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Giving a jump of excitement, and what you are doing.” And not hastily putting the jar on the until she saw Annie hurry out of dresser, she fled into the garden the room with the jar did she calm to tell Mary.
down, and a minute or two after, “There's Henry Biddulph com- Henry Biddulph, the man whom ing up the hill in a dog-cart,” she her husband wanted her to marry, panted.
and who had been her nightmare Mary stopped short, for the for the last eight months, strolled announcement stunned her. Then into the room, drawing off his pulling herself together and dis- gloves as he did so. missing her first inclination to As he stood in the doorway refuse to see him, she quickened Mary fancied he was taller and her pace towards the house, feeling bulkier than
and her very
uncomfortable and nervous. thoughts, as is often the case in "Annie,” she said, "he'll go to sudden emotion, took refuge in the stable first, so come and help some unconnected detail, and she me put the parlour straight.” And found herself wondering at the she walked on in front of her and size of his feet and the thickness went to the window. Looking of the soles of his boots. Then as out, she was just in time to see the his good - natured face, tempered dog-cart turning into the yardby an awful solemnity assumed on and the driver of it was a middle- this visit of condolence, beamed aged man, whose bulk and florid down on her, she felt, almost with face told her it was Henry Bid- a sense of irritation, how glad she dulph. The sight of him brought would have been to see him under back to her all her pain, and in- other circumstances. And Henry tensified all her embarrassed feel. Biddulph, who had steeled himself ings towards him. Sharply she for this visit, felt somewhat the recalled, as she stood there looking as he took the chair she at him, her husband's words, and offered him and gave vent to murit almost seemed as if he knew her mured expressions of sympathy secret.
with the air of a funeral mute. Feeling hot and miserable, she After which he put his hat on the turned from the window, and her table, and then thinking it looked eye fell on the blue jar. The un- unseemly in that position, he accustomed sight of it startled her, stored it away under his chair, and all her pent-up feelings burst from which soon after, in a moment out.
of restless shyness, he kicked it, “Who brought it down, Annie?" so that it rolled into the middle she exclaimed passionately. “It's of the room, where it lay for the too bad. I've enough to bear rest of the interview. After these without that."
preliminaries, he remarked in an Annie, who was arranging the expressionless voice, as if he were chairs and books in the orthodox delivering a messagemanner round the room, looked “Mrs Tilbury, I was sorry-I up
in a frightened manner and may say I was wretched—that I gasped.
could not be at poor John's fun"I thought—" she began. eral. He was my oldest friend “Oh, never mind what you for more
than twenty years." thought," interrupted Mary, ex- Here he sighed so loudly that he citedly; “take it away at once woke up a large blue-bottle fly, before he comes. You don't know which buzzed round the room with
protesting energy. “But,” he angry with me.
It's been on my went on, “I was away in America mind. Yer know, I think he was on business — corn—and I wrote angry with me that Christmas ?” to you but got no answer," and he He stopped, for something in tried to throw reproach into his Mary's manner disconcerted bim. voice.
Then he took courage and went “No; I got none,” said Mary, "I would not have hurt him feeling wretchedly nervous, and for the world. Only my chaf—" wondering how to get him away His words stopped and his ideas from the subject. “ You must be fled. What had he said ? What glad to get back to England. Did was wrong? For Mrs Tilbury had you go about with a bowie-knife become very white, and the next and a revolver ? America is so un- minute had put her handkerchief civilised you've always to go about to her eyes, and, murmuring somearmed, haven't you ?” But the thing unintelligible, had hastily left laugh which followed had little the room. joy in it.
