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"Sometimes, not often. She is not a favourite. If I do not go she generally sends for me." "When she wants anything from you?" "She sent for me to-day because the children were ill," replied Etta, not liking the drift of Ernest's remark. "I think it right to do what I

can for my poor people."

Here was a fresh difficulty-her poor people! No one could stand more in need of friendly counsel, and no one seemed less likely to appreciate it. On the threshold of life, she yet fancied herself an adept in its ways. Except for one sorrow, too early encountered to penetrate deeply, and a few smartings under the crossness of her stepfather, Etta had known none of its pains and foresaw none of its cares. She stood alone, with him as a rival, and no one to defend her. Was she not, then, peculiarly thrown upon his chivalry? He could not suffer her to injure herself. Vex her as it might, Ernest resolved to make an honest attempt to enlighten her upon the dangers she ran in displeasing Mr. Rivers by referring so often to her plans for the future before indifferent hearers. Bound to his side by the rain, she could not escape, however angry she might be, and if he took advantage of the situation, it was for her own good.

"I speak as a friend, Miss Lacy," he said, hurrying to the main point, "to serve and not to vex you.'

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"I would beg of you not to mention to Mrs. Foster, nor to the villagers, nor to any one, your projects of improvement. Before I met you on the road I had some conversation with Mrs. Foster, who, not content with praising your kindness now, enlarged upon the benefit she and others would derive from you by-and-by, because you intended to pull down all the old cottages and build new ones, and bring about many other changes-laudable projects, I have no doubt, but are they not premature? Should a few stray words of this tendency reach my uncle, have you no apprehension of what he might do in his anger?"

"Scold, most likely," returned Etta, carelessly, not attaching much importance to the circumstance; "but I see so little of him that it would not much signify. He has done it so often that I am growing hard."

"And is what you term a scolding all you have to fear from a man like my uncle? Milder men than he might not unreasonably be angry at discovering after what manner their death was anticipated. I know you mean no harm, but will he judge after the same fashion ?"

Amazed at hearing language so strong applied to what seemed to her so simple and so natural, Etta could only raise her eyes in blank astonishment and ask what more she had to fear.

"Did it never occur to you that he might alter his will ?"

"But if he does he cannot take Deane Hall

away from me. He promised mamma that I should have it," rejoined Etta, naïvely, reassuming the composure which for a moment had been disturbed.

66 Have you never felt any distrust of him, never doubted his regard and good-will?"

"Often, often," she said, with tears in her voice, "and have begged of him to speak kindly to me and let me help him, and be about him as other children are with their parents, because I felt so unhappy at his giving me so much whilst I gave nothing in return. I was a naughty child once, liking to vex and irritate him, triumphing openly when mamma listened to me rather than to him. I am so sorry, oh, so sorry now, and have tried to tell him so, but before I get out a couple of words he always says something aggravating, and I go away feeling more naughty than ever. It is notit is not my fault!"

Ernest making no reply, a long pause followed her involuntary confession, and they continued silently splashing along the wet road, until just before they reached home he startled her once more with the question,

"Are you happy living your present life with so little change in it ?"

Had Etta answered frankly she would have said that happiness for her lay principally in the future, and only so far in the present as it was gilded by her own imaginings; but having already received a caution to be prudent, she only answered, "Not very."

"And should your dreams never be realised," pursued Ernest, "should Deane Hall never be yours, or yours clogged with conditions you might not like


"The conditions have already been made. Deane Hall was a wedding gift to my mother and me."

"Secured to you only by my uncle's will, and a will can be altered at any time during the life of the testator."

"You do not think grandpa could do such a wicked thing as that, and break his promise?" exclaimed Etta, now really alarmed, and standing still, with her large wondering eyes fixed upon him, full of eagerness for his answer. "Oh, Mr. Ernest, I do not believe such a thing is possible. You are trying to frighten me."

"What he might or might not do under provocation, real or imagined, it is difficult to say, but I advise you to be very careful not to offend him. Think over what I have said, and take it in good part." A recommendation even more needful than Ernest supposed.

