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dinates, and in respect by those from whom she took what were called "orders," but which, when addressed to her, sounded very like requests.
No one at Orlesmere knew aught of Mrs. Maurice's antecedents. A bachelor is not apt to be over-scrupulous as to character, especially when the applicant for a situation possesses unusual attractions. Ere entering Lord Orlesmere's service, Mrs. Maurice had been the cordon bleu at a London club, and she boasted with truth that those branches of her profession, to which she paid attention, she was unrivalled.
THE kitchen at Orlesmere was old-fashioned, as was everything about Orlesmere. The walls were covered with symbols of past ages: huge flagons, deep drinkinghorns, and black leathern buckets hung suspended from the side-beams, and large wood-in en trenchers stood in rows on the shelves. There was a little cupboard window in the wall near the door, through which it had It was an evening in June, and all the been the custom for the cooks in the Orles- western side of Orlesmere was red in the mere kitchen to pass the dishes that were sun. The dim tapestry that hung in the ready for the table to the footman waiting with corridors seemed to tremble into life at that out, for it was considered an infringement on heavenly visitation, and to be transfigured the cook's privileges that any servant uncon- by that passionate welcome and farewell of nected with her own especial office should the angel of light; the Dutchman drinking enter her domain. There was another win- from a flagon caught bright gleams on his dow, a large one, looking out into the park, jolly round face and gold-wrought cup; the and near this stood a huge block of wood, Spaniard kissing his mistress on a shadowed on which meat was formerly chopped, but balcony, became all too visible to his jealnow its principal use was to enable short-ous rival below; the quaint flowers, the legged damsels to take hasty peeps at the passers-by without.
alert hounds, the flying deer, the eager huntsmen; all these and many other devices, imaged by fingers that had been dust for centuries, were warmed into something resembling their old vivid outline by the sun's mellow light.
This window was the one grace to the chamber. An elm-tree threw its boughs across the diamond-shaped lattice work, and in the spaces between the branches could be seen the long line of a noble av- From a far-off drawing-room came the enue of limes, the path under which was sound of a woman's sweet voice, singing to nearly opposite to the window. The poor a harp. Sometimes a child's laugh, folheated eyes that watched the kitchen hearth | lowed by the patter of little feet, broke not in the early morning would be tantalized inharmoniously on the faint distant thrills by the shimmer of dew-wet leaves playing Sometimes came a rustle of against the lattice. trailing silks down the corridor, and a passing hand would pluck out the contents of the potpourri vases, sending forth the sad fragrance of dead rose-leaves, as the fair owner looked wistfully from the window at the movements of a young man, who was talking to his dogs in the courtyard below.
The cool grey vapours that clung to the elm-tops; the fresh winds that stirred the avenue in one continuous ripple all down its misty length; the sudden shadow of the bird sweeping by the narrow panes; all these pleasant sights must have seemed unkind mockeries to the poor drudges com- Lord Orlesmere (for it was he who pelled to pass the day in bending over was caressing the pointers) looked up, stewpans and pastry boards, heated by the and nodded to the occupant of the fire, and irritated by constant petty anxie- casement; he was rich, young, and handties. But there was one woman who never some, and was betrothed to this young permitted herself to be either worried or lady. Had he wished it, he might have overworked- a woman whose attire was as spent a pleasant hour in wandering with spotless as that of any lady visitor to her through his noble gardens, where red Örlesmere, and whose dainty fingers were roses drooped their heads over the grey never employed in any task more disagree- terraces, and downy-cheeked peaches nestable than that of fabricating the most ethe-led in their parent branches against the real of souffles, the most subtle of sweets, for her master's table.
This was the housekeeper and head-cook, Jane Maurice, commonly called Mrs. Maurice, for she was held in awe by her subor
long range of the dusk red walls. But such is the perversity of man that Lord Orlesmere, after acknowledging his ladylove's greeting, sauntered away out of sight of the window, and was presently standing
at the kitchen door engaged in conversation with his housekeeper, Mrs. Maurice.
Looking at her as she leaned against the massive nail-studded door, toying with her white apron while she answered her master's remarks, you would never have suspected her of being in any way connected with the domestic service of an English household. She resembled rather a beautiful sombre-eyed Spaniard; her eyes were large and black, their shadow being intensified by the breadth of black eyebrow and long lashes; the forehead was low, the hair which rippled over it in natural waves was as blue-black as a raven's wing, and was gathered in rich shining bands round the head.
In such a face you see at first little but the splendour of night in hair and eyes, and indeed the rest of the features were not worthy of these her salient attractions. The face was short, white, and meagre; the nose slightly turned up; the lips pale and thin: neither was her figure symmetrical; the shoulders were too high, the bust too full, the waist too small. Her hands were delicate and white" and no wonder, when she does nothing to blacken them," her less fortunate assistants were wont to observe. It was remarkable that her dress, always of clean cotton material, looked on her more distinguished than did much richer robes worn by the noble ladies who were wont to visit Orlesmere.
