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the sofa. In front of her, standing with able to judge for yourselves. I hope to his back to the fire, stood a very tall and find you in a better frame of mind. You very handsome specimen of the Houghton ought to be ashamed of yourself for even family. Lady Jane found herself in a thinking of absolutely cheating this poor somewhat embarrassing position. It had little girl out of the fortune your poor never even entered her head that the most Uncle George most certainly meant for natural thing in the world would occur, her." namely, that her favorite nephew, on hear. “ My conscience is clear,” he said ing of his uncle's will, would immediately laughing. “If she had been perfectly run down to Holliwell to talk it over with hideous, this Amelia Houghton, then inber. He had arrived without warning deed I might have felt bound, but as it that afternoon.

is “Oh Charlie, Charlie," she said, “I “My dear, money is a very nice and little thought that you were so utterly des. comfortable thing, not at all to be detitute of common sense.”

spised." My dear aunt, I can't for the life of “No, I quite agree with you, nobody me see what common sense has got to do has a keener appreciation of that than with it. I am not going to sell myself for myself,” said the young man with a laugh money."

and a sigh; “I wish it came into one's “ But you see, there is the poor child to pockets more easily." consider; one must not be selfish, mny “I did not tell you that little Mollie dear boy.”

Houghton came to-day,” said Lady Jane, “I understand that she has already rising and poking the fire. Charlie Hough: some small fortune,” he said hastily. ton started violently. “And if, as you say, she is so pretty, she " What? but you said the eighteenth ? is quite sure to marry."

You do not mean to say

that "Two hundred a year,” said his aunt. “ Mollie, Mollie,” said his aunt a little " It has sufficed hitherto for her clothes. impatiently. Never mind the eighteenth.

I dare say she will marry, because “This is Mollie, the little fair one. You she is more than pretty, she is quite love. see, you have been away so lung that you ly. I think she is far the prettiest of my know nothing about your cousins this sister's daughters, and they are all hand is the youngest, she came out last season."

Meta and Agnes both married “ Lawful name Mary, I presume. Pretthe very moment they came out, and ex-ty?" tremely well too.”

“Hum. But you must judge for your“How many are there?

self. She is a good little thing, and very “Five altogether, Charles Agnes, clever and quick. Now, remember, I Meta, Amelia, Mollie, and Algy.”

must have no Airting, it would not be fair “ That makes six,” said he suspiciously. before the eighteenth."

“ I dare say, my dear,” said Lady Jane, “I ought to have told you, Aunt Jenwho was thinking of something else. But nie,” said Captain Houghton, twisting his the words had hardly passed her lips be- moustache, “that I am afraid my leave fore a sudden idea came into her head. will be up by that time, and that I shall Why not make use of this mistake? Was have to rejoin.” it not an especial dispensation of Provi. “ Nonsense,” said Aunt Jennie as she dence? It was just possible that by a left the room. Lady. Jane went up-stairs very little dexterity a meeting without to bring Mollie down when the gong prejudice might be managed between the sounded. She put her arm round her two perverse cousins. She kept her pres- waist, and said, ence of mind wonderfully.

“My dear, I shall have a great deal to “ Are they dark or fair ? I can't en- say to you, but we will put it off until dure dark girls.”

nearer the eighteenth, and meanwhile “I am very sorry to hear that,” said you must make yourself as happy as you she.

can. There is no one here but your " Ah, yes, of course, then Amelia is cousin Charlie Houghton, whom you do dark? — I was sure of that. I never not know- one of the Indian Houghheard you rave about any one fair yet.” tons, you know – and grandmamma."

“ You are more perverse than anybody Mollie's heart gave a great throb of de. I ever met,” said his aunt. Well, my light. It was all right then, and the dear, on the eighteenth of next month dreaded Captain Houghton was a Charlie, you will meet each other here, and will be not a Stephen.

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CHAPTER III.

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Both Captain Houghton and Lady Jane

gave a little jump. Mollie saw it, and It was all very well for Lady Jane to grew crimson to the roots of her hair. wear comfortable crimson plush' in the ** We are cousin's," she said a little defidelicious hour before dinner, when the antly. “And I always call my cousins by severest etiquette relaxes, and the com- their Christian names." fortable reigns supreme.

The next morn- “Of course, of course,” said Charlie ing all appeared in the rigorous mourning hastily. “It is very nice of you, Mollie." necessitated by the death of the old bach- “Ah, but that is quite different elor great-uncle who had made so extraor. thing," said Mollie. “ You are only a man, dinary a will.

and I am a woman." Mollie's little black gown fitted her like “I always call my cousins by their a riding-babit, was short and business-Christian names,” said Charlie, cutting like, her pretty white frills fastened by a open the strings of Mollie's parcels. pearl stud. Nothing is worn in the • Hoist with your own petard !” said country that is not tailor-made,” Meta had Lady Jane, laughing. “ Quick, Mollie, let declared, and certainly the result was very me see! It seems to me that Meta and pretty and natty. Mollie's hair was a Aggie are sisters worth having.” mass of golden puffiness on the top of her “We all think there is nobody like each well shaped head, and a great golden other in the whole world,” said Mollie. knot behind; her skin was like cream “ An excellent sentiment for home and roses, her blue eyes dancing with light use,” said Captain Houghton, laughing. and fun.

