A rapid crescendo of snores ending in a prolonged gasp.
"Wake up, Bob!"
"What the deuce is the row?" said a very sleepy voice.
"It's nearly breakfast-time," I explained.
"Bother breakfast-time !" said the rebellious spirit
in the bed.
"And here's a letter, Bob," said I.
"Why on earth couldn't you say so at once ? Come
here with it ;" on which cordial invitation I marched
into my brother's room and perched myself upon the side of his bed.
"Here you are," said I. "Indian stamp Brindisi postmark. Who is it from ?"
"Mind your own business, Stumpy," said my
brother, as he pushed back his curly tangled locks,
and, after rubbing his eyes, proceeded to break tho
seal. Now, if there is one appellation for which
above all others I have a profound contempt, it is
this one of "Stumpy." Some miserable nurse,
impressed by the relative proportions of my round,
grave face and little, mottled legs, had dubbed me
with the odious nickname in the days of my child-
hood. I am not really a bit more stumpy than any
other girl of seventeen. On the present occasion I
rose in all the dignity of wrath, and was about to
thump my brother on the head with the pillow by
way of remonstrance, when a look of interest in his
face stopped me.
"Who do you think is coming, Nelly?" he said.
"An old friend of yours."
"What ! from India ? Not Jack Hawthorne ?"
"Even so," said Bob. "Jack is coming back and
going to stay with us. He says he will be here
almost as soon as his letter. Now don't dance about
like that. You'll knock down the guns, or do some
damage. Keep quiet like a good girl, and sit down
here again." Bob spoke with all the weight of the
two-and-twenty summers which had passed over his
towsy head, so I calmed down and settled into my
"Won't it be jolly ?" I cried. "But, Bob, the last
time he was here he was a boy, and now he is a man.
He won't be the same Jack at all."
"Well, for that matter," said Bob, "you were only
a girl then a nasty little girl with ringlets, while
"What now?" I asked.
Bob seemed actually on the eve of paying me a compliment.
"Well, you haven't got the ringlets, and you are
ever so much bigger, you see, and nastier."
Brothers are a blessing for one thing. There is no
possibility of any young lady getting unreasonably
conceited if she be endowed with them.
I think they were all glad at breakfast-time to hear
of Jack Hawthorne's promised advent. By "all" I
mean my mother and Elsie and Bob. Our cousin,
Solomon Barker, looked anything but overjoyed when
I made the announcement in breathless triumph. I
never thought of it before, but perhaps that young
man is getting fond of Elsie, and is afraid of a rival ;
otherwise I don't see why such a simple thing should
have caused him to push away his egg, and declare
that he had done famously, in an aggressive manner
which at once threw doubt upon his proposition.
Grace Maberly, Elsie's friend, seemed quietly
contented, as is her wont.
As for me, I was in a riotous state of delight. Jack
and I had been children together. He was like an
elder brother to me until he became a cadet and left
us. How often Bob and he had climbed old Brown's
apple-trees, while I stood beneath and collected the
spoil in my little white pinafore ! There was hardly
a scrape or adventure which I could remember in
which Jack did not figure as a prominent character.
But he was "Lieutenant" Hawthorne now, had been
through the Afghan War, and was, as Bob said,
"quite the warrior." Whatever would he look like?
Somehow the "warrior" had conjured up an idea of
Jack in full armor, with plumes on his head, thirsting
for blood, and hewing at somebody with an enormous
sword. After doing that sort of thing I was
afraid he would never descend to romps and charades
and the other stock amusements of Hatherley House.
Cousin Sol was certainly out of spirits during the
next few days. He could be hardly persuaded to
make a fourth at lawn-tennis, but showed an
extraordinary love of solitude and strong tobacco. We
used to come across him in the most unexpected
places, in the shrubbery and down by the river, on
which occasions, if there was any possibility of
avoiding us, he would gaze rigidly into the distance, and
utterly ignore feminine shouts and the waving of
parasols. It was certainly very rude of him. I got
hold of him one evening before dinner, and drawing
myself up to my full height of five feet four and a
half inches, I proceeded to give him a piece of my
mind, a process which Bob characterizes as the height
of charity, since it consists in my giving away what
I am most in need of myself.
Cousin Sol was lounging in a rocking-chair with
the Times before him, gazing moodily over the top of
it into the fire. I ranged up alongside and poured in
"We seem to have given you some offence, Mr.
Barker," I remarked, with lofty courtesy.
"What do you mean, Nell ?" asked my cousin, looking
up at me in surprise. He had a very curious way
of looking at me, had Cousin Sol.
"You appear to have dropped our acquaintance,"
I remarked ; and then suddenly descending from my
heroics, "You are stupid, Sol ! What's been the matter
"Nothing, Nell. At least, nothing of any consequence.
You know my medical examination is in
two months, and I am reading for it."
"Oh," said I, in a bristle of indignation, "if that's
it, there's no more to be said. Of course, if you prefer
bones to your female relations, it's all right.
There are young men who would rather make them-
selves agreeable than mope in corners and learn how
to prod people with knives." With which epitome of
the noble science of surgery, I proceeded to straighten
some refractory anti-macassars with unnecessary violence.
I could see Sol looking with an amused smile at the
angry little blue-eyed figure in front of him. "Don't
blow me up, Nell," he said; "I have been plucked
once, you know. Besides," looking grave, "you'll
have amusement enough when this what is his
name? Lieutenant Hawthorne comes."