Aghast at the revelation of a possibility never dreamt of, Etta was now completely silenced. Her thoughts were in a whirl, even if her confidence in her expectations were not thoroughly shaken, while Ernest, satisfied at having at last made a serious impression on her young mind, was content to let it work its natural results. Without exchanging another word they reached the house, where they were met by Merry, who informed Ernest that Mr. Rivers had inquired for him several times.

"I will go to him as soon as I have changed my clothes, and Miss Lacy will, I hope, change hers immediately. She has been longer exposed to the wet than I have," said the young man.

"Shall I send Lizzie to you-or Sarah, she is the best?" observed Merry.

But Etta waved her hand to indicate that she

wanted neither of them, and moved away utterly insensible to all the kindness and chivalry testified on her behalf. She was more interested in the sick children, and stopped a moment at the foot of the stairs to hear Ernest give Merry directions to send off one of the farm lads to Dr. Philips with a note he was going to prepare.

And then she went to her own room, pursued by fears, vague indeed at first, but which assumed a definite shape as she recalled and weighed the words just heard. Ernest Rivers thought that Deane Hall could be taken away from her. Was it so? Was not such an idea as monstrous as improbable? If not to her, to whom would it go? For Miss Matty she saw no chance. Ernest Rivers might desire the estate; that was natural enough, but Mr. Rivers could not give it him. It was hers; her mother had told her so, and whom could she believe if not her own mother? What did Ernest Rivers mean by talking so much about his friendship; why should he be her friend? Was there not something suspicious in these voluntary protestations?

With her hands clasped over her knees she sat pondering how best to help herself. What should she do? Now, indeed, she felt the need of a friend to enlighten her where she was ignorant, but to whom should she apply in order to ascertain the value of this warning? Not to Mr. Rivers; she might be suggesting the very idea she deprecated; not to Miss Matty, who cared nothing about her; and certainly she would hold no more converse with Ernest Rivers on the subject, she was too wise for that.

Alas, poor Etta! In her wish to be clearsighted she was prejudiced. All the little kindnesses received from him were ignored or misinterpreted. She distrusted his advice, doubted his sincerity, and kept herself aloof as much as she could, repelling every attempt on his part to establish a pleasant intercourse between them. To her friend Ethel Dawson she poured out her fears and anxieties, with an appeal to the lawyer-brother to be informed if the contingency she so much dreaded could by any possibility happen. Dawson being from home, there was some delay in answering her letter, and when the reply came Etta was not in a state to read it, and had already forged the first link of the chain that ultimately affected the whole tenor of her life.





HE day following Etta's expedition in the wet was a ceaseless downpour. Courageous as she was, she felt no inclination to go outindeed, her mind was so engrossed with her own affairs as to forget the invalids altogether. next morning, however, her thoughts reverted to them again and her interest revived. Going upstairs to put on her things, she was stopped by Lizzie, who informed her that Mr. Ernest Rivers was waiting in the dining-room to speak to her. Reluctantly she returned in, it must be owned, a combative spirit, believing that some infringement of her liberty was involved in a summons so

unusual, as at this hour Ernest was habitually far away and engaged in the business of the farm. Hat in hand, with a frown on her face, and her diminutive figure drawn to its full height, without the loss of a hair's-breadth, she entered the room, to find him alone and evidently in a hurry, judging from the quick and abrupt manner with which he accosted her.

"You are going out, I see perhaps to Mrs. Foster's. I am glad I am in time to prevent you;" and, without noticing the little lady's sense of outraged dignity at the expressed supposition that he was about to control her actions, he blurted out what he had ridden three miles across country to say. "Pray do not go near Mrs. Foster's house, her children have malignant typhus fever; I heard it when in Deane Croft, and came immediately to warn you. Very glad I arrived in time, and now I must be off again, having an appointment to keep."

