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Leigh. "I wish you would stay at home-you
The mother looked at her son and observed in his eye a light that she had never seen there before. He laid his hand on her shoulder, bent to her ear and whispered rapidly and eagerly. She looked amazed and confounded-at length interrupting him, she said, "Frank you are wild! Have you lost your senses?"
"No," he said rising and pacing the floor, "no mother-count me less than a man' if I do not accomplish my ambition-my-."
"You frighten me Frank," cried the good woman, and she threw her arms round her son's neck and sobbed aloud.
"Come, come, mother," said Mr. Leigh, coming into the parlour at the moment, "don't take it to heart so- -Frank has youth and strength, and a bit hardship will do him no harm. If he gets a few 'nuggets' of the gold that all the world is talking about, so much the better; if he does not, I dare say you will have a few for him when he comes backyou are always at the 'diggings,' you know, mother, with your care and thrift."
The good man thought it his duty to endeavour to keep the mother's heart up-though his own was down.
Leaving father and mother, then, let us return to the lovers as we found them at the commencement of our tale-at their farewell meeting.
Long and earnestly they talk. "I will tell Frank as soon as we have started," said Percy. "But, indeed, now that I feel so independent, I don't care if all the world knows--even my
"No Percy, no!" replied May, in alarm, "Sir James would turn against my father and it would break my mother's heart to leave the old place you may tell Frank when you have gone. Poor Frank, I think he already guesses, he is so gentle and kind."
"He is a noble fellow, and I shall be proud to call him my brother," exclaimed Percy, "Do not fret May, darling, we shall be all right,
passionate kisses on her lips, and fled to hide his emotion. They had reached the garden wicket behind her father's house, and May, when Percy had departed, entered the garden, and sat down and wept. "Heaven bless and keep you always, dear Percy!" she murmured. On reaching the end of the lane that led to the garden, Percy paused, and lifting his hat from his head, and raising his face to the starlit sky, he vowed to be true to May Leigh in weal or woe. So the lovers parted.
And day and night, and night and day
MAY LEIGH sat in the garden, in the pale moon-
Entering the house, she went straight to her own chamber, and bathing her face in cold water, to remove as much as possible the traces of her recent tears, she descended to the parlour. There she found her mother sitting with Frank's hand clasped in hers, tears stealing down her old face.
May quietly crossed the room, stooped down and kissed her mother's brow. She fell on Frank's neck and kissed him also; sobbing again and again. "Don't, little sister, don't!" said Frank, tenderly, with a big lump rising in his own throat. "We'll soon be back." May looked at him and saw that he knew her
Mr. Leigh, who had been preparing Frank's luggage for removal on the morrow, again entered the room, and the family was complete.
Frank's last night at the farm was a sad one. He had been a good son, and it was hard to part with him. May tried to bear up and comfort her mother, but her imagination conjured up a thousand things that might happen in
the far off land.
Sir James and Lady Ilford felt deeply the prospect of losing their son, even for a limited time.
"But he will soon wish to be back," said Sir James to Lady Ilford, as she was arranging Percy's outfit for his journey. The wish, of course, prompted the thought.
The night passed, the morning came, and the Ilfords and the Leighs met in Londonmaster and servant alike in sorrow for the loss of their only sons. It was a beautiful shipthe "Eglantine"-bound for Melbourne. It was almost ready to sail when they arrived, and there was little time for leave taking. Poor May was pale, but shed no tears.
There now, there's poetry on it; write that down to-morrow
"Yes, dear Percy, in my heart," replied the maiden.
Sir James shook hands with Frank. "Goodyoung man," he said in a familar way,
But the youth could not maintain the light-bye, some mood he had assumed, and straining her for Frank was a favourite. to his heart in a long, last embrace, he imprinted Good-bye, Sir James," replied Frank, "I
will do all I can for Mr. Percy," as if he knew the comfort his words would give.
Good-bye," said Ada Ilford, advancing and offering her hand to Frank. "Good-bye, Miss Ilford," returned Frank, bowing low. "My life shall be devoted to your brother."