"Jack won't go and associate with mummies and
skeletons, at any rate," I remarked.
"Do you always call him Jack ?" asked the student.
"Of course I do; John sounds so stiff."
"Oh, it does, does it ?" said my companion, doubt-
I still had my theory about Elsie running in my
head. I thought I might try and set the matter in
a more cheerful light. Sol had got up, and was staring
out of the open window. I went over to him and
glanced up timidly into his usually good-humored
face, which was now looking very dark and discontented.
He was a shy man, as a rule, but I thought that with
a little leading he might be brought to confess.
"You're a jealous old thing," I remarked.
The young man colored and looked down at me.
"I know your secret," said I, boldly.
"What secret ?" said he, coloring even more.
"Never you mind. I know it. Let me tell yon
this," I added, getting bolder ; "that Jack and Elsie
never get on very well. There is far more chance of
Jack's falling in love with me. We were always
If I had stuck the knitting-needle which I held in
my hand into Cousin Sol, he could not have given a
greater jump. "Good heavens !" he said, and I could
see his dark eyes staring at me through the twilight.
"Do you really think that it is your sister that I care
"Certainly," said I, stoutly, with a feeling that I
was nailing my colors to the mast.
Never did a single word produce such an effect.
Cousin Sol wheeled round with a .gasp of astonishment,
and sprang right out of the window. He always
had curious ways of expressing his feelings, but
this one struck me as being so entirely original that
I was utterly bereft of any idea save that of wonder.
I stood staring out into the gathering darkness. Then
there appeared, looking in at me from the lawn, a
very much abashed and still rather astonished face.
"It's you I care for, Nell," said the face, and at once
vanished, while I heard the noise of somebody running
at the top of his speed down the avenue. He
certainly was a most extraordinary young man.
Things went on very much the same at Hatherley
House in spite of Cousin Sol's characteristic declaration
of affection. He never sounded me as to my
sentiments in regard to him, nor did he allude to
the matter for several days. He evidently thought
that he had done all which was needed in such cases.
He used to discompose me dreadfully at times, however,
by coming and planting himself opposite me,
and staring at me, with a stony rigidity which was
"Don't do that, Sol," I said to him one day ; "you
give me the creeps all over."
"Why do I give you the creeps, Nelly?" said he.
"Don't you like me ?"
"Oh, yes, I like you well enough," said I. "I
like Lord Nelson, for that matter; but I shouldn't
like his monument to come and stare at me by the
hour. It makes me feel quite all-overish."
"What on earth put Lord Nelson into your head ?"
said my cousin.
"I'm sure I don't know."
"Do you like me the same way you like Lord
"Yes," I said, "only more." With which small
ray of encouragement poor Sol had to be content,
as Elsie and Miss Maberly came rustling into the
room and put an end to our tete-a-tete.
I certainly did like my cousin. I knew what a
simple, true nature lay beneath his quiet exterior.
The idea of having Sol Barker for a lover, however
Sol, whose very name was synonymous with bash-
fulness was too incredible. Why couldn't he fall
in love with Grace or with Elsie ? They might have
known what to do with him ; they were older than I,
and could encourage him, or snub him, as they
thought best. Gracie, however, was carrying on a
mild flirtation with my brother Bob, and Elsie
seemed utterly unconscious of the whole matter. I
have one characteristic recollection of my cousin
which I can not help introducing here, though it
has nothing to do with the thread of the narrative.
It was on the occasion of his first visit to Hatherley
The wife of the rector called one day, and the
responsibility of entertaining her rested with Sol
and myself. We got on very well at first. Sol was
unusually lively and talkative. Unfortunately a
hospitable impulse came upon him, and in spite of
many warning nods and winks, he asked the visitor
if he might offer her a glass of wine. Now, as illluck
would have it, our supply had just been finished,
and though we had written to London, a fresh consignment
had not yet arrived. I listened breathlessly
for the answer, trusting she would refuse, but to my
horror she accepted with alacrity. "Never mind ringing,
Nell," said Sol, "I'll act as butler;" and with
a confident smile he marched into the little cupboard
in which the decanters were usually kept. It was not
until he was well in that he suddenly recollected
having heard us mention in the morning that there
was none in the house. His mental anguish was so
great that he spent the remainder of Mrs. Salter'a
visit in the cupboard, utterly refusing to come out
until after her departure. Had there been any
possibility of the wine-press having another egress, or
leading anywhere, matters would not have been so
bad ; but I knew that old Mrs. Salter was as well
up in the geography of the house as I was myself.
She stayed for three-quarters of an hour waiting for
Sol's reappearance, and then went away in high dudgeon.
"My dear," she said, recounting the incident to
her husband, and breaking into semi-scriptural language
in the violence of her indignation, "the cup-
board seemed to open and swallow him !"
"Jack is coming down by the two-o'clock train,"
said Bob one morning, coming into breakfast with a
telegram in his hand.
I could see Sol looking at me reproachfully, but
that did not prevent me from showing my delight at
"We'll have awful fun when he comes," said Bob.
"We'll drag the fish-pond, and have no end of a
lark. Won't it be jolly, Sol ?"
Sol's opinion of its jollity was evidently too great
to be expressed in words, for he gave an inarticulate
grunt as answer.
I had a long cogitation on the subject of Jack in
the garden that morning. After all, I was becoming
a big girl, as Bob had forcibly reminded me.