Without another word he left the room, threw himself on the saddle, and was soon clattering along the road at a pace indicating that he had lost time to redeem, and that he had taken some trouble on her behalf, before Etta had recovered from her surprise. Was this the same Ernest Rivers who had once called her the Chatelaine, and who had at first treated her with deference and consideration? She felt sorely aggrieved. Two days ago he had openly found fault with her, calling in question her good sense and propriety -he had almost lectured her-and to-day he was interfering still more decidedly. In a quick, imperative fashion he told her not to do the very thing she most wished to do, and then turned away, as if his word were law, without waiting to hear what she had to say. "No, no, Mr. Ernest; I shall not permit you, nor any one who has not the right, to dictate what I am to do or not to do. I go my way, and you may go yours."

With this she settled her hat on her head and then went upstairs to complete her toilet for going


Notwithstanding her resolution, Etta was not sorry that Miss Matty had not overheard Ernest's communication respecting the fever. In a few minutes she was dressed, and, taking some oranges from her private stores, sallied forth in the direction of Mrs. Foster's cottage. At the door she met two women about to enter; they drew back for her to pass, and began to laud her kindness in coming.

"One little one is already gone, and the other will soon follow. The mother is dazed-like, and no wonder; but go in, miss," said one of the women, throwing open the door and making way for Etta to precede her.

On the bed, where she had last seen them, lay the two children, one completely covered over and motionless, the other with the same flushed face and brilliant eyes, but with scarcely any other sign of life. The father and mother were both there, sitting in the chimney corners, looking helpless and piteous. On Etta's entrance the former drew his sleeve across his eyes, but the latter rose and approached her, saying, in supplicating tones,

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"Can't you do something for this one, the other's gone?" ending with a heavy sob.

Words of consolation were not in Etta's line. Her sympathies were active; if there was nothing for her to do, she was powerless, and did not know how to attempt the language so often used, or, we may say, misused, in the chambers of sorrow, when the human spirit imperatively demands an outlet for its woe. She took Mrs. Foster's hard hand between her own as the poor woman vented her stormy grief in tears and lamentations, interspersed with observations not a little startling to her visitor.

"Had you come sooner, miss-only two days sooner or had you doctored them when they were first took ill-"

Neither Etta nor any human physician could save the child now, yet the mother had such a rooted idea that her presence prolonged his life, and that he would die as soon as she left the cottage, that Etta had not the heart to grieve her by going away. She sat down to join the others in their melancholy watch, and waited, how long she could not tell, but it seemed a weary while. The large old-fashioned clock ticked lugubriously, the air of the room became more and more oppressive, till at last Etta, feeling weary, and remembering that she should be late for dinner, summoned courage to leave, promising to come again. She went home, self-satisfied at having resisted interference with her liberty of action, and also at the serenity with which she had discharged the painful duty.

Etta reached home just in time for dinner, and took her seat, prepared to defend herself if attacked. Whether from the hurry of her walk, or the imagined antagonism she was going to repel, Etta was far from appearing at her ease; her words were abrupt, and her bearing had a certain defiant character which did not escape observation. She spoke shortly to Miss Matty, and snapped at Ernest when he addressed her so as to set his aunt wondering how he would take it. Ernest, however, said not a word.

The dinner over, he rose as Etta was leaving the room, and intercepted her movement towards the door.

"Miss Etta-" he began. She turned her flashing eyes upon him, ready to acknowledge her visit and assert her independence. "You will be sorry to hear that one of Mrs. Foster's boys is dead, and there is no hope of saving the other. Probably by this time he is dead also. Two or three of the neighbours' children have taken the fever. I am thankful that I hastened home in time to warn you not to expose yourself to useless danger."

Her little face became crimson as he spoke. Concealment was foreign to her character, yet confession in the present instance might be admitting his right to interfere, and was not to be thought of. Looking another way, she fidgeted towards the door, and as she grasped the handle slightly moved her head towards him with a cold "Thank you," and hurried away.

What vexed her more was that for two or three successive days she found herself unmistak

ably an object of attention, nay, almost of surveillance to him. Whilst chafing under this new phase in their relative position which led her to avoid him on every occasion when it was possible, she was one morning summoned to Mr. Rivers's


Ernest had gone to attend an agricultural meeting at Deanton, to be followed of course by a dinner, and was not expected home till evening.

"You will make a better speech than I ever did, or than most of the others will. Our skulls were rather thick," said the old man, as Ernest left him.