While these leave-takings were going on, Percy stole to May's side, and whispered "God bless and keep my darling!" slipping upon her finger a "Mizpah" ring. The bell rang—the friends parted the vessel moved May saw no more. Her father caught her in his arms-she had fainted.
It was well poor Mrs. Leigh had May to look to at that moment. Her anxiety for her daughter saved her the pang of the last look of her son.
When May had recovered, they walked in silence to the station. Mr. Leigh put them into a second-class carriage; Sir James and Ada Ilford at the same time passing on to a first-class compartment. Lady Ilford had broken down at the last moment, and had remained at home, unable to see her son depart.
How lonesome and dreary the farm looked on their return. For days May went listlessly about her work, but at length roused herself for her mother's sake, who long remained uncomforted.
At last the family could calmly talk about the voyagers, and the fate of the two young men furnished a daily theme of conversation.
Old Mrs. Leigh, with a mother's divination, had discovered May's secret attachment to Percy Ilford. It gave her great concern, and was the subject of much serious thought; but, not knowing what had passed between the young lovers, she hoped that time would cure her of what she must consider a hopeless fancy.
As the vessel moved, Percy kept his eyes fixed on May, to take " a last fond look"; but when he saw her faint he darted below.
It was many hours before the two youths met again. When he came on deck, Frank was watching the shores of old England, as they gradually faded from view. There were the young men side by side, the aristocrat and the plebeian; the lord of the soil and the yeoman. At that moment they were equal in condition, bent on the same enterprise. How did they stand naturally? Frank was a self-sustained youth. His father's care had been to make a
man of him, and he had succeeded. He had taken care, though he could not send him to college, that he should have all the advantages of a good school; and with aptitude above the average he had acquired an excellent " English Education," besides a moderate amount of Latin. He had left school at the age of seventeen, and had afterwards followed the plough and done general farm work, with a
view of becoming, in due time, a farmer on his own account.
Percy Ilford had had every advantage of education, and was an accomplished gentleman. But though a year older than Frank Leigh, he had always felt the superior force of his character, and having been much together, they had taken their natural position. Frank, always willing to follow, had yet been forced into leadership, so that now, as they stood on the deck of the "Eglantine," it was Frank who was the comforter in their sorrow. By way of saying something, he quoted Byron as applicable to their situation
"Yon sun that sets upon the sea
Farewell awhile to him and thee,
"Ah! Byron had none to grieve for him, but we have Frank," said Percy.
"Cheer up Mr. Percy," replied Frank.
"I am not Mr. Percy to you now, Frank," interposed Percy. "Do you not know we are to be brothers?"
"I know, Percy! I know!" and the young men shook hands warmly.
Without accident the good ship at length reached Melbourne, and they wrote letters home to tell of their safe arrival. Remaining a few days in Melbourne to purchase materials, they set out for Ballarat, at which place, they eventually arrived.
"Now for the search for gold," said Percy. "I came to get it, and I must have it; I will never return without it."
"Let us go patiently and diligently to work," said Frank, soberly, yet in hopeful tone. CHAPTER III.
Percy Ilford and Frank Leigh left home for UPWARDS of two years have passed away since Australia. During the interval the incidents of the Ilford family life at Dorset Hall have become interesting. To distract Lady Ilford's mind from brooding over her son's protracted absence, they had gone to London, in the summer of the third year, for a few months, on a This relative had not seen Ada for some years, visit to a relative-a rich old maiden lady. and was much struck with her beauty; for, indeed, Ada Ilford was a lovely maiden. Proud of her young kinswoman, she sought every opportunity to "bring her out," and, shrewdly calculating that it would give her that Ada Ilford would be Miss Danver's additional importance, caused it to be whispered heiress. Perfectly ignorant of her relative's designs, Miss Ilford enjoyed the gaiety, and to
her amazement soon found herself the centre of attraction. It was the old story; the beautiful heiress soon found
Many with the vow and sigh, Ready for her love to die!