As she stood on this June evening, her cotton dress falling round her in pure transparent folds, the sun full on her wondrous eyes and glossy coils of hair, Lord Orlesmere swore in his heart "that a handsomer woman never blessed man's sight." The young nobleman was lingering near her for the ostensible purpose of announcing the advent of some guests to his table that night, when he heard the clatter of a horse's hoofs behind him; and, turning round, perceived that his steward, Ambrose Hood, had entered the yard.
this Hood; his blue eyes seemed all candour and cheeriness; his fair short curls the perfection of boyish simplicity; but he was not quite so young as the curls indicated, and his face in repose showed lines of care which accorded ill with features almost infantine in their delicacy of outline.
"And how are you to-day, Mrs. Maurice?" His tones were clownish compared to hers, even when his intention was courteous; but to the woman looking up at him from the doorway his voice seemed the sweetest music that ever thrilled her ears. "Come in, Ambrose, won't you?"
'Well, I don't know. I was passing by on my way home from market, so I thought I'd just let my Lord's foreman know how the beasts sold, but I didn't count on getting off my horse, and it's getting late!"
He hesitated. She looked up eagerly, but it was not her look that prevailed with him (although she thought it was): it was the glimpse he caught of a fair-haired girl moving across the passage within.
"I think I will come in for a bit," he decided; and giving his horse to a lad to hold, he entered the house in company with Mrs. Maurice.
"Come into my own sitting-room, Ambrose." My own sitting-room" was a pleasant little chamber. Short white muslin curtains put a shroud between the hot sun and the comfortable chintz-covered sofa that stood near the window; a bunch of roses nodded their crumpled heads together in a blue jug on the table; a fly hummed drowsily on the window ledge, and a cat curled up in the sun was watching the fly stealthily with a look of gentle languor subduing the mischief in its eyes.
Mrs. Maurice ordered tea for herself and Hood, and then brought from a cupboard a basket filled with hot-house fruit and lightly covered by vine leaves.
"I plucked them for you myself," she said, with a look of soft exultation in her large eyes. "The gardener said he'd give me anything in the world I liked-and so, what I liked was to get these for you! Hood ate the fruit with a contented ex
In this movement Lord Orlesmere lost sight of Mrs. Maurice's face. He did not see the joyous light that blazed up in the melancholy eyes. He did not see how every expressive feature-even down to the rest-pression. less hands spoke of some strong emotion, kindled by the sight of the blue-eyed, fairhaired yeoman.
Lord Orlesmere acknowledged his steward's salutation briefly –
"I wish to see you to-morrow morning, Hood!" he said. "Be here at twelve o'clock."
"Thank you, Jenny," he said. "I do think you're fond of me. I wonder what there is you wouldn't do for me!"
There is nothing in the world I wouldn't do for you, and you know it!"
Her deep voice trembling with tenderness, the yearning love in her eyes, the caressing touch of her hand in his hair, all “Very good, my Lord!" conspired to lure him away from the thought He was a handsome round-faced Saxon, of the fair woman he had seen in the pass
age; for an instant (while his vanity was touched by the evidences of her devotion) he almost believed that his heart beat as warmly for her as it had done in the first flush of his passion twelve months ago.
"Come out for a walk to-night in Goodman's Meadows," he said; "it was there you picked the cowslips with me last summer! Do you remember it, Jenny?
"Yes," she said softly. "I always remember that walk!"
There was silence between the two for a few moments; in her mind some delicious fragmentary reminiscence of past happiness was intensifying the fullness of the delight with which his presence always filled her. As for him he thought of nothing, and as his conversational powers were somewhat limited, he betook himself to whistling and to turning over the contents of a work-box that stood near his hand.
Halloa!" he cried presently, "what is this fine rigmarole? A delicate gold locket and chain dangled between his fingers, and he was endeavouring to decipher an inscription on the locket's margin.
"That? Oh! that is nothing," Mrs. Maurice, cried scornfully, and she endeavoured to twitch the trinket from his hold, but he kept his hand tightly clasped on it.
To my Queen Jeanette," he spelled out;" and might I ask, Jane Maurice, where you got this from?"
She stood silent and troubled - her eyes cast down, her hands pulling nervously at her apron-strings.
"These are not the kind of wages honest women get," he continued angrily.
"It was given me a long while ago, before I knew you," she said. "I never cared for it, nor for him who gave it to me, Ambrose!" "And I suppose you'd have me believe that he didn't care for you either that men give women gold lockets for nothing, and that I'm not the first fool you've deceived!"
"You've never been the worse for knowing me, anyhow," she said reproachfully. Then she came closer to him, and put her arms around his neck.