Half an hour later Mr. Rivers sent for Etta.

"Here I am, grandpa. You sent for me," said the girl, approaching, but with none of her usual alacrity.

"Aye, to see what you are worth when put to the proof. You are ready enough with offers of service when I don't want anything, let me see what you are when I do. My nephew won't be back till night, I may find the day long, so you can begin by reading the paper to me. Here it


With some dismay Etta perceived that the reading selected for her was from the "Farmer's Chronicle." Independent of finding no interest in its articles, she felt at the present moment a general malaise that disposed her to make a trouble of everything. The occasion so often longed for of doing something to please Mr. Rivers was come, and she wished it away. She regretted her perverseness, but could not help it.

"Where shall I begin?" she asked, in a listless, languid tone, that scarcely sounded like her


"At the beginning, to be sure; where else would you begin?"

Mortified at feeling so unwilling to comply with the first request Mr. Rivers had ever made, she called up all her energy and got through the first page, not without difficulty, and reading, as she knew, very badly, but it was still worse after turning The print was smaller, and the matter, to her mind, more disjointed. The lines ran one into the other; she miscalled her words, and hesitated so frequently that Mr. Rivers lost all patience.


"There, there, put it down, I can't listen to such jabbering. You read worse than a village schoolgirl who pays a penny a week to be taught. A pretty sum I have thrown away on your education!"

"I think, perhaps, something is the matter with me. I can't make it out," said Etta, meekly, putting up her hand to her head and passing it two or three times over her eyes. If you do not mind I will go away for a little while and return when I am better."

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"No; stay where you are. I have something to say to you. If you cannot read, perhaps you can hear. Attend to what I am going to say, or you may be sorry for it."

Thus admonished she roused herself, pulled her energies together, and sat upright upon her chair, fixing her large eyes, now glittering like live coals, upon Mr. Rivers.

"That there may be no mistake I shall use plain language. The subject is as important to me as it is to you. For your mother's sake I once lid a foolish thing, of which I heartily repent. In her favour I disinherited my nephews. Harold, is you perhaps know, disgraced the family, and ny anger drove him out of the country. Possibly I might not be so hard upon him now, but that is neither here nor there-he is dead. There remains Ernest, who is to me as a son."

Here he paused with his eyes fastened upon the girl, who, unable to remove hers from the stern hard face, sat motionless and spell-bound.

"I intend him to have Deane Hall," continued Mr. Rivers in a tone too decided to be misunderstood, and then waited for Etta to speak.

But-but-" she stammered out slowly, unable to take in his meaning in its bearing with regard to herself. "But you have given it to me. Mamma said it would be mine, that you promised it when you married her," the conversations with her mother beginning to recur to her memory. Perceiving that Mr. Rivers preserved the same stolid expression with which he had announced his intention to give Ernest Rivers Deane Hall, she felt puzzled and bewildered. "But, grandpa, it is mine-every one knows it is for me. I could

Many a better girl than you would be glad of such a chance. Don't be more nice than your mother. She was far handsomer than you, yet she took me, a crusty, ugly fellow, not to be compared to Ernest." It pleased Mr. Rivers to disparage himself to suit his own purpose, which was to reconcile Etta to the proposition he had just made.

It was almost in a tone of good-humour that he told Etta to be a good girl and go on reading. From sheer inability to resist she made the attempt and got through a few lines, but soon the voice faltered, again the words were broken and mispronounced, and at last they ended in a great sob. She threw down the paper and covered her face with her hands.

"Go away, foolish child, and be wiser next time I see you. I give you till to-morrow to come to your senses," said Mr. Rivers, not unkindly, for he was not really discouraged by the interview. Thus admonished she gladly left the room, and Mr. Rivers spread his hands on the table with an air of satisfaction. Whatever happened, the estate would belong to Ernest.


not give it up. It has been my only comfort. repaired to her room.

EANWHILE, in a very different mood, Etta
Having guarded

when-whenever I was unhappy-for so long-"
and the strained dry eyes seemed to open wider
and wider. Tears were in her heart and voice
too, but not one came to her relief, nor could she
detach her frightened gaze from the rugged face
that looked so indifferent to her misery.