I must be circumspect in my conduct now. A real
live man had actually looked upon me with the eyes
of love. It was all very well when I was a child to
have Jack following me about and kissing me; but
I must keep him at a distance now. I remembered
how he presented me with a dead fish once which he
had taken out of the Hatherley Brook, and how I
treasured it up among my most precious possessions,
until an insidious odor in the house had caused the
mother to send an abusive letter to Mr. Burton, who
had pronounced our drainage to be all that could be
desired. I must learn to be formal and distant. I
pictured our meeting to myself, and went through a
rehearsal of it. The holly-bush represented Jack,
and I approached it solemnly, made it a stately
courtesy, and held out my hand with, "So glad to see you,
Lieutenant Hawthorne!" Elsie came out while I
was doing it, but made no remark. I heard her ask
Sol at luncheon, however, whether idiocy generally
ran in families, or was simply confined to individuals ;
at which poor Sol blushed furiously, and became
utterly incoherent in his attempt at an explanation.
Our farm-yard opens upon the avenue about half-
way between Hatherley House and the lodge. Sol
and I and Mr. Nicholas Cronin, the son of a neigh-
boring squire, went down there after lunch. This
imposing demonstration was for the purpose of quelling
a mutiny which had broken out in the hen-house.
The earliest tidings of the rising had been conveyed
to the house by young Bayliss, son and heir of the
hen-keeper, and my presence had been urgently
requested. Let me remark in parenthesis that fowls
were my special department in domestic economy,
and that no step was ever taken in their management
without my advice and assistance. Old Bayliss
hobbled out upon our arrival, and informed us
of the full extent of the disturbance. It seems that
the crested hen and the bantam cock had developed
such length of wing that they were enabled to fly
over into the park, and that the example of these
ringleaders had been so contagious, that even such
steady old matrons as the bandy-legged Cochin China
had developed roving propensities, and pushed their
way into forbidden ground. A council of war was
held in the yard, and it was unanimously decided
that the wings of the recalcitrants must be clipped.
What a scamper we had! By "we" I mean Mr.
Cronin and myself, while Cousin Sol hovered about
in the background with the scissors, and cheered us
on. The two culprits knew that they were wanted;
for they rushed under the hay-ricks and over the
coops, until there seemed to be at least half a dozen
crested hens and bantam cocks dodging about in the
yard. The other hens were mildly interested in the
proceedings, and contented themselves with an occasional
derisive cluck, with the exception of the favorite wife
of the bantam, who abused us roundly
from the top of the coop. The ducks were the most
aggravating portion of the community; for though
they had nothing to do with the original disturbance,
they took a warm interest in the fugitives, waddling
behind them as fast as their little yellow legs would
carry them, and getting in the way of the pursuers.
"We have it!" I gasped, as the crested hen was
driven into a corner. "Catch it, Mr. Cronin! Oh,
you've missed it ! you've missed it ! Get in the way,
Sol ! Oh, dear, it's coming to me !"
"Well done, Miss Montague!" cried Mr. Cronin,
as I seized the wretched fowl by the leg as it
fluttered past me, and proceeded to tuck it under my
arm to prevent any possibility of escape. "Let me
carry it for you."
"No, no; I want you to catch the cock. There it
goes! There behind the hay-rick! You go to one
side, and I'll go to the other."
"It's going through the gate!" shouted Sol.
"Shoo !" cried I. "Shoo ! Oh, it's gone !" and we
both made a dart into the park in pursuit, tore round
the corner into the avenue, and there I found myself
face to face with a sunburned young man in a tweed
suit, who was lounging along in the direction of the
There was no mistaking those laughing gray eyes,
though I think if I had never looked at him some
instinct would have told me that it was Jack. How
could I be dignified with the crested hen tucked under
my arm? I tried to pull myself up, but the
miserable bird seemed to think that it had found a
protector at last, for it began to cluck with redoubled
vehemence. I had to give it up in despair, and burst
into a laugh, while Jack did the same.
"How are you, Nell?" he said, holding out his
hand ; and then, in an astonished voice : "Why, you're
not a bit the same as when I saw you last 1"
"Well, I hadn't a hen under my arm then," said I.
"Who would have thought that little Nell would
have developed into a woman?" said Jack, still lost
"You didn't expect me to develop into a man, did
you?" said I, in high indignation; and then, suddenly
dropping all reserve: "We're awfully glad
you've come back, Jack. Never mind going up to the
house. Come and help us catch that bantam cock."
"Right you are," said Jack, in his old, cheery way,
still keeping his eyes firmly fixed upon my countenance.
"Come on !" and away the three of us scampered across
the park, with poor Sol aiding and abetting with the
scissors, and the prisoner in the rear. Jack was a very
crumpled-looking visitor by the time he paid his
respects to the mother that afternoon, and my dreams of
dignity and reserve were scattered to the winds.
We had quite a party at Hatherley House that
May. There were Bob, and Sol, and Jack Hawthorne,
and Mr. Nicholas Cronin; then there were
Miss Maberly, and Elsie, and mother, and myself.
On an emergency we could always muster half a
dozen visitors from the houses round, so as to have
an audience when charades or private theatricals
were attempted. Mr. Cronin, an easy-going, athletic
young Oxford man, proved to be a great acquisition,
having wonderful powers of organization and execution.
