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impending departure. Luckily old Richard's character and habits were so well known that nobody dreamed of inquiring into the reason of his action, though the few words he had spoken to Stephen would seem to prove that he was the cause of the tragedy. He had been discovered in a drunken sleep by the roadside, and hurried, still in a dazed condition, to give evidence. No coherent statement, however, could be elicited from him, and nobody who contemplated the wretched, broken-down creature, or listened to his rambling, inarticulate speech, could have held him worthy to be treated as a responsible being. A verdict was returned of "Death from misadventure," and Stephen undertook to ensure that Bayerstock did no more harm to the community. Through his means the old man found a refuge in a home for inebriates, where he passed the remainder of his days in great comfort, though he never ceased to lament, with equal pathos, the absence of his accustomed stimulant and the malevolent effects of cold water.
"If it hadn't a-been for the water, my maid 'ud be alive now," he would say, shaking his head. "I told her harm would come o' living so nigh to the river, but there, she wouldn't take any advice, and now she be drownded."
When the inquest was over and the Big Farm with its lowered blinds was once more still, Kitty crept out of her room and made her way cautiously across the road and up the flagged path which led to her landlord's house; she had only proceeded a few paces when pattering steps behind her made her start.
"I guessed you were going to see poor Sheba," said Bess, passing her arm through hers, "and so I thought I'd come too. I don't like you to go alone, it might be too much for you, my poor Kitty."
She spoke in a subdued tone, and
looked at her sister with dim eyes. She was full of sympathy for her, and was moreover shaken by the tragic oc
Though Kitty would have preferred to go alone, she made no protest, and entering the farm, the two girls were motioned upstairs by Mrs. Hardy, whose face was disfigured with weeping.
"Funeral's to be day after to-morrow," she informed them in a loud whisper, "and I am mortal busy. Stephen wants everything o' the very best. But go straight up, dears,-'tis the room at the top o' the stairs."
As they opened the door, Stephen, who had been standing by the bed, slipped hastily past them, and went out without speaking.
"She looks beautiful," said Bess, in an awestruck voice.
The tranquil face of the dead girl was indeed stamped with a beauty greater than it had possessed in life; the features seemed chiselled in marble -Bess afterwards descanted on their almost classical regularity-the long lashes lay placidly on the fine-grained cheek, the dark hair waved over the smooth brow. But Kitty noted none of these things. She saw the smile, the settled serenity of the expression-the look of space-of absolute securityand she thought once more of how Sheba, at the very instant of her supreme self-sacrifice, had possessed all that life could give. Looking down at the unruffled brow, she could scarcely credit that it belonged to the passionate creature whose scathing words were still ringing in her ears. She would think of them no more, she vowed, she would keep Sheba's secret, even as those smiling lips must perforce keep hers. Stooping, she kissed hands and brow, and then went sorrowfully downstairs, followed by Bess. Stephen was standing in the yard, and Bess stopped as they passed.
"Mr. Hardy," she said in a voice full of sympathy, and gazing at him with eyes brimming with compassionate tears, "I can't tell you how sorry we are both of us. I can feel for you now in a special manner. I don't know what I should do if-" She broke off to shudder, glancing at the ring which gleamed on her finger,. and continued hastily:
"I know what you must be going through-you who loved her so."
"I am going through-enough," said Stephen in an oddly harsh voice, turning away to end the conversation.
A melancholy winter followed on this gloomy autumn, Christmas being unbrightened by any festivities at the Big Farm, which was still, as Mrs. Hardy said, a house of mourning.
The Heriots were abroad, and the Grange in consequence shut up; the Leslies exchanged few civilities with their other neighbors, including Mrs. Turnworth, whose animadversions on the subject of Bess's future had proved more than the prospective bride could bear. The engagement had now come to be considered an established fact, but the marriage was not to take place for a year, not, in fact, till Bess had celebrated her nineteenth birthday.
Meanwhile Mr. Raymond came and went, and Bess sometimes tried to live up to him, and sometimes petulantly declared this achievement to be unattainable. Nevertheless, in whatever mood he found her, her imperturbable wooer seemed equally content. In the spring the monotony of the sisters' lives was varied by another short visit to London. Bess enjoyed the importance of going about with Mr. Raymond, being introduced to his friends, and escorted by him to theatres and other places of entertainment. Kitty accompanied her father to the British Museum, or stayed at home and helped him to correct his proofs. She was
glad to return to the country though a barrier seemed to have risen between her and the Hardys. Rebecca did indeed visit her sometimes, and, now and then, having made sure that Stephen was absent, Kitty would run up to the farm on the hill and spend an hour in Rebecca's company; but the former cheerful intercourse seemed impossible
Mr. Leslie's book was published in September, and, contrary to his daughters' expectations proved a great and immediate success. It attracted the attention not only of his own scholarly compatriots, but of thinkers in almost every country in Europe.