"Grandpa, you know you do not mean it; you want to frighten me like you would a naughty child, but indeed I am often sorry not to be more with you, not to talk to you and help you as poor mamma would have done. I will try to read again, I feel better now." She took up the paper and added with a smile, "I know you would not break your word; besides, it is in the will."

This innocent reference to the will, the great folly of his life, was not calculated to propitiate Mr. Rivers, but having an object in view, he swallowed his wrath and observed that Deane Hall should not be taken from her if she behaved wisely.

"Indeed I will act wisely," she answered, cheerfully, fully believing in herself.

"If you marry my nephew you may keep Deane Hall."

"It would not then be mine," returned Etta, quickly, a vivid sense of dependence and interference effacing all the happiness of possession under such circumstances.

"I should be miserable, always, always," she said, petulantly; and here the tears fell fast without her knowing it.

"I could not, I would not; no one shall make me!" she exclaimed, passionately.

"You know my mind to-day, to-morrow I may know yours," replied Mr. Rivers, curtly. "Now dry your eyes and don't be a baby because I offer you for a husband one of the handsomest young men in the county, and a clever one besides.

against the chance of disturbance by locking the door, she sat down and rocked herself backwards and forwards in helpless grief. Unless Mr. Rivers was joking, her inheritance was in danger; and yet, in connection with those harsh, stern features jest was hardly to be thought of. Or she was to have Deane Hall on conditions that virtually deprived her of ownership. The proposition to marry Ernest Rivers had smitten her with the keenest disappointment, and was regarded as unkind and tyrannical.

While Mr. Rivers was resting with satisfaction on an arrangement which he supposed would secure Deane Hall to his nephew, and leave his reputation, as Miss Matty called it, untouched, Etta was alternately weeping and rebelling. In her doubts and difficulties she had one friend upon whom she could rely, though her natural pride made her chary of asking for counsel. Mr. Reade had often been the confidant of her vexations and ill-temper when misunderstandings had arisen with Mr. Rivers, though she did not always profit by his advice.

Choosing the hour when the old gentleman was most disengaged, she smoothed her face and hair and put on her hat, when a new thing happened to her the old energy had departed, and she felt an unusual though positive reluctance to move. Yet the distance was not great. From her window, glancing down the road and across the fields, the church tower rose above the trees, and the vicarage was close by. In general, it was but a quarter of an hour's run, scarcely that-nothing. to one whose feet in general swiftly carried out impulses involving considerably more fatigue, but now they were heavy and tired.

The cold, damp air struck pleasantly to her fevered brow, but the agitation of her mind must

have altered her appearance, for Mrs. Hutton on seeing her immediately asked what was the matter. "Nothing, nothing!" said Etta, shortly. "I only want to see Mr. Reade."

Knowing that to her he was always at home, the housekeeper at once ushered her into his study and closed the door, satisfied that there was some new whim afloat, and wondering at her master's patience. Mr. Reade was surrounded by folios, and on Etta's entrance raised his eyes from the one he was studying with a look of placid benignity.

"What now, Etta? Has any one trenched upon your dignity, or have you quarrelled with

She shook her head so mournfully that it might have been a question of a funeral rather than a marriage. "No, no! It would not be what I call mine. I could not carry out my schemes and plans, and I have made so many. They have been my only happiness. I meant to do so much good."

"Quite right! Had you any definite views of what might be most advisable, or were you thinking of such things as struck you from time to time?"

"Is it not a duty to help the poor and do them all the good we can?"

"Certainly, but with prudence and wisdom, or

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Mr. Rivers ?" he inquired, but the young girl broke instantly into tears.

Mr. Reade waited until the storm had spent itself, and heard her without interruption. The project of the marriage was not new to him, Miss Matty having already revealed it.

"And now tell me your objection, my dear child?" he said, with a calmness that startled her. She raised her head, fixing her eyes upon him as if he had uttered something extraordinary.

"What is my objection?" she repeated, as soon as her words would come. "Why, every objection! In the first place, grandpa would have broken his word, and Deane Hall would not be mine."

"It would be if you married Ernest Rivers."

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