Jack was not nearly as lively as he used to be ;
in fact, we unanimously accused him of being in
love, at which he looked as silly as young men usually
do on such occasions, but did not attempt to
deny the soft impeachment.
"What shall we do to-day?" said Bob one morning.
"Can anybody make a suggestion ?"
"Drag the pond," said Mr. Cronin.
"Haven't men enough," said Bob; "anything
"We must get up a sweepstakes for the Derby,"
"Oh, there's plenty of time for that. It isn't run
till the week after next. Anything else ?"
"Lawn-tennis," said Sol, dubiously.
"Bother lawn-tennis !"
"You might make a picnic to Hatherley Abbey,"
"Capital!" cried Mr. Cronin. "The very thing,
What do you think, Bob ?"
"First-class," said my brother, grasping eagerly at
the idea. Picnics are very dear to those who are in
the first stage of the tender passion.
"Well, how are we to go, Nell?" asked Elsie.
"I won't go at all," said I ; "I'd like to awfully,
but I have to plant those ferns Sol got me. You
had better walk. It is only three miles, and young
Bayliss can be sent over with the basket of provisions."
"You'll come, Jack?" said Bob.
Here was another impediment. The lieutenant
had twisted his ankle yesterday. He had not mentioned
it to any one at the time, but it was beginning
to pain him now.
"Couldn't do it, really," said Jack. "Three miles
there and three back !"
"Come on. Don't be lazy," said Bob.
"My dear fellow," answered the lieutenant, "I
have had walking enough to last me the rest of my
life. If you had seen how that energetic general of
ours bustled me along from Cabul to Candahar, you'd
sympathize with me."
"Leave the veteran alone," said Mr. Cronin.
"Pity the war-worn soldier," remarked Bob.
"None of your chaff," said Jack. "I'll tell you
what I'll do," he added, brightening up. "You let
me have the trap, Bob, and I'll drive over with Nell
as soon as she has finished planting her ferns. We
can take the basket with us. You'll come, won't
"All right," said I. And Bob having given his
assent to the arrangement, and everybody being
pleased, except Mr. Solomon Barker, who glared
with mild malignancy at the soldier, the matter
was finally settled, and the whole party proceeded to
get ready, and finally departed down the avenue.
It was an extraordinary thing how that ankle improved
after the last of the troop had passed round
the curve of the hedge. By the time the ferna were
planted and the gig got ready Jack was as active
and lively as ever he was in his life.
"You seem to have got better very suddenly," I
remarked, as we drove down the narrow, winding
"Yes," said Jack. "The fact is, Nell, there never
was anything the matter with me. I wanted to have
a talk with you."
"You don't mean to say you would tell a lie in
order to have a talk with me ?" I remonstrated.
"Forty," said Jack, stoutly.
I was too lost in contemplation of the depths of
guile in Jack's nature to make any further remark.
I wondered whether Elsie would be flattered or indignant
were any one to offer to tell so many lies in her
"We used to be good friends when we were children,
Nell," remarked my companion.
"Yes," said I, looking down at the rug which was
thrown over my knees. I was beginning to be quite
an experienced young lady by this time, you see,
and to understand certain inflections of the masculine
voice, which are only to be acquired by practice.
"You don't seem to care for me now as much as you
did then," said Jack.
I was still intensely absorbed in the leopard's skin
in front of me.
"Do you know, Nelly," continued Jack, "that when
I have been camping out in the frozen passes of the
Himalayas, when I have seen the hostile array in
front of me, in fact" suddenly dropping into pathos
"all the time I was in that beastly hole Afghanistan,
I used to think of the little girl I had left
in England ?"
"Indeed!" I murmured.
"Yes," said Jack, "I bore the memory of you in
my heart, and then when I came back you were a
little girl no longer. I found you a beautiful woman,
Nelly, and I wondered whether you had forgotten the
days that were gone."
Jack was becoming quite poetical in his enthusiasm.
By this time he had left the old bay pony
entirely to its own devices, and it was indulging in
its chronic propensity of stopping and admiring the
"Look here, Nelly," said Jack, with a gasp like a
man who is about to pull the string of his shower-
bath, "one of the things you learn in campaigning
is to secure a good thing whenever you see it. Never
delay or hesitate, for you never know that some other
fellow may not carry it off while you are making up
"It's coming now," I thought, in despair, "and
there's no window for Jack to escape by after he has
made the plunge." I had gradually got to associate
the ideas of love and jumping out of windows, ever
since poor Sol's confession.
"Do you think, Nell," said Jack, "that you could
ever care for me enough to share my lot forever ?
could you ever be my wife, Nell ?"
He didn't even jump out of the trap. He sat there
beside me, looking at me with his eager gray eyes,
while the pony strolled along, cropping the wild
flowers on either side of the road. It was quite evident
that he intended having an answer. Somehow,
as I looked down I seemed to see a pale, shy face
looking in at me from a dark background, and to hear
Sol's voice as he declared his love. Poor fellow ! He
was first in the field at any rate.
"Could you, Nell ?" asked Jack once more.
"I like you very much, Jack," said I, looking up at
him nervously ; "but" how his face changed at that
monosyllable ! "I don't think I like you enough for
that. Besides, I'm so young, you know. I suppose
I ought to be very much complimented, and that sort
of thing, by your offer ; but you mustn't think of me
in that light any more."
"You refuse me, then ?" said Jack, turning a little white.
"Why don't you go and ask Elsie ?" cried I, in
despair. "Why should you all come to me ?"