They sigbed in vain, however, and no one received the young lady's preference as a lover. But Miss Danvers had made preference for her in the person of young Lord Clifton, and so managed that it soon appeared to the outward observation that he was, at least, first in the
When the Ilfords returned to Dorset Hall, Miss Danvers and young Lord Clifton accompanied them. The old lady had, somewhat arbitrarily, informed Sir James and Lady Ilford that to be her heiress Miss Ilford's choice must be confined to this nobleman. young There seemed to her parents no reason why Miss Ilford should not accept an agreeable and good-looking young gentleman of high family; they, therefore, received the intimation of Miss Danvers with the highest gratification. The alternative was not communicated to Miss Ilford. The plotters were shrewd enough to know that it would be a thousand to one but that would totally defeat their aims. And they had no reason to suppose that young Clifton would be an unsuccessful suitor; for they observed that she received his civilities agreeably, if not with marked satisfaction. At the end of a week, the duration of his visit, Lord Clifton departed from Dorset Hall, with an invitation to return at the hunting season and spend a few weeks. Miss Danvers was pleased with the progress made. "If not accepted," she said, "he has not been rejected."
In the meantime, what were Percy Ilford and Frank Leigh doing? Were they any nearer the goal of their wishes? At first, the labour of digging had been hard work, and trying to Percy. But gradually he had hardened to it, and, at the end of almost three years, had become strong and bronzed, fit for any fatigue. From a somewhat effeminate scion of the aristocracy he had become a man. Their success had been but moderate; they, however, still worked on, though often sickened with "hope delayed." They had seen hundreds successful who were less industrious than themselves. They had seen men, almost by their side, become suddenly and fabulously rich. Their turn came came by the merest accident. A digger whose claim lay next their own, wishing to leave it with the intention of going to Bendigo, offered it to the young men for a very moderate price. They accepted his offer, and the next day thought they would, just by way of change, try their purchase. It was one of those things for which there is no logic in nature. The poor fellows who had toiled to sink the claim had abandoned it within a very hair's-breadth of success. The very next day, Percy Ilford and Frank Leigh found traces of the golden treasure, which led to a "find" that took away their breath with astonishment. Carefully
concealing their success from their fellowdiggers-a necessary precaution-they worked on, with only intervals for sleep, and at the end of not more than three months they found themselves in possession of enormous wealth; they could not themselves estimate exactly how much.
They had contrived, under no small difficulty and risk, to have their "nuggets" conveyed to Melbourne, and lodged safely in a bank.
The mail had arrived, and brought letters. "Well, Percy," said Frank, on reading his, are you satisfied?"
"Satisfied! yes, we may well be; and now shall we think of home?" said Percy.
"Ay, and let us off without delay," replied Frank. "Our claim is not exhausted, but we can sell it at a handsome price. Let it be done, and let us off."
"Why, what the plague is the matter with you ? You are worse than I, who have the strongest motives for haste-read," and he handed Frank a letter. It was from May. "There is not the slightest chance of miscarriage there, Percy. I know it was an old project of my father's. Farmer Andrews is a very good fellow, and would in an ordinary way be a fair match for my sister. But May is a true girl, and my father will not attempt to force her affections, however much he may lament the miscarriage of his project."
"I know, I know, Frank; I know all that; my mind is quite at ease, I assure you. Now read this-from the point marked-the other portion is the affectionate effusion of my dear mother, which, of course, Frank, must only meet her son's eyes."
Frank Leigh read as requested.
"You see then, dear Frank, that I have two reasons which you have not for wishing to make haste home." Frank did not hear his friend. He had been suddenly seized with total absence of mind. Rousing himself at length in answer to Percy's repeated question, "What is the matter, Frank?" he said, "Percy Ilford do you suppose that I did not as well as yourself leave my heart in England? I have concealed it from you till now, and but for our marvellous success would have concealed it for ever-now I must, as an honourable man, tell you-I love your sister, Ada Ilford, and mean to win her love if I can."
Percy Ilford, at this revelation, actually staggered back and looked aghast. "Good God! Frank Leigh," he exclaimed, "what do you mean?"
But before he could receive an answer, he turned on his heel and darted away. Frank looked after him proudly. "I thought as much," he said.
