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Master Tommy here!” she exclaims again, that would think so much of giving a tireas she leans over the banisters; and then a some child a tap on the head as you do. diversion is created and a movement made And I dare say she never thought twice of in her direction, and Phæbe, with the boy what she was doing.” still wbimpering in her arms, and Colonel “ Shel-she! Not Isabella, surely ?" Mordaunt bringing up the rear, appears
“O Lor, no ma'am! Miss Mordaunt aint upon the staircase.
out of her room yet," cries Phoebe. “O, is he really hurt?” begins Irene, A thought strikes Irene. The mystery anxiously, as she perceives the guard of becomes clear. honor.
“Has Quekett returned?” And the change “My darling, there is nothing the mat- in her voice as she puts the question is so ter. Pray don't distress yourself,” replies patent to her hearers that Colonel Morthe colonel.
daunt becomes quite alarmed for what may “ Then why do you come up, too? And follow. how did it happen? Did he fall down the Yes, yes, dear, she has. Now you kitchen stairs, Phæbe ? You know I have know all. But I am sure she didn't mean strictly forbidden you to take him there."
to offend you. Phæbe, you had better go, “ He didn't fall down the kitchen stairs, and take the child with you." ma'am,” replies Phæbe, with very But Irene folds the boy closer in her pursed-up mouth.
“How did you do it, darling ?" demands “I can do without you, Phæbe, but I Irene of the child, now safely in her arms. shall keep Master Tommy." And the bed
“ Naughty ooman," lisps Tommy, half room door recloses on the servant only. disposed to cry afresh at the mere recol- “And so that woman has come back and lection.
dared to strike my child,” says Irene, as “My dear Irene, how absurd of you to soon as they find themselves alone. question an infant of that age. As if he “Pooh, nonsense, my love! Your child! could possibly tell anything that is to be Do just think what you are saying. And, depended on."
as for daring, I consider that a very strange “Why don't you tell me, then? How term for you to use when speaking of any did it happen, Phæbe ?"
action from so old and valued a friend as “Well, ma'am, I wasn't exactly present Mrs. Quekett is to me, towards so very at the time, because I had gone to~" recent an acquisition as that nameless
“I consider I am a far better person to protege of yours.” The colonel tries to explain matters than your inaid, Irene,” speak with his usual ease and composure, interrupts the colonel, rather testily. but the attempt is a miserable failure. “The fact is, the child was playing about “She bas dared to strike my child !" rewhere he has no business to be at all (but, peats his wife, with a leaving breast. really, you do indulge him to that extent “ The boy refused to obey her, and she that it becomes dangerous even to suggest boxed his ears. It was a very natural thing matters might be amended)"
to do." “ Please go on, and let me hear how the
“ It may be very natural, but it shall not accident occurred.”
be repeated.” “Well, he went into the dining-room “Then you must teach the child to be when it was-was occupied-and--and- more obedient." when he was told to go, and would not “I shall teach him nothing for that woobey (he is one of the most disobedient man's sake. When did she return ?" little animals I ever met), he was sent out. “This moruing, at about six. She preThat's all."
fers travelling by the night train.” “Sent out! Did you strike him, Philip?" “It appears to ine that she prefers any
“O no, ma'am, 'twasn't master!" inter- mode of action by which she can best show poses Phæbe, quickly.
off her insolence and the unusual position “Who, then !!!
she has been permitted to attain here. She 'Naughty ooman,” explains Tommy. leaves us without a moment's warning in “Who dared to do it?”' repeats Irene. order to humor her own caprice, and she
"Well, my love, it's really nothing to returns in the same manner, without the make such a fuss about; it's not everybody slightest consideration for our convenience.
A pretty way for a servant to go on in, me on my mettle now, and, if I die for it, truly.”
she shall not strike this child again!” “Irene, I thought this subject had been "O hush !” exclaims Colonel Mordaunt, discussed and done with."
fearfully, as they issue on the landing to“I shall never have done with it whilst gether (the little boy still clinging round she remains here, and is perinitted to be- Irene's neck), and commence to descend have as she does. It is past all bearing.” the staircase, at the foot of which appears
“Well, there is no chance of her leav- the housekeeper, proceeding in state to her ing,” replies the poor colonel, with a sigh; own apartment, and followed by a couple “so the prospect is cheerful.”
of men-servants bearing her boxes. "If her presence here is a necessary evil, “I hope I see you well, Mrs. Mordaunt," I must bear it; but she shall not interfere she says, with a smirk, as she encounters in my private affairs. Philip, I have borne the couple about half way down. more from that woman than you know of, Colonel Mordaunt, who is as nervous as and I tell you candidly, were it not for a woman, nudges Irene upon the elbow. your sake, I would not remain another mo- “ Mrs. Quekett speaks to you, my love." ment under the same roof with her. But, “I heard her. I should think you might as she has really returned, for which I am have given us some notice of your return, infinitely sorry~"
Quekett. It is rather unusual to take peo“Why, you did not imagine she was gone ple by surprise in this way.” for good, surely?” interrupts the colonel. The tone in which she is spoken to makes “This is her home, and always bas been.” Quekett flush up at once, and her voice
“But she might have died, or something, changes with her mood. in the interim.”