"I don't want Elsie," cried Jack, giving the pony
a cut with his whip which rather astonished that easy-
going quadruped. "What do you mean by 'all,' Nell?"
"I see how it is," said Jack, bitterly; "I've noticed
how that cousin of yours has been hanging round you ever
since I have been here. You are engaged to him?"
"No, I'm not," said I.
"Thank God for that !" responded Jack, devoutly.
"There is some hope yet. Perhaps you will come to
think better of it in time. Tell me, Nelly, are you
fond of that fool of a medical student?"
"He isn't a fool," said I, indignantly, "and I am
quite as fond of him as I shall ever be of you."
"You might not care for him much and still be
that," said Jack, sulkily; and neither of us spoke
again until a joint bellow from Bob and Mr. Cronin
announced the presence of the rest of the company.
If the picnic was a success, it was entirely due to
the exertions of the latter gentleman. Three lovers
out of four was an undue proportion, and it took all
his convivial powers to make up for the shortcomings
of the rest. Bob seemed entirely absorbed in Miss
Maberly's charms, poor Elsie was left out in the cold,
while my two admirers spent their time in glaring
alternately at me and at each other. Mr. Cronin, however,
fought gallantly against the depression, making
himself agreeable to all, and exploring ruins or
drawing corks with equal vehemence and energy.
Cousin Sol was particularly disheartened and out
of spirits. He thought, no doubt, that my solitary
ride with Jack had been a prearranged thing between
us. There was more sorrow than anger in his eyes,
however, while Jack, I regret to say, was decidedly
ill-tempered. It was this fact that made me choose
out my cousin as my companion in the ramble through
the woods which succeeded our lunch. Jack had been
assuming a provoking air of proprietorship lately,
which I was determined to quash once for all. I felt
angry with him, too, for appearing to consider himself
ill used at my refusal, and for trying to disparage
poor Sol behind his back. I was far from loving
either the one or the other, but somehow my girlish
ideas of fair play revolted at either of them taking
what I considered an unfair advantage. I felt that
if Jack had not come I should, in the fulness of time,
have ended by accepting my cousin; on the other
hand, if it had not been for Sol, I might never have
refused Jack. At present I was too fond of them
both to favor either. "How in the world is it to
end?" thought I. I must do something decisive
one way or the other; or perhaps the best thing
would be to wait and see what the future might
Sol seemed mildly surprised at my having selected
him as my companion, but accepted the offer with a
grateful smile. His mind seemed to have been vastly
"So I haven't lost you yet, Nell," he murmured,
as we branched off among the great tree-trunks and
heard the voices of the party growing fainter in the
"Nobody can lose me," said I, "for nobody has won
me yet. For goodness' sake, don't talk about it any
more. Why can't you talk like your old self of two
years ago, and not be so dreadfully sentimental ?"
"You'll know why some day, Nell," said the student,
reproachfully. "Wait until you are in love
yourself, and you will understand it."
I gave a little incredulous sniff.
"Sit here, Nell," said Cousin Sol, manoeuvring me
into a little bank of wild strawberries and mosses, and
perching himself upon a stump of a tree beside me.
"Now all I ask you to do is to answer one or two
questions, and I'll never bother you any more."
I sat resignedly, with my hands in my lap.
"Are you engaged to Lieutenant Hawthorne?"
"No!" said I, energetically.
"Are you fonder of him than of me ?"
"No, I'm not."
Sol's thermometer of happiness up to a hundred in
the shade at least.
"Are you fonder of me than of him, Nelly ?" in a
very tender voice.
Thermometer down below zero again.
"Do you mean to say that we are exactly equal in
your eyes ?"
"But you must choose between us some time, you
know," said Cousin Sol, with mild reproach in his
"I do wish you wouldn't bother me so!" I cried,
getting angry, as women usually do when they are in
the wrong. "You don't care for me much or you
wouldn't plague me. I believe the two of you will
drive me mad between you."
Here there were symptoms of sobs on my part, and
utter consternation and defeat among the Barker
"Can't you see how it is, Sol?" said I, laughing
through my tears at his woe-begone appearance.
"Suppose you were brought up with two girls and
had got to like them both very much, but had never
preferred one to the other, and never dreamed of
marrying either, and then all of a sudden you are
told you must choose one, and so make the other very
unhappy, you wouldn't find it an easy thing to do,
"I suppose not," said the student.
"Then you can't blame me."
"I donV blame you, Nelly," he answered, attacking
a great purple toadstool with his stick. "I think you
are quite right to be sure of your own mind. It seems
to me," he continued, speaking rather gaspily, but
saying his mind like the true English gentleman that
he was, "it seems to me that Hawthorne is an excellent
fellow. He has seen more of the world than I
have, and always does and says the right thing in the
right place, which certainly isn't one of my
characteristics. Then he is well born and has good
prospects. I think I should be very grateful to you for
your hesitation, Nell, and look upon it as a sign of
"We won't talk about it any more," said I, thinking
in my heart what a very much finer fellow he was
than the man he was praising. "Look here, my jacket
is all stained with horrid fungi and things. We'd better
go after the rest of the party, hadn't we ? I wonder
where they are by this time?"
