her talk.
• Fanny is very happy about her brother who is coming home from India. He is to be here only six weeks; but he does not grudge the long journey: and they are all so happy.'
• He is a fool for his pains,' growled Mr. Mountford from the head of the table. I don't know what our young men are coming
No. 619 (no. CXXXIX. X. e.)
to. What right has he to such a luxury? It will cost him a hundred pounds at the least. Six weeks—he has not been gone as many years
Four years—that is a long time when people are fond of each other,' said Anne, with a scarcely perceptible smile. Every individual at table instantly thought of the absent lover.
She is thinking that I will be dead and gone in four years, and she will be free,' the angry father said to himself, with a vindictive sense that he was justified in the punishment he meant to inflict
But Anne, indeed, was thinking of nothing of the kind, only with a visionary regret that in her own family there was no one to come eager over sea and land to be longed and prayed for with Fanny Woodhead's anxious sisterly motherly passion. This was far, very far from the imagination of the others as a motive likely to produce such a sigh.
A brother from India is always anxiously looked for,' said Mrs. Mountford, stepping in with that half-compunctious readiness to succour Anne which the knowledge of this day's proceedings had produced in her. She did not, in fact, know what these proceedings had been, and they were in no way her fault. But still she felt a compunction. They always bring such quantities of things with them,' she added. An Indian box is the most delightful thing to open. I had a brother in India, too'
'I wish we had,' said Rose, with a pout. Heathcote had been preoccupied : he had not been so attentive' as usual: and she wished for a brother instantly, just to spite him,' she said to herself.
• Fanny is not thinking of the presents; but Rose, consider you are interested in it, too—that is another man for your dance.'
Rose clapped her hands. “We are looking up!' she said. • Twenty men from Sandhurst, and six from Meadowlands, and Lady Prayrey Poule's husband, and Fred Woodhead and Willie Ashleyfor of course Willie is coming
• A dance at this time of the year is folly,' said Mr. Mountford ; even in summer it is bad enough ; but the only time of the year for entertainments in the country is when you have warm weather and short nights.
It was because of Cousin Heathcote, papa. It is not often we have a inan, a real relation, staying at Mount.'
'Heathcote ! oh, so it is for your sake, Heathcote? I did not know that dancing was an attribute of reasonable beings after thirty,' Mr. Mountford said.
Then it was Anne who came to Heathcote's aid. “You are not afraid of seeming frivolous ?' she said, giving him the kindest look he had yet seen in her eyes ; and his heart was touched by it: he had not known that Anne's eyes had been so fine—and it will please everybody. The country requires to be stirred up now and then. We like to have something to talk about, to say “ Are you going to the So-and-so's on the 25th ?".