For fully ten minutes Henry Henry looked somewhat scan- Biddulph sat where he had been dalised. Was his old friend's left, feeling thoroughly staggered, wife heartless ?
and more like a whipt hound than “Well," he answered, "it's an afternoon caller has any right nearly as bad as that.
to do. He waited on, half hopyoung country. But,” relapsing ing she might return, and, in view into the mutelike expression of of the further embarrassment it voice, “tell me, did John leave might involve, half dreading she me any message, poor fellow? I would do so. It was all so disam sure he thought of me.” appointing
He blew his nose Mary looked up in a frightened with a large red handkerchief, and way, and she felt she could stand thought what a muddle he had it but a very little longer.
made of the visit. Yet he could “N’-no,-yes,” and the words not understand why she had came through a haze of restrained changed so and seemed so untears. “He was very ill-at the friendly to him, and at last he last he did not know what he was picked up his hat and left the saying."
room, telling himself he had been Ah, yes ! of course, of course, treated rather badly, and that it only natural," said Henry, sooth- was the last time he would try ingly. And then the conversation and console disconsolate widows, died away, and for some moments whether he was their oldest friend there was silence in the room, or not; and so, looking neither to while Annie's voice could be heard the left nor right of him, he found excitedly arguing with some one his
way to the stables, and climbat the backdoor. But there was ing heavily into the dog - cart, something on Henry's mind that went sadly back down the hill he he felt he must say, and then he had so lately climbed. And Mary
Taking out a note- watcher him from her window, book and pretending to inspect its and as he went out of sight, overleaves, he murmured
come by mortification and vex“Poor John, of course not. ation, she burst into tears. But," and he leant forward with Now that he was gone, she reala confiding air towards Mary, ised how absurdly sensitive she had “I've often worried if he was become by nursing a self-conscious
ness which had ended in making he would tell himself, and he owed her ridiculous in her own sight it to poor John to take care of her. and probably in his. And at the For there is always a certain satisthought of this she dried her eyes faction in looking after a pretty and became scarlet and hot with woman, and telling yourself that shame by a new terror, that he there is not a touch of sentiment must have seen through her con- in the feeling. For Biddulph had straint and silly flight, and with a convinced himself of this, and told man's natural vanity would have himself a dozen times a-day that it made a pretty near guess at its was only so. cause. Perhaps she thought, hot- Mary on these visits received eyed with horror, he even knew him in varying moods, and used to the cause : men were so odd, her make a point of mentioning somehusband might have mentioned his thing connected with John. It curious whim to him. And so in was like a prayer uttered before a pitiful state of mortification she going into battle. spent the evening, sometimes blam- But gradually she got very used ing him, sometimes herself. How- to his visits, and found herself ever, when next morning came, she looking forward to them ; for life did the only thing which was left was monotonous, and even Bidto her. She wrote him a little note dulph's heavy facetiousness was a saying how sorry she had been to relief. The old emotions which leave him so suddenly, but she had had made her lose her head when felt overcome.
first he called were dormant, but With the despatch of this she only dormant. Even the jar had came to the quiet determination lost its import, and was now always to receive him when he next came on her dressing-table. Mary even as she used in John's time, as an had thought of taking it downold friend without any constraint. stairs, but lacked the courage. And the end of it all was that But Annie had come into her bedBiddulph some weeks after came room one day, and yielding to a again up the hill, with doubts in sudden impulse, had taken up the his heart as to his reception, and jar and looked at it, saying, “Let's was met with a warmth of manner put it in the parlour.
put it in the parlour. It's lost up which pleased, but left him more here." puzzled than ever at the ways of Then she remembered with a women, and widows especially. heightening of colour her last defeat
Although Mary did not keep in this direction ; but, somewhat to this up always, and some of her her surprise, Mary said nothing old constraint returned to her but only nodded, and in triumph at times, yet it must have been the blue jar was carried down and only in a small degree, for gradu- put on the old Jacobean dresser in ally Biddulph found, living as he the parlour which John had loved did only four miles away, that somehow or other most of his About this time a long course of drives led past the “Borrowed self-deceit came to a climax with Plume," and something always Henry Biddulph, resulting in went wrong with the harness, or mental perturbations and indecithe mare wanted watering, or he sion to which he was little accushad some business information to tomed, and which was wearing communicate which necessitated his “too, too solid flesh ” away his getting down. She was lonely, with worry.
He had to decide one way or "You? Why, you've lived alone another what was honestly his for-well, all your life.”