It didn't take very long to find that out. At first
we heard shouting and laughter coming echoing
through the long glades, and then, as we made OUT
way in that direction, we were astonished to meet the
usually phlegmatic Elsie careering through the wood
at the very top of her speed, her hat off, and her hair
streaming in the wind. My first idea was that some
frightful catastrophe had occurred brigands possibly,
or a mad dog and I saw my companion's big
hand close round his stick ; but on meeting the fugitive
it proved to be nothing more tragic than a game
of hide-and-seek which the indefatigable Mr. Cronin
had organized. What fun we had, crouching and
running and dodging among the Hatherley oaks ! and
how horrified the prim old abbot who planted them
would have been, and the long series of black-coated
brethren who have muttered their orisons beneath the
welcome shade ! Jack refused to play on the excuse
of his weak ankle, and lay smoking under a tree in
high dudgeon, glaring in a baleful and gloomy
fashion at Mr. Solomon Barker, while the latter
gentleman entered enthusiastically into the game,
and distinguished himself by always getting caught,
and never by any possibility catching anybody else.
Poor Jack! He was certainly unfortunate that
day. Even an accepted lover would have been rather
put out, I think, by an incident which occurred during
our return home. It was agreed that all of us
should walk, as the trap had been already sent off
with the empty baskets, so we started down Thorny
Lane and through the fields. We were just getting
over a stile to cross old Brown's ten-acre lot, when
Mr. Cronin pulled up, and remarked that he thought
we had better get into the road.
"Road ?" said Jack. "N onsense ! We save a quarter
of a mile by the field."
"Yes, but it's rather dangerous. We'd better go
"Where's the danger ?" said our military man,
contemptuously twisting his mustache.
"Oh, nothing," said Cronin. "That quadruped
in the middle of the field is a bull, and not a very
good-tempered one, either. That's all. I don't think
that the ladies should be allowed to go."
won't go," said the ladies in chorus.
"Then come round by the hedge and get into the
road," suggested Sol.
"You may go as you like," said Jack, rather testily,
"but I am going across the field."
"Don't be a fool, Jack," said my brother.
"You fellows may think it right to turn tail at an
old cow, but I don't. It hurts my self-respect, you
see, so I shall join you at the other side of the farm."
With which speech Jack buttoned up his coat in a
truculent manner, waved his cane jauntily, and swaggered
off into the ten-acre lot.
We clustered about the stile and watched the proceedings
with anxiety. Jack tried to look as if he
were entirely absorbed in the view and in the probable
state of the weather, for he gazed about him and
up into the clouds in an abstracted manner. His gaze
generally began and ended, however, somewhere in
the direction of the bull. That animal, after regarding
the intruder with a prolonged stare, had retreated
into the shadow of the hedge at one side, while Jack
was walking up the long axis of the field.
"It's all right," said I. "It's got out of his way."
"I think it's leading him on," said Mr. Nicholas
Cronin. "It's a vicious, cunning brute."
Mr. Cronin had hardly spoken before the bull
emerged from the hedge, and began pawing the
ground, and tossing its wicked black head in the air.
Jack was in the middle of the field by this time, and
effected to take no notice of his companion, though he
quickened his pace slightly. The bull's next manceuvre
was to run rapidly round in two or three small
circles; and then it suddenly stopped, bellowed, put
down its head, elevated its tail, and made for Jack
at the very top of its speed.
There was no use pretending to ignore its existence
any longer. Jack faced round and gazed at it for a
moment. He had only his little cane in his hand to
oppose to the half ton of irate beef which was charging
toward him. He did the only thing that was possible,
namely, to make for the hedge at the other side of the field.
At first Jack hardly condescended to run, but went
off with a languid, contemptuous trot, a sort of compromise
between his dignity and his fear, which was
so ludicrous that, frightened as we were, we burst into
a chorus of laughter. By degrees, however, as he
heard the galloping of hoofs sounding nearer and
nearer, he quickened his pace, until ultimately he
was in full flight for shelter, with his hat gone and
his coat-tails fluttering in the breeze, while his
pursuer was not ten yards behind him. If all Ayoub
Khan's cavalry had been in his rear, our Afghan hero
could not have done the distance in a shorter time.
Quickly as he went, the bull went quicker still, and
the two seemed to gain the hedge almost at the same
moment. We saw Jack spring boldly into it, and the
next moment he came flying out at the other side as
if he had been discharged from a cannon, while the
bull indulged in a series of triumphant bellows
through the hole which he had made. It was a relief
to us all to see Jack gather himself up and start off
for home without a glance in our direction. He had
retired to his room by the time we arrived, and did
not appear until breakfast next morning, when he
limped in with a very crestfallen expression. None of
us was hard-hearted enough to allude to the subject,
however, and by judicious treatment we restored him
before lunch-time to his usual state of equanimity.
It was a couple of days after the picnic that our
great Derby sweepstakes was to come off. This was
an annual ceremony never omitted at Hatherley
House, where, between visitors and neighbors, there
were generally quite as many candidates for tickets as
there were horses entered.
"The sweepstakes, ladies and gentlemen, comes off
to-night," said Bob in his character of head of the
house. "The subscription is ten shillings. Second
gets quarter of the pool, and third has his money
returned. No one is allowed to have more than one
ticket, or to sell his ticket after drawing it. The
drawing will be at seven thirty." All of which Bob
delivered in a very pompous and official voice, though
the effect was rather impaired by a sonorous "Amen !"
from Mr. Nicholas Cronin.
I must now drop the personal style of narrative for
a time. Hitherto my little story has consisted simply
in a series of extracts from my own private journal ;
but now I have to tell of a scene which only came to
my ears after many months.