"I've never made believe to be better than I am, dear, and I never cared to be better until I knew you- then I wished I could forget every bit of my wicked past life. I was so afraid it would turn you against me when you came to know of it. I was better treated before I came here. lived in a nice house and had servants of my own. I might have left this place twenty times before now, and been as much petted as I used to be, but I've got to love you so,
that I'd rather be near you when you're unkind and cross, than with those who make a queen of me. I've been a good woman since I've known you, Ambrose. When you first kissed me I blushed as red as though I had never felt a man's lips near my cheek before; I seemed to grow modest and pure from that moment. All my past life was like a bad dream, and the joy of your love was the bright sun that cleared all the foul black clouds away. Oh, Ambrose! I have seemed to have a heaven in my heart since the day I plucked cowslips with you in the meadows. Do tell me that you forgive me that you're as fond of me as you were before. I'll fling the locket into the pond if you like for matter of that I would fling myself there if it would please you."
Perhaps he was flattered by the evident sincerity of her emotion-perhaps he did not care sufficiently about the subject to be implacable-for the frown cleared away from his brow as she spoke. He had that sort of feeling about Margaret, the fairhaired house-maid before mentioned, that he would have knocked down any man he had seen presenting her with a love token. But when love is on the wane in a man's breast the tension of selfish passion is relaxed, and having been exacting for his own pleasure, he became magnanimous at his mistress's expense.
"Oh! I don't mind; it's all over now!" Hood said graciously. Now, tell us. Whom have you got in the house to-day?
She did not detect the flaw of indifference in his kindly tone; it is, perhaps, in revenge for his own infirmity that Love strikes his devotees blind with the incommunicable glory of the passion he wakes in them.
She enumerated, at his request, the names of the guests who were staying in the house. " 'There's the Duke and Duchess of D. the Marquis and Marchioness of Hthe Hon. Mrs. C. S- and lots of other ladies with grand names; but I don't believe any of them are much better than than I am myself (at least, not if you believe what they say of one another). Then there's Lord H. P, and the Duke of Xand Mr. Hardware, my Lord's family lawyer."
Looking up with her great eyes full of love into Hood's face, Mrs. Maurice was startled to see how pale he suddenly became.
"Mr. Hardware! What the d-1 has he come for ? "
'Didn't you hear my Lord say he wished see you at twelve o'clock to-morrow? The butler tells me he has heard nothing lately
"Until I've left England," he repeated, sullenly.
"You will take me with you?" she said, with eyes that questioned him even more keenly than words could have done. A woman who loved him less would have received this intelligence, so abruptly given, in different fashion. His mother would have overwhelmed him with clamorous grief and vague reproaches, his sister with curious inquisitive questions and sterile lamentation; but this woman's searching inquiry came straight from her heart.
"And you will take me with you?" To himself Hood said, "More likely I'd take Margaret," but aloud:
"Oh! of course." At that moment they saw Lord Orlesmere recrossing the yard on the way back to the kennels. Mrs. Maurice looked indifferently at the high-bred beauty and at the refined demeanour of the man outside. Her eyes were filled with but one image. Could the Apollo descend from his immortality in marble, and walk past the Titanias of this earth, I wonder how many of them would deign to. raise their lovely eyes from the contemplation of Bottom's hirsute face to render homage to the pure beauty of the Grecian god.
Mr. Hood watched his master with more interest, and shrank into the shadow as he noted that Lord Orlesmere was approaching the window; he did not wish my Lord to be reminded of his steward's existence just
Lord Orlesmere sauntered up to the casement, and then signed to Mrs. Maurice to open it. She looked involuntarily at Hood, and reading "Yes" in his eyes, she unfastened the hasp of the casement, and let in a gust of warm June air, and a letter.
When Lord Orlesmere perceived that
she had picked up the slip of paper which fluttered to her hand, he strolled away again without looking towards the window
probably he did not wish his proceedings to be noticed. He had not seen Hood, whose face was in the shadow, and had fancied that Mrs. Maurice was alone in her room.
She crimsoned with shame as her lover quietly possessed himself of the paper, and read as follows:
"Meet me to-night at the summer-house behind the Limes at eleven o'clock."
"I never gave him the right to do this. I never did, Ambrose, upon my word. He's a mean, false hearted
"He's my master, and he's going over my accounts to-morrow, Jenny," interrupted Hood. "I-I- wish you'd go and meet him."
"You wish me to go?"
Yes; you might try to put him off this business of the settling accounts to-morrow. If he'd only leave it alone for a few days it would be everything to me. Talk of time being money, it's more than money; it's bread and meat to a man in difficulties. Just now you said you'd do anything in the world for me, and this is the moment to prove it."
"I never thought you would ask me to do a thing like this," Mrs. Maurice said in a tone of keen reproach: great Love gave her a sort of spurious modesty, and she felt that he who had created the feeling should not be the one to trample it down. "I couldn't ask you to have love meetings with another woman."