"Thank God, I did not insult him!" said
Percy Ilford, as he paused out of hearing. "But the words were on my lips. FrankLeigh-marry-my-sister," he continued, pronouncing every word slowly, with emphasis. The idea was so utterly new to him, and had taken him so much by surprise, that he could not get his thoughts in order properly to grasp it. Presently, however, he began to discover that he must think about it. It involved too many considerations to be treated merely with anger-for such had been his feeling; and he asked himself, "Why should not Frank Leigh marry my sister? He is rich he is manly—he is intelligent-he is cultivatedhe is-bah !—he is a better man than Percy Ilford, and Percy Ilford ought to think shame of himself."
So saying he made haste to rejoin Frank, who had not moved from the spot.
"Forgive me," he said, extending his hand, "and forget that I played the fool. Win my sister if you can, and depend upon my services to remove prejudices which will be stronger than mine, that rose but to die.”
"Thank you, my dear Percy," said his friend with dignity, "I would have been an egotistical fool not to have expected prejudice on your part against the idea of my becoming your sister's husband. I was quite certain, however, that your prejudice would be but shortlived. And now you will understand my haste to depart for England. Lord Clifton a suitor for the hand of Miss Ilford! I wish I could annihilate time and space! I will go at once; you can stay behind to manage affairs at Melbourne-get our credit transferred to England and come yourself by next vessel. We have kept our relatives in the dark as to our success, and they do not know of our intention to return soon-let it remain so, Percy. By-thebye, supposing you had not seen me from the time I left Dorset Farm till now, in my present aspect, would you have known me?" "Hardly," said Percy, your shaggy beard has entirely altered your look, and you have bronzed almost to a Mulatto, whilst your fair hair has become darker. But why ask, Frank?"
"It never could have entered into the imagination of Ada Ilford that it was possible for her to love Frank Leigh," replied the youth, "even had she known how passionately he loved her."
"Wheu-u! That is it, is it?" ejaculated Percy. "So we are to have a bit of
"Yes; when you arrive, come first to the Cottage, and enquire for let me consider a good name-say, Ralph Maitland--that sounds well. Don't forget, write it down-Ralph Maitland."
THE hunting season had arrived, and Lord Clifton had come again on his promised visit to Dorset Hall. There had arrived also, almost simultaneously, at the Cottage (a large inn used as an hostelry) a stranger totally unknown in the neighbourhood. This stranger soon became a mark of attention, and gossip began to have her say about him. No one knew Ralph Maitland-such was the stranger's name; he came as if he had sprung out of the earth. It was soon discovered, however, that his intention was evidently to remain for some time in the neigbourhood, as it was found he had taken apartments at the inn for six weeks; and it was conjectured that he was a man of means, from the fact that he had hired for his own use, for the season, two of the host's best hunters, and had entered his name as a liberal subscriber towards the Dorset Hounds-a subscription pack.
The first "meet" of the season took place by a copse near Dorset Hall. Sir James Ilford, Lord Clifton, Ralph Maitland (the stranger), and other gentlemen of the neighbourhood were there. A few ladies, also, among whom were Ada Ilford, Miss Collingwood, and Miss Crawford, already mentioned in our tale, were present.
"What a handsome man," said Miss Collingwood to Miss Ilford, "I wonder who he is. Maitland is a good name-Scotch and historical, but I don't know any family that bears it."
"And, by Jove!" said a neighbouring squire, Miss Crawford's brother, "he sits his horse well, and holds him in hand finely. It would be a real pleasure to try his mettle in a steeplechase."
Miss Ilford made no observation. She had discovered, with the quick and unerring instinct of a woman, that she was a special object of the stranger's observation, although he had ventured no obtrusive look. Twice he had passed her; twice his eye rested on her for a moment, and twice had their looks met. She, however, gave the matter no particular thought, and it soon passed from her mind.
"Did you see, Clifton," said Sir James at dinner in the evening after the hunt, "how that mad fellow Crawford led the stranger into danger? But it appeared to me that he gave Crawford the worst of it. He has the instincts of a sportsman. I will call upon him to-morrow and make his acquaintance."