Lieutenant Hawthorne, or Jack, as I can not help
calling him, had been very quiet since the day of the
picnic, and given himself up to reverie. Now, as luck
would have it, Mr. Solomon Barker sauntered into
the smoking-room after luncheon on the day of the
sweepstakes, and found the lieutenant puffing moodily
in solitary grandeur upon one of the settees. It would
have seemed cowardly to retreat, so the student sat
down in silence, and began turning over the pages of
the "Graphic." Both the rivals felt the situation to
be an awkward one. They had been in the habit of
studiously avoiding each other's society, and now
they found themselves thrown together suddenly, with
no third person to act as a buffer. The silence began
to be oppressive. The lieutenant yawned and coughed
with overacted nonchalance, while honest Sol felt
very hot and uncomfortable, and continued to stare
gloomily at the paper in his hand. The ticking of the
clock, and the click of the billiard-balls across the
passage, seemed to grow unendurably loud and monotonous.
Sol glanced across once ; but catching his companion's
eye in an exactly similar action, the two young men
seemed simultaneously to take a deep and all-absorbing
interest in the pattern of the cornice.
"Why should I quarrel with him ?" thought Sol to
himself. "After all, I want nothing but fair play.
Probably I shall be snubbed ; but I may as well give
him an opening."
Sol's cigar had gone out; the opportunity was too
good to be neglected.
"Could you oblige me with a fusee, lieutenant?"
The lieutenant was sorry extremely sorry but
he was not in possession of a fusee.
This was a bad beginning. Chilly politeness was
even more repulsing than absolute rudeness. But
Mr. Solomon Barker, like many other shy men, was
audacity itself when the ice had once been broken.
He would have no more bickerings or misunderstandings.
Now was the time to come to some definite arrangement.
He pulled his armchair across the room,
and planted himself in front of the astonished soldier.
"You're in love with Miss Nelly Montague?" he
Jack sprang off the settee with as much rapidity
as if Farmer Brown's bull was coming in through
"And if I am, sir," he said, twisting his tawny
moustache, "what the devil is that to you ?"
"Don't lose your temper," said Sol. "Sit down
again, and talk the matter over like a reasonable
Christian. I am in love with her, too."
"What the deuce is the fellow driving at ?" thought
Jack, as he resumed his seat, still simmering after
his recent explosion.
"So the long and the short of it is that we are
both in love with her," continued Sol, emphasizing
his remarks with his bony forefinger.
"What then ?" said the lieutenant, showing some
symptoms of a relapse. "I suppose that the best man
will win, and that the young lady is quite able to
choose for herself. You don't expect me to stand
out of the race just because you happen to want the
prize, do you ?"
"That's just it," cried Sol. "One of us will have
to stand out. You've hit the right idea there. You
see, Nelly Miss Montague, I mean is, as far as I
can see, rather fonder of you than of me, but still
fond enough of me not to wish to grieve me by a
"Honesty compels me to state," said Jack, in a
more conciliatory voice than he had made use of
hitherto, "that Nelly Miss Montague, I mean is
rather fonder of you than of me; but still, as you
say, fond enough of me not to prefer my rival openly
in my presence."
"I don't think you are right," said the student.
"In fact, I know you are not, for she told me as
much with her own lips. However, what you say
makes it easier for us to come to an understanding.
It is quite evident that as long as we show ourselves
to be equally fond of her, neither of us can have the
slightest hope of winning her."
"There's some sense in that," said the lieutenant,
reflectively; "but what do you propose?"
"I propose that one of us stand out, to use your
own expression. There is no alternative."
"But who is to stand out?" asked Jack.
"Ah, that is the question!"
"I can claim to have known her longest."
"I can claim to having loved her first."
Matters seemed to have come to a deadlock.
Neither of the young men was in the least inclined
to abdicate in favor of his rival.
"Look here," said the student, "let us decide the
matter by lot."
This seemed fair, and was agreed to by both. A
new difficulty arose, however. Both of them felt
sentimental objections toward risking their angel
upon such a paltry chance as the turn of a coin
or the length of a straw. It was at this crisis that
an inspiration came upon Lieutenant Hawthorne.
"I'll tell you how we will decide it," he said.
"You and I are both entered for our Derby sweep-
stakes. If your horse beats mine, I give up my
chance ; if mine beats yours, you leave Miss Montague
forever. Is it a bargain?"
"I have only one stipulation to make," said Sol.
"It is ten days yet before the race will be run. During
that time neither of us must attempt to take an
unfair advantage of the other. We shall both agree
not to press our suit until the matter is decided."
"Done!" said the soldier.
"Done!" said Solomon.
And they shook hands upon the agreement.
I had, as I have already observed, no knowledge
of the conversation which had taken place between
my suitors. I may mention incidentally that during
the course of it I was in the library, listening to
Tennyson, read aloud in the deep, musical voice of
Mr. Nicholas Cronin. I observed, however, in the
evening that these two young men seemed remark-
ably excited about their horses, and that neither of
them was in the least inclined to make himself agree-
able to me, for which crime I am happy to say that
they were both punished by drawing rank outsiders.