“I couldn't have let you know before. “ Irene, I am surprised to hear you speak hand,” she replies, rudely, as Lady Bald. in that strain."
win didn't say till yesterday that she could “Don't be surprised at anything I say of dispense with me. And it's quite a new that woman. Nothing could be too bad thing, into the bargain, for me to hear that for her. But of one thing I am deter
I'm to account for all my comings and go. mined; she shall not strike this child. ings to a family where I've lived for" And of that I shall make her aware on our
“Of course-of course," interrupts the first meeting."
colonel, hurriedly. “You mistake Mrs. “I advise you not to quarrel with her."
Mordaunt's ineaning, Quekett, altogether. “I shall not condescend to quarrel. I Irene, my dear, breakfast is waiting. Had shall siinply give my orders, and if she we not better go down ?” doesn't choose to obey them—".
He is terribly afraid of what may be " What then?"
coming, and has but one wish: to separate “I shall appeal to you.”
the combatants. But Irene's cup of wrath “And if I am powerless ?”
is filled to the brim, and she stands her "Why, then—but it will be time enough ground. With Tommy clinging to her from to decide what I shall do when the occa
pure fear, she feels brave enough to say or sion for decision arrives. Meanwhile, I do anything.” shall speak my mind very plainly to Mrs.
“One moment, Philip. As you have reQuekett.”
turned, Mrs. Quekett, you and I had better “I advise you to keep good friends with understand each other. You struck this her,” repeats the colonel, who appears to
child this morning. Don't do it again!" his wife to have assumed quite a depressed
“ Don't do it again!” pants Mrs. Quekett. and craven air since the night before.
"Don't do it again," repeats her mis"She is an estimable woman in many re
tress, calmly. “I have adopted him; he is spects, faithful, honest, and to be depend- under my protection, and I will allow no ed on; but she makes a bitter enemy. It
one to correct him but myself.” will be far wiser to have ber on your side.” “A pretty pass things is come to !” exIrene's lip curls in proud contempt.
claims the housekeeper, whose rage at "Thank you, Philip; but I have been being rebuked before the footmen is beused to choose my allies from a class supe. yond all description. “I wonder you're rior to that of Mrs. Quekett. I have borne
not ashamed of yourself, colonel, to allow with her patiently hitherto, but she has put it. A dirty brat, belonging to the Lord
knows who, and coming from the lowest on the landing long enough, Lord knows!" lot in Priestley, to be brought up here and And so the worthy disappears into her priuked out like a young gentlefolk, and own room, anl is lost to the view, at all not a finger to be laid on him. Why, events, of Irene for the remainder of the what'll the neighbors say? What do you day. expect the village is saying at this very Colonel and Mrs. Mordaunt have a sharp moment? Do you want a repetition of old little discussion on this subject during times ?!?
breakfast-time-quite the sharpest they “Hush, Quekett! Pray be silent ! have engaged in since their marriage; and
“O yes! it's very easy to bid me hold my though Irene will not yield one inch with tongue, when I come home to find the regard to stooping to conciliate the houseCourt run over with bye-blows"
keeper, she feels, at the termination of the “How dare you speak of this child in my meal, that she has been worsted in the presence by such a name ?'' exclaims Irene. fight. For the subject of her adoption of
Philip, will you permit such an insult to Tommy Brown has necessarily formed part be offered to your wife-and before your of the argument, and her husband has gone servants, too ?”
so far as to observe that if a child who is. “No, no, my dear, of course not. Que- no relation to either of them is to bring kett, I must entreat you to pass on to your discord into the house, he had better go. room. Neither you nor Mrs. Mordaunt are And here Irene recognizes, for the first in a fit state to discuss this matter now." time, her impotence to keep himn in opposi
“But remember, Mrs. Quekett," adds tion to her husband's wishes, and tho Irene, “that wbatever you may think, you knowledge silences her, eren to making shall not speak of Master Tommy in that her reflect sadly whether she may not ultiway again."
mately (unless her protege is to be cast on 'Master Tommy, indeed!” sneers the the world again) be compelled, for his housekeeper.
sake, to subinit to Mrs. Quekett's terms of “Yes, Master Tommy. Whoever he may peace; and the fear lowers Colonel Morbe, wherever he has come from, I have daunt in her eyes-with him lowers heradopted hiin as my own child, and I will self, and renders her morbidly depressed. have him treated as my own child."