" How pretty they are! how charmTom Grey called her“ stunning;" her ing! cried Mollie. “Oh you dears, brother Algy pronounced her“ A 1; "and how I wish I could kiss you!” and she her more severe brother-in-law, Colonel blew two kisses away from her fingerStewart, said that “she was very like tips. Aggie.”

* Please don't put them on,” said her Breakfast was a very cosy meal at Hol. cousin bastily. liwell. The papers and letters were al- “ Why not? Of course I shall put ways on a big buhl table in the window, them on.” and these were opened without ceremony “No, don't ! you will only spoil the during the process of eating. Moreover, effect.” the room was full of steaming machinery " What effect? Auntie, fasten them for - a machine made coffee, a silver sauce- me.” pan kept on boiling milk, the eggs had a “Charlie is right, Mollie, they will look machine to themselves, another slowly best in the evening; your gown is too turned hot toast before the fire. Aunt Jane severe for such triling: those delicate had a passion for comfortable machinery. little silver chains are out of character.”

Three letters and two packets were “Please keep them for the evening.' waiting for Mollie.

Mollie was very reluctant to obey, but “My dear,” said Lady Jane holding was just going to yield, when she uitered up her hands, " if you are a good corre. a little cry of dismay: spondent I wash my hands of you.” “Ob auntie, what is happening ? Good

“Oh no, auntie,” answered Mollie. "If gracious! what is it?" on this earth there is an occupation that Something awful was happening to the is abhorrent to my very soul, it is letter- coffee machine : it was puffing excitedly, writing. These are from mamma, and heaving itself up, while convulsive moveMeta, and Aggie.”

ments shook its frame. “ All of whom you left yesterday.” “ Heavens! Charlie, do something !

“Yes, but they must have had an ob. What is the matter? Take off the lid. ject in writing; they never write without, Something is fatally wrong." they hate it as much as I do. Yes! they But the lid was only a detail, and too had an object and a very jolly one," she late to give relief Captain Houghton exclaimed, glancing through her letters. rushed round to the other side. “ Meta has sent me a set of Danish silver “It burns so awfully,” he said, shaking ornaments, and Aggie an old silver belt. his fingers, and dancing with pain. Oh, what ducks they are !"

“It is no moment for amateurs,” cried Open them quickly,” said Aunt Jen- Mollie. “Immediate professional advice nie, who loved pretty things.

is absolutely essential,” and she pulled “Will you give me those packets, Char- the bell frantically. lie?” said Mollie.

“Why can't you do something, Charlie?

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Anything !" cried Lady Jane with a fren- “Nonsense, Mollie, I won't have him zied stamp

come home till it is too dark to see to The noises increased in violence every shoot - the kitchen is desperately hard

In desperation Captain Hough- up." ton caught up a table napkin, threw it “ That is the reason we had thai salmi," round the gasping machine, and carrying said Charlie. "I never tasted such anit out into the passage, deposited it on cient old bones in all my life.” the floor.

• Ungrateful! Well, it rests with your. He had scarcely returned when a loud self whether you are fed well or not." explosion took place outside, followed by Mollie went up to Gwendoline's room, an ominous rushing sound.

and met with a warm welcome from her " It is all over,” said he in a funereal gentle cousin. voice.

When it grew too dark to shoot, Charlie Mollie sat down and laughed till the Houghton felt that he had done his duty tears rolled down her face.

like a man, and came home. “It is no laughing matter," cried Aunt Now the post went out at six o'clock at Jennie. “I wonder what was wrong with Holliwell –

- a very awkward time - and the thing. What was it, Peters?" she Lady Jane always put off her letters to asked of the butler when he had reached the very last, so that five o'clock was not the scene of action. She was of course the uninterrupted hour that by all rights informed that it was nothing but the acci: it should be. dental shutting of an all-important though Lady Jane was writing hard at the far minute safety valve.

end of the room when Captain Houghton “I knew it could be nothing wrong came in, and Mollie was sitting on a low with the thing itself, and you really might stool by her cousin's sofa learning to have known,” looking wrathfully at Char- make Chinese knots on a piece of emlie, who was occupied looking pitifully at broidery: the burnt tips of his fingers.