Eurydice, I think, was the name of Sol's; while
Jack's was Bicycle. Mr. Cronin drew an American
horse named Iroquois, and all the others seemed fairly
well pleased. I peeped into the smoking-room before
going to bed, and was amused to see Jack consulting
the sporting prophet of the "Field," while Sol was
deeply immersed in the "Gazette." This sudden
mania for the turf seemed all the more strange, since
I knew that if my cousin could distinguish a horse
from a cow, it was as much as any of his friends
would give him credit for.
The ten succeeding days were voted very slow by
various members of the household. I can not say
that I found them so. Perhaps that was because I
discovered something very unexpected and pleasing
in the course of that period. It was a relief to be
free of any fear of wounding the susceptibilities of
either of my former lovers. I could say what I chose
and do what I liked now; for they had deserted me
completely, and handed me over to the society of
my brother Bob and Mr. Nicholas Cronin. The new
excitement of horse-racing seemed to have driven
their former passion completely out of their minds.
Never was a house so deluged with special tips and
every vile print which could by any possibility have
a word bearing upon the training of the horses or
their antecedents. The very grooms in the stable
were tired of recounting how Bicycle was descended
from Velocipede, or explaining to the anxious medical
student how Eurydice was by Orpheus out of
Hades. One of them discovered that her maternal
grandmother had come in third for the Ebor
Handicap ; but the curious way in which he stuck the half-
crown which he received into his left eye, while he
winked at the coachman with his right, throws some
doubt upon the veracity of his statement. As he
remarked in a beery whisper that evening: "The
bloke'll never know the differ, and it's worth 'arf a
crown for him to think as it's true."
As the day drew nearer the excitement increased.
Mr. Cronin and I used to .glance across at each other
and amile as Jack and Sol precipitated themselves
upon the papers at breakfast, and devoured the list
of the betting. But matters culminated upon the
evening immediately preceding the race. The lieutenant
had run down to the station to secure the latest
intelligence, and now he came rushing in, waving a
crushed paper frantically over his head.
"Eurydice is scratched !" he yelled. "Your horse
is done for, Barker!"
"What!" roared Sol.
"Done for utterly broken down in training
won't run at all!"
"Let me see," groaned my cousin, seizing the paper ; and
then, dropping it, he rushed out of the room,
and banged down the stairs, taking four at a time.
We saw no more of him until late at night, when he
slunk in, looking very disheveled, and crept quietly
off to his room. Poor fellow, I should have condoled
with him had it not been for his recent disloyal conduct
Jack seemed a changed man from that moment.
He began at once to pay me marked attention, very
much to the annoyance of myself and of some one
else in the room. He played and sang and proposed
round games, and, in fact, quite usurped the role usually
played by Mr. Nicholas Cronin.
I remember that it struck me as remarkable that
on the morning of the Derby-day the lieutenant
should have entirely lost his interest in the race.
He was in the greatest spirits at breakfast, but did
not even open the paper in front of him. It was
Mr. Cronin who unfolded it at last and glanced over
"What's the news, Dick ?" asked my brother Bob.
"Nothing much. Oh, yes ; here's something. Another
railway accident. Collision, apparently. Westinghouse
brake gone wrong. Two killed, seven hurt,
and by Jove ! listen to this : 'Among the victims was
one of the competitors in the equine Olympiad of
to-day. A sharp splinter had penetrated its side, and
the valuable animal had to be sacrificed upon the
shrine of humanity. The name of the horse is
Bicycle.' Halloo, you've gone and spilled your coffee
all over the cloth, Hawthorne ! Ah ! I forgot ; Bicycle
was your horse, wasn't it ? Your chance is gone,
I am afraid. I see that Iroquois, who started low,
has come to be first favorite now."
Ominous words, reader, as no doubt your nice
discernment has taught you during, at the least, the
last three pages. Don't call me a flirt and a coquette
until you have weighed the facts. Consider
my pique at the sudden desertion of my admirers,
think of my delight at the confession from a man
whom I had tried to conceal from myself even that
I loved, think of the opportunities which he enjoyed
during the time Jack and Sol were systematically
avoiding me, in accordance with their ridiculous
agreement. Weigh all this, and then which among
you will throw the first stone at the blushing little
prize of the Derby Sweep?
Here it is as it appeared at the end of three short months in the "Morning Post":
"August 12th. At Hatherley Church, Nicholas Cronin, Esq., eldest son
of Nicholas Cronin, Esq., of the Woodlands, Cropshire,
to Miss Eleanor Montague, daughter of the
late James Montague, Esq., J. P., of Hatherley House."
Jack set off with the declared intention of volunteering
for a ballooning expedition to the North Pole.
He came back, however, in three days, and said that
he had changed his mind, but intended to walk in
Stanley's footsteps across equatorial Africa. Since
then he has dropped one or two gloomy allusions to
forlorn hopes and the unutterable joys of death, but
on the whole he is coming round very nicely, and
has been heard to grumble of late on such occasions
as the underdoing of the mutton and the overdoing
of the beef, which may be fairly set down as a very
Sol took it more quietly, but I fear the iron went
deeper into his soul. However, he pulled himself
together like a dear, brave fellow as he is, and
actually had the .hardihood to propose to the bridemaids,
on which occasion he became inextricably mixed up in
a labyrinth of words. He washed his hands of the
mutinous sentence, however, and resumed his seat in
the middle of it, overwhelmed with blushes and applause.
I hear that he has confided his woes and disappointments
to Grace Maberly's sister, and met with the sympathy which
he expected. Bob and Grace are to be married in a few months,
so possibly there may be another wedding about that time.