She spends all the morning in the shrub“0, very well, ma'am, just as you bery, running about wita Tommy, for she please!"
cannot stand Isabella's deprecating air and “I am glad you see it in its proper light deep-drawn sighs; and here, after a while, at last. Let me pass.” And with the boy Oliver Ralston comes to tind her, with bad still in ber arms, Irene marches statelily to news written on his countenance. the breakfast-room, whilst the colonel, “It's all knocked on the head, Irene. I glad at any coșt to see the interview come can't close with Robertson.” to an end, follows, though with his spirits * Why not? Has he changed his mind ?" down at zero.
On the contrary, I had a letter from As they leave her, Rebecca Quekett turns him this morning, begging for my final deround upon the landing to gaze at the re- cision, as he is in need of immediate help; treating form of the mistress of Fen Court but my uncle has just had me into his with a look of unmistakable hatred.
study, and he says it's no go." “ Humph! To be treated as her own “ Oliver, surely not account of child, is he?” she says, maliciously aloud, Quekett ?” so that the servants in attendance can over- * Most surely yes, Irene. I'm as certain hear her; “ and he a nurse-child of that that old fiend is at the bottom of it as I am creature Cray's, left unclaimed for any that I'm alive. Not that Uncle Philip told lady to adopt. That's a queer story, aint
He hummed and hawed-you it?" she continues, appealing to one of the know his way when that woman's got him men beside her; “ and perhaps she aint so into a scrape-and said he had been thinkfar wrong when she stands out for his be- ing the matter over, and looking at it from ing treated as her own. There's lots more all points of view, and it seemed to him things happen in this world than we've any now that it would be more prudent of me notion of. Well, you'd better get up with not lo accept a trust I might not care to the boses now, James. They've kept us retain."
“But didn't you tell him you do care for He has grown very pale during the proit?"
gression of this speech, and now that it is “Of course I did. I said everything I ended, he takes out his handkerchief and could think of, but without effect. The passes it across his brow. fact is, he doesn't wish me to stay here. I “Spare you! Why don't you spare me could take the appointment without con- from insult in the house where you have sulting bim further; but I owe everything made me mistress?" to him, Irene, and"
“My darling, you don't understand, “O yes! Don't go against his wishes. How I wish I could explain it to you! but But perhaps he may change his mind again. I can't. But several members of my famSball I speak to him ?”
ily (my father for instance) have been “I wish you would."
laid, at different periods of their lives, un“Well, look after Tommy, and I'll go at der great obligations to Mrs. Quekett. I orice."
acknowledge she is not always pleasant in She finds her husband still in his study, her manners, and I regret to see she has apparently wrapt in thought, and dashes at not taken so kindly to you as I should have the matter in hand in her own frank wished; but, notwithstanding, I could not straightforward way.
feel myself justified in not doing all in my “Philip, why have you altered your power to repay the debt I owe her.” mind about Oliver going to Fenton ?”
"And which I should imagine she had “I have altered it, my dear, and that cancelled a thousand times over by her inshould be sufficient.”
solence. But why should poor Oliver suf“Not at all, unless you have a good rea- fer for your father's liabilities ?!? son. It isn't fair."
Colonel Mordaunt is silent. "I would rather not discuss the matter “Fenton is more than three miles from with you, Irene. We have had bickering Fen Court. Surely his presence at that enough for to-day."
distance can have no influence on Mrs. “Need we bicker because we talk? This Quekett's peace of mind.” subject does not touch my interests 80 “He would always be over here, my nearly as the other; but I think you owe dear." Oliver some explanation of the change.” “And so, because she objects to it, your
“The explanation is very simple. Upon own nephew is to be banished from your consideration, I don't think the plan a good house. O Philip! I could hardly have beone, or likely to prove for his happiness or lieved it of you.” mine."
“Pray, don't make me more unhappy "And the consideration came through about it, Irene, than I am. Do you think that woman Quekett.”
I don't feel it also ?” “Why should you think so ?!!
“Is that possible ?” “Because I know it. 0 Philip, Philip!” “I am suffering at this moment, far more And Irene, kneeling down by his armchair, than you, my child, or than Oliver either, puts her head upon her husband's knee for that matter." and begins to cry.