It was not quite agreeable to Clifton to hear the stranger praised in presence of Miss Ilford by her father. He did not know why, but he acknowledged to himself the feeling. Yet, the cause was not far to seek; jealousy had begun to put forth its feelers.
Sir James called upon Ralph Maitland at
the Cottage next day; this led to an invitation an hour and turn up for lunch," and she went to dinner at the Hall.
Ada Ilford has gone to her repose. repose has deserted her pillow; she is haunted with strange imaginings. She has been comparing Lord Clifton, to his disadvantage, with the handsome stranger, and had discovered him to be a very ordinary man. Her father had been blind to invite the tall and manly-looking fellow to the Hall. But it had not struck him to have fears of Clifton's suit, which he supposed was now a settled matter. Not so Clifton himself-he had found that his hold on the lady's affections was not strong, that he had, in truth, her love to win. He had been forced to observe the stranger's bearing towards her, and could not conceal from himself that his attentions were evidently intended to impress her favourably, and that he had succeeded. As to himself, the stranger had been very distantly polite, and had almost ignored his presence. Young Lord Clifton saw that his chance of winning the lovely heiress had fled, and next day, on pretence of pressing business in London, he left Dorset Hall. His pride was too great to sue a maid who preferred another.
"Ada," said Lady Ilford, to her daughter, "I suspect Clifton's departure has a meaning besides business in London-what has happened?"
"Nothing, mamma, that I'm aware of," she replied.
"But have you not accepted him, Ada?" asked her mother.
"No, mamma," replied her daughter. "Percy made me promise to make no binding engagement till his return, and I told Lord Clifton so. Percy said he was determined I should not be a portionless bride to any man."
"That was sheer folly on Percy's part," said her mother. "Much he has made of it-I suppose we shall have him home some of these days as poor as when he went away. If Lord Clifton has left us for good, Ada, you have acted very foolishly; you have forfeited your claims on Miss Danvers-you were to be her heiress if you married Lord Clifton, who is a great favourite with her."
"What! mamma," replied the young lady indignantly, "Did Lord Clifton believe I was Miss Danvers' heiress?"
The Cottage inn stood not a quarter of a mile from Dorset Hall. Miss Ilford, without any special thought, though no doubt instinctively, took that direction. That stroll sealed her fate. She met Ralph Maitland-by chance, of course!—the fate of lovers is almost always a matter of chance!
"Good morning, Miss Ilford," said Ralph Maitland, bowing with dignity. "Good morning, Sir," said Miss Ilford, by way of reply.
Having enquired after the health of Sir James and Lady Ilford, a conversation ensued. Ralph Maitland exerted all his powers to makea favourable impression on the young lady, and succeeded. On her pillow that night she acknowledged to herself that her heart was won.
A letter from Percy Ilford. He had arrived in England, and would be at Dorset Hall on the following evening. There was great ado, but Sir James, though glad at his return home, felt at heart a little sulky. A desirable match for Ada had miscarried, and Percy was in some sort the cause. Everything, however, was forgotten in their joy for his return when he arrived.
"All right," he whispered to Ada, when the the turbulence of greeting had subsided. "What of Lord Clifton-no engagement, I hope ?"
"No, Percy," and the maiden blushed violently.
Percy looked gratified.
"Mrs. Leigh, from the farm," said the butler, "wants to see Mr. Percy." "Show her in," said Percy. Mrs. Leigh was shown in. Percy shook hands with the old dame warmly. But her heart was full.
"Mr. Percy," she said, in the midst of a choking sob, "where is Frank?"
"O, it is all right, Mrs. Leigh," said Percy, on his guard. "You will see Frank to-morrow; he has some business of his own in hand to-day, and could not come with me. Perhaps he may even be here to-night."
Thus comforted, Mrs. Leigh left the hall to report to her husband and daughter the news she had gained regarding Frank.
When she had gone Percy said, with a knowing look to Ada, "Frank ought to have been here, he left Melbourne before me."