" position to Mary Tilbury. He “ Yes; but I can't do it much had woke up one morning and longer. I suppose I shall have to realised suddenly, as he stared at marry." his towel-horse, that he was a fraud, “Suppose !” cried Mary, ironiand he ought at once to acknow- cally ; "you must not sacrifice yourledge that his feelings had drifted self. There are other ways out of into quite another channel since he the difficulty—you might live with had begun to set himself a course of dutiful attentions to his old “I once thought,” said Bidfriend's widow.
dulph, pursuing the even tenor And as Henry Biddulph was an of his remarks, for he was deterhonest man and given to making mined now to say
his and she up his mind suddenly, he sat down should not laugh him out of itto breakfast with the firm deter- “I once thought you might find it mination that he would put matters dull also. What is life alone ?" to the test and settle it one way or The question seemed to open a another. Then he worked himself large field of speculation, and Mary almost into a brain-fever thinking stared hard at the table-cloth, her how he was to do it, and finally heart beating a little faster than drove off with a new hat and gloves, she liked. his best whip, and a huge carnation a
“And if I am dull and think of of brilliant hue in his coat.
marriage, and you are dull, why Mary was in the garden when should not you think of it also ? he arrived, but came in soon after. I am sure, if
would have Her hair was disarranged, and she married me, I could have made was looking very pretty, dressed you happy," he went on, and his in pink cotton, and when she saw words were like the man, very Biddulph a woman's intuition told simple. “I'd stand by you and her that her trial had come. Al love you." most unconsciously she sat down Mary winced and the colour left facing the jar. It seemed to give her face, for he had unwittingly her help.
used the same words as John had Now that Biddulph had come, done when speaking of him. all his courage had fled, and he She looked up at him, and her talked about everything except glance took in the blue jar. what he had come for, casting seemed to be watching her and about how to begin.
waiting for her answer. At last his wits and his courage “You are very good,” she said, came to his rescue, and with that tremulously, "to think of me; but solemnity of manner which shy- there are reasons why I could not ness always imparted to him he marry you." said
Sure?" “Mrs Tilbury, don't you find it “ Yes.” very dull here?
"Perhaps it is too soon? But “Dull? not at all," was the John would not have minded, I'm prompt reply, and then the voice sure.” He spoke almost as if to fell, -" though things are different himself. It seemed quite natural now."
to refer to her dead husband. They “I find living alone very dull," had all been great friends, and he said Henry, stolidly.
knew he was doing nothing un
loyal. But it was useless, so he said Henry, the perspiration standonly sighed and felt slightly puzzled. ing on his forehead from stress of The possibility of being refused had anxiety. “I wish I hadn't come. never occurred to him. But with We were good friends, and now a fine instinct he tried to disem- you think badly of me. And only barrass her, and putting on a yesterday, I thought you'd have sudden and painfully artificial air been so pleased ! I was going to of cheerfulness, he let his eyes tell you that I'd found the double wander round the room, desper- of that jar, the very brother of it. ately thinking of something to say, I saw it in Cokeford. I seemed wbile Mary folded her handker- to know it at once." chief into various shaped packets "Why did you not say so beand wished the interview was over. fore ?” murmured Mary from the "Pooty piece, that dresser," re- middle of her handkerchief. marked Henry, after a constrain- “Say it earlier," repeated Henry, ing pause, when he was ready to in a perplexed manner,- " what? say anything to break the silence. that I liked the jar? Why not? “And the jar—the blue one. II forgot the match I found, when likes its colour. Looks lovely you would not have me.” with that light on it, eh! What's “Oh, you hurried me so.” wrong?"
“What, will yer have me and Mary's head was bowed forward. t'other blue jar?” Was she crying? And becoming And for answer Mary looked up cumbrously solicitous, IIenry got and smiled. up and stood by her side. He And old John Tilbury had his even took her hand, for there was way, and Henry Biddulph reigned no resistance, only sobs.
in his stead. “I haven't hurt yer, have I ?”
H. GARTON SARGENT.