“Poor Philip! I am so sorry for you. His tender affection is aroused at once. But is it quite, quite necessary that Oliver
“My darling, why is this? Have I really should go ?” made you unhappy ?”
" It is quite, quite necessary.' If he did “Yes, you have. To see you so com- not go now, he would be compelled to do so pletely under subjection to your own ser- in a few months, and perhaps under cirvant; to know that she can sway you when cumstances most unpleasant for us all. I fail; that her wishes can make you act And yet I sometimes think, if I could contrary to your own good judgment, as trust you, Irene-" you are acting now-you, whom I looked up "You may trust me, Philip, and to any to as so strong and brave, and worthy to
extent." command all who came within your range.
“I believe it, my darling-but no, no, it It lowers you in my eyes; it makes you
cannot be! Don't ask me again. Only go contemptible in the eyes of others, and I to poor Oliver, and tell him that I will hold cannot bear it!”
myself responsible for any expenses he may “For Heaven's sake, Irene, spare me!
incur, in the way of premium or outfit, in procuring another appointment, on the “I suppose you are alluding to the child; condition that it is not in this county-any- she has not interfered in anything else." where, in fact, but near here."
“I am. You gave me permission to “And you wont trust me, then ?! she adopt and bring him up. Will you make says, with a reproachful air, as she pre- this fact clear to your housekeeper, and tell pares to leave him.
her, at the same time, that my forbearance “I cannot-I dare not. Yes, dearest, I depends entirely upon her own.” will.” And with that he rises suddenly, “ Then you sign a treaty of peace with and stands before her, and takes her two her?" hands in his own. Irene, when you gave “Under those conditions, and for your your dear self to me at the altar, did you sake, yes. I feel myself degraded to enter not promise to honor me?”
upon any terms with a dependent; but, “And I have honored you, Philip." since it is for your comfort, I concede.
"I believe it; and I trust you to honor Only it must be kept as religiously on her me still, notwithstanding that I am unable side as mine. And now I trust we have to explain all that you wish to know." heard the last of so contemptible a busi
“But secrets are so horrid between hus- ness." bands and wives,” she says, pouting, with
Colonel Mordaunt sighs and turns away. true feminine curiosity; "and it is so hard “You are not yet satisfied, Philip. What, to forgive what one understands nothing
in Heaven's name,
would you have me do about."
more ?" “Have you never kept a secret from me, “Nothing, my dear, nothing. Indeed I then, Irene ?"
do not see what else there is to be done. He is alluding to the possible name of Only, pray remember what I said to you her former lover, and the circumstances of this morning, and do not irritate her more their intimacy, which have never been than you can help.” confided to him. But her thoughts fly im- “I shall never speak to-or notice her!" mediately to her adopted child and the replies Irene; and here, feeling that all knowledge she possesses of his parentage; that can be said has been said upon the and under her husband's steady gaze she subject, she leaves the study to communibecomes crimson to the very parting of her cate the upshot of the interview to Oliver. hair.
Colonel Mordaunt, left to himself, looks “0, very well," she answers, with a more thoughtful than before. He has light laugh; “don't let us say any more courted the information that his wife has about it, since talking wont mend matters. not laid her whole heart bare to him, and Only I trust my confidence in your integri- yet now he feels miserable because she has ty, Philip, is not supposed to extend to put the sign-manual of silence on a fact holding out the right hand of fellowship to which he knew to be such. Mrs. Quekett, Mrs. Quekett."
Oliver Ralston, the child, everything which But Colonel Mordaunt appears to have has worried him hitherto, passes from his forgotten the root of the subject in ques- mind to give place to the curiosity with tion. He is still holding her hands, and which he longs to discover how much of looking fixedly at her downcast eyes and her former life Irene has kept back from working features..
him. He remembers vividly all she said to “My query seems to have affected you, him at Brussels, and in the little sittingIrene?"
room at Norwood, on the subject of her “ It would affect any one, I should think, disappointment; but he was so eager in the to be stared at as you are staring at me. chase at that time--so anxious to secure But this is child's play, Philip. What is it her for himself at any cost-that he did not you want me to do?"
choose to believe what she asserted to be * Only to believe in me as I believe in true-that the best part of her life was you."
Yet had not the sequel proved him “ That would be easy if believing in you to be in the right? For the six months she did not involve believing in Mrs. Quekett has been his her spirits have gone on gradalso. However, I will leave the woman to ually improving day by day. Indeed, a go her way, if she will leave me to go few weeks ago she was buoyant-radiantmine. Is that a bargain P”
running over with fun; and, if they have