But it needn't be a love meeting," Hood said soothingly. "You need only promise. You can break your word afterwards, you know; and oh, Jenny, if you could only persuade him to do what I've told you, it would be the saving of me!"
He kissed her as he spoke, and added in a well simulated tone of affection, "By the time he reminds you again of your promises, darling, we two will be far away over the sea."
"I'll do it," she said, returning his kiss passionately. "I'll do that and more for you, Ambrose!"
He embraced her again, with real gratitude animating the caress. Then he bade her good-bye.
"But first just step across the yard," he whispered. "I don't want my Lord or that d- -d Hardware to see me.'
Mrs. Maurice obeyed his request. Hood waited until she was well away from the door, and then he rushed back into the pas
sage and caught hold of fair-haired Marga- visage was hanging over him contorted with ret, who was passing "quite accidentally," anguish. His betrothed was wasting out
“Dear me, Mr. Hood, how you flurry me!" was that damsel's remark, as Hood walked off, leaving her with flushed cheeks and cap awry.
As he crossed the yard he whispered to Mrs. Maurice, Good night, darling;' then in an impressive tone, "Don't forget you are to meet him at eleven." He jumped on his horse and rode down the park without turning his head, and the black appealing eyes watched him until the red blaze of the setting sun swam like a lurid mist before them, and then wiping away the hot tears from her lids, she returned to the house, and was once more the haughty, arrogant (and in her own domain the absolute) Mrs. Maurice.
When it was eleven o'clock she tied a red handkerchief round her wealth of hair, and went through the cool glooms of the avenue towards the appointed spot. The skies were thick with stars that night; the air sweet with the scent of hay that came up from the far-off misty pastures. No sound could be heard, except the distant bark of a dog, or the plaintive cry of a deserted fawn, entreating in fawn language that its mother should cease nibbling the grass, and bring the comfort of its warm brown speckled body to its shivering offspring. There was nothing in that scene boding evil or distress.
It had been better had the sky been red with lightning and the air thick with storm, for then perchance the appointment might have been broken, and a great crime spared.
her eyes in tears at his feet; and his brother was looking at him with a fierce yearning gaze, as though entreating the cold lips to yield up the name of him who had thus robbed them of the joy of life and love. The calm face could make no sign; there was no trace of suffering left to disturb its impassive sweetness. But for the dull red clot under the hair that waved over his left temple, you would have said that Lord Orlesmere had died a painless death, "By the visitation of God!"
He had not been missed for several hours after he had sauntered down the lime-walk to keep his appointment with Mrs. Maurice. He had excused himself to his guests on the plea he had important letters to write, and he told his valet that he should not require his services any further that night. So the guests sang, talked, and laughed, and the servants made merry in the servants' hall,
Again it was afternoon at Orlesmere; the sun shone as hotly as yesterday on the grand old towers the breeze rose in sighs and sank in whispers as sadly, as playfully through the lime-boughs and the stream that ran through Lord Orlesmere's woods whirled in the breeze and sparkled in the sun, as if it were enraptured by the sense of its own petulant liberty and restless grace. But within the house had fallen the hush of an awful sorrow; no echo of childish prattle, no snatches of song, came out of the black shadows of the rooms above and below, now darkened by the presence of death. Pale, awe-stricken faces passed slowly to and fro the corridors, and the tremulous pause of sobbing voices betrayed the secret of Lord Orlesmere's bedchamber. He lay there dead-his soul with its Creator-his eyes turned away for ever from the gaze of lover or friend! His mother's
-each happily unconscious of the fact that the host and master was lying on his back in the thick grass behind one of his pleasure-houses, the death-sweat on his face and a bullet through his brain.
He lay there the whole night, untended and unsought for his eyes were turned upwards, but he could not see the bright stars grow pale through the fir-branches above his head; he could not hear the busy clamour of the rooks, when the grey morning dawned; could not feel the sweet fresh air that shook the dew-drops on his cheek and showered the petals of the lilacs over his motionless hands.
The air was glad with the sounds of life; but his voice might never again awake the echoes in those dim woodlands- never more give welcome, nor answer greeting. They had found him at eleven in the morning: now it was afternoon, and Mrs. Maurice was sitting alone in the little room where she had entertained her lover on the previous day. Her eyes looked more sombrous than ever, from the deadly pallor of her cheeks; she was pale at all times, but today her face was livid. She gave, however, no other outward sign of trouble; she did not wail with the noisy grief of the other women-servants - she neither wept nor raved. There was that in her mind which defied the power of human lineaments to express. She sat and furtively watched the muslin curtains, as though she expected to see Lord Orlesmere's shadow again pass the blind. No one knew of her appointment with the dead man, nor was it her intention at present to enlighten Mr. Hardware on this subject; for it was that gen