“ We will have tea without waiting for "I am very sorry, Aunt Jennie,” he be- mamma," said Gwendoline. gan, but started nervously and stopped, shall pour it out, Mollie." for a strange bubbling began on the side- " What luck bave you had, Charlie?" board.

asked Mollie. Lady Jane whisked the lid off the silver “ Half a brace,” he answered. saucepan.

“ There is nothing like pres- In common English, one. What was ence of mind,” she said complacently: the one? animal, vegetable, mineral? how “And now bring some fresh coffee, and many legs? how many wings? only one let us go on with our breakfasts."

bead, it is self-evident." Mollie had to stop laughing as best she “What do you say you have shot?”. might.

cried Lady Jane from her writing-table. “It is a good thing Gwendo did not “ Four and a half brace, two hares, and come down to breakfast,” said Lady Jane a cat, Aunt Jennie," answered Captain presently.

Houghton. “Has she a headache this morning ?” “Why did you kill the cat?” cried

“Not much; you may go and have a Mollie indignantly. chat on her bed if you like, Mollie, after “Care killed the cat,” he answered breakfast. As for you, Charlie, you have quickly. got to earn your bread to.day, if you Yes, but why did you shoot it? I please."

hate poor innocent cats being shot for “What am I to do? From breaking nothing.” stones on the road upward, I am at your “Sorry I mentioned it," answered service.

Charlie. "It was not at all a nice puss, “Shoot for the cook," said Lady Jane. a regular vicious old tom -- just the sort " It is essential, especially as I am going to of grimalkin that a witch would have." have a number of people here next week.” “Perhaps some poor old witch is now “What do you want?”

breaking her heart for the want of it.” "Anything you can get, biped, feath- “It is bad enough that a young witch ered, and quadruped; there are some very should be doing so,” said Charlie. wild birds still to be had. Give your own “ After that, Mollie, you may as well orders. I told Peters you would want the give me my tea," said Gwendoline. keepers this morning.”

Any message to your mother, Mol“I hope you won't be out the very lie?” asked Lady Jane. whole day,” said Mollie.

“Please say I have half written a long

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my heart.”

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letter, auntie, and that I got here safe. “I feel a repugnance to his very name," ly."

she answered." Who is he? your brother, " Any comment on her letter, little your cousin, your what? woman??

My uncle, of course, but he is only ten “No, auntie," answered Mollie, her years older than I am, and he has been so cheeks becoming pink," certainly no com- much in England that I made sure that ment. Gwendo, buttered toast, or cake, you knew him.” or bread-and-butter?

“I do not, and I do not wish to know * Bread-and-butter, please. No, not that bim," said Mollie very distinctly. “I am bit, that bit underneath is the chosen of quite certain that we should not get on,

or understand each other in the very " I was always brought up to take the least.” first that came, and no choice," said Mol. “I don't think he would understand lie ciemurely:

you, certainly,” said Captain Houghton “ Aunt Jennie came towards the table, huffily, “he is the most just, straightforand hearing Mollie's last words, said with ward, best-tempered fellow out.” meaning,

"I can't endure the very idea of him.” " Your mother is a wise woman.

“ At all events, you are not likely to Gwendoline went up to her room after have to put up with him, Miss Houghton, tea, whither Lady Jane followed ber. for he is not in England now." There was always some anxiety in her “You are offended with me,” said Molheart about this one beloved daughter who lie, suddenly aware of the enormity of her was constantly suffering more or less, and lirade. yet was so brave, and good, and cheerful, · Not in the least, thank you," he anthat her sofa was a very centre of comfort swered coolly, “ I am not Stephen.” and content.

“No, thank Heaven, you are not !' Mollie ensconced herself in

a very

"I never heard such prejudice in my large low chair with a book. Charlie life,” said Charlie excitedly, rising to his lazily lay back in another. It was very feet. * Here is a fellow you never heard pleasant and warm, and the lamps wore of or saw, one of the best going, the deargreen shades which gave a delicious, sub. est old chap, and you sit there and abuse dued light.

him like a pickpocket for nothing at all.” “It is an odd thing," said Captain “I am accountable to no one for my Houghton slowly, how extraordinarily likes and dislikes,” said Mollie perversely. fast one becomes friends with one's cous.

" Then you are horribly uncharitable.” ins – in fact one gets to know them di- “ Charlie," and Mollie sat with her rectly as if one had been intimate for breath panting with indignation, “nobody years."

ever said such a thing to me in my life." “ I don't think I do," answered Mollie, Oh, Mollie,” he said suddenly, "you her thoughts wandering to her own troub. are angry; I wish I had not said it!” les. “ To tell the honest truth, I have “ I should not mind if it were not true," a rooted antipathy to my cousins just she answered despondently, “and I won't now.”

say it any more." A what?” he exclaimed incredulously. “ That's right, dear, and now we'll be “ A rooted antipathy.”

comfortable again. Why, we have had a “How very unkind ! ”

regular shindy." “Oh, I was not thinking of you at all, "I am afraid I was cross," said Mollie but of unknown cousins, I have lots.” penitently.

“ Most of them my nearest relations, I “ Never mind,” said Charlie superbly. presume,” he said, rather stiffly.

“We will forget it, and you know he “ I have not the least idea who your re- really is the best old fellow." lations are,” she answered.

o Aunt Jen

“ He is not,” cried Mollie, with a little nie is vague, she only described you as stamp. one of the Indian Houghtons.”

Captain Houghton threw himself down “I thought you knew Stephen at all into his chair, took up his newspaper, and events."

buried himself in its contents. Mollie re. “No, I don't; which is Stephen?” turned to her book, and silence reigned. asked Mollie, her face once more growing The dressing bell rang.

Mollie rose crimson. “ Stephen is an awful name !" and lit a candle.

“ He is the dearest old fellow in the Just as she was leaving the room, Capworld,” very indignantly. “ There never tain Houghton followed ber hastily to the was such an old brick."

door, but whatever he was going to say

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was nipped in the bud, for an influx of He took it, and held it in his, and went servants poured in to arrange the rooms on, “I dare not even allow myself to be before dinner, and he was obliged to go up happy now, in the present moment, beand dress.

cause I am tied hand and foot by a - a bother I cannot tell

you

about." CHAPTER IV.

“ I wish I could help you,” said Mollie SEVERAL days passed, and the cousins sweetly. became great friends, every day more in. " There, don't let us talk any more separable.

about it. I can't say what you are, Mollie ! Lady Jane watched the progress of The ice won't bear, there's not a chance their friendship with much amusement, of it to-day" and at the same time some slight trepida- They walked home very silently. Just tion.

as they reached the door, Mollie glanced A hard frost set in, so hard as to prom- up at him very shyly, but her eyes fell ise skating at no distant period, and at again immediately, abashed by a look in least once an hour Charlie and Mollie, his they had never met before, telling a one or both, went off to try the ice. new story. Mollie ran up-stairs with her

"I wonder you are not bored here,” | beart beating fast. said Mollie on one of these occasions, “ Aunt Jennie,” said Mollie, one day when they stood by the lake together, when they were alone together, “has cautiously trying it. “There is nothing Charlie any money?” for you to do; you must be dull enough, “Not a sixpence, my dear.” and you could not have hoped reasonably

6. Oh!” for this very premature frost. I suppose That was all. Mollie thought rather you will be going soon."

ruefully that two hundred thousand “ I am going on the seventeenth," he pounds would build a magnificent hosanswered. “ Not a day later," with un. pital. called for force.

On the tenth, Holliwell's hospitable " I am also going on the seventeenth,” walls were filled with guests. she answered. “I engaged to stay here “ It is unlucky our being in mourning," till then, and then I shall join mamma, said Lady Jane.

“ We can't have a regu. whether she will or no. But you have lar ball, but I do not see that there could not answered my question; are you not be the sinallest objection to the young bored?”

people dancing in the evening after dinner “Not in the least,” he answered fer in the morning.room. The parquet is vently. · Being with you turns every- excellent, and I can have over a man to thing into a pleasure. I can't tell you play the piano." how I like it. I only wish I could think," “ Better fun than a regular ball," said he went on tenderly," that you had half Gwendoline from ber sofa. “Mollie, did as much pleasure in being with me as I mamma tell you that Tom and Meta are have in even thinking of you."

coming?" The color rushed into Mollie's pretty * No; how delightful! that is nice! cheeks, but she said nothing. Captain What fun Meta will have, she does so Houghton went on, speaking rather fast, like dancing. Dear auntie, you always and whisking the heads off the thistles. think of everything that is most delight.

* Everything that is delightful passes ful!" away so awfully fast, the days seem to fly “ Tom and Meta are going to stay a on wings, and if there is anything disa- good long time, Mollie, to help me to look greeable or painful coming, it seems to after you,” said Lady Jane smiling. rush to meet you in the most unfair man- * I need not go before the seventeenth,"

said Mollie with forced calmness.

" Then “ It does indeed,” said Mollie, with a I am obliged to join mamma." little shiver.

“I dare say!” said her aunt. “No, Captain Houghton had reached that no, Miss Mollie, it is all very well to enstage in which a man feels a great wish joy yourself, and have as much fun and to speak about himself.

Airtation as you like, but the real business "I am sure you would sympathize with in hand must not be overlooked.” me, Mollie,” he said, "if I were able to “ Auntie, I am not going to do it.” tell you any of my anxieties. I am so “Now, no nonsense, darling! Life is weighted, so beset."

made up of reality, not romance.” “ I am very sorry,” said Mollie gently, But Mollie had put her fingers into her laying a little gloved hand on his arm. I ears, and nestled her head into her aunt's

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