He bore his honors without any undue elation, expressing indeed surprise. and not infrequently annoyance, when letters flowed in upon him and great men sought to make his acquaintance.
But he showed real satisfaction and pride when he was invited to deliver the Romaine Lecture in the following November, and set out for Oxford in the highest spirits.
The girls accompanied him, Kitty finding as much pain as pleasure in revisiting the familiar scenes, and Bess torn between the natural importance of returning an engaged woman to the place that had known her as a child. and a certain unconquerable longing to throw aside her responsibilities and frolic as of yore with the youth about her.
She was in this latter mood one day, shortly after the lecture had taken place, when Raymond, having vainly searched for her elsewhere, discovered her sitting pensively on a bench in Addison's Walk. Teddy had offered to take her out in a "canader," but she had refused, knowing that her betrothed would expect her to walk with him. Her little nose was pinched and red, and she sat twirling her engagement ring disconsolately round and round the finger of her ungloved left
hand. If she dared to follow her own inclinations, she would have asked Mr. Raymond to take her to see the hockey match now going on in the parks; but he would probably want to escort her to the Bodeleian. He sat down beside her, smiling kindly
"You look cold," he said, "and dismal. I am afraid I've kept you waiting, but I did not remember that you had appointed to meet me here."
Bess had done nothing of the kind, but did not think it necessary to say so; she had, indeed, felt a perverse pleasure in the thought that her wooer would find it difficult to discover her whereabouts. She smiled sweetly now, and then sighed.
"It makes me feel so old to come back here," she said, "dreadfully old. Kitty and I used to have such funin former days. We used to make up parties for picnics and things, and had so many friends. But most of the men we knew have gone down-and of course, anyhow, under present circumstances it would never do for me to play about as I used."
Mr. Raymond smiled encouragingly, and then, without replying to Bess's pathetic speech, remarked that he had brought her a piece of news which he thought would cheer her up.
"I wanted to be the first to tell you," he added; "it is great news, Bess."
His eyes were shining, his face full of triumphant joy.
"Kitty's engaged!" exclaimed Bess. "Good gracious, no!" he rejoined, vexed for the moment. "What put such an idea as that into your head?"
"Oh, I don't know," said Bess, confused. "There's such lots of men here -I thought-but of course it was silly of me."
"After all how could you guess?" returned he, once more kind and jubilant. "This news concerns your father, but indirectly concerns you all, for you will both be proud of the honor done him,
and Kitty at least will benefit materially by his good fortune. He has been offered the Chair of Poetry, Bess. It has been thought of here for some time, and his lecture clenched matters. The emoluments are by no means to be despised, he will probably live here altogether-it will be a good exchange for the Little Farm."
"Oh," cried Bess, clasping her hands, while tears jumped to her eyes-not tears of joy, as Mr. Raymond at first supposed, but tears of genuine, unmistakable distress. "Oh, if I'd only known! What a good time Kitty will have."
"My dear child," said Raymond very seriously.
"Oh, I can't help it," sobbed Bess.. "I know I'm a beast, but still I am very young, and it's dreadful to be finishing one's life just when one might be beginning it, and have to be staid and matronly and all that, when I might be having-a real fling."
The tears were running down her face now; visions of unnumbered undergraduate adorers, of river parties, picnics, dances, delirious excitement of Eights Weeks and Commen-all, all would fall to the lot of the free and happy Kitty while she was trying to live up to the standard of her elderly husband. Mr. Raymond's voice broke in upon her meditations.
"The mistake is not irremediable-it can easily be put to rights, my dear little girl," he said. "Give me back that ring."
Bess looked up with a gasp. His face was pale, and had suddenly aged. "Give me the ring," he repeated firmly. "You shall have back your freedom, child."
The sight of his face, the sound of his voice roused something in Bess which had hitherto lain dormant, unguessed at by any one except Raymond himself-something not thoroughly awake yet, but which nevertheless
childish soul rose to the heights of womanhood. She stretched out her hand-not the hand that wore the ring, and clasped his.
"No," she said, "I couldn't do that. I couldn't break my word-besides I— I do think I love you. I wasn't really sure till now," she added naively.
Her eyes met his, and Raymond, after one glance at them, stooped and kissed her.
"God bless you, my little Bess," he said, "And now give me back that ring -you shall have your fling, my child— you shall dance and play and flirt as much as you like. Perhaps some day you will have had enough of it, and then if you have not changed your mind with regard to a certain old fellow, you will find him waiting still."
All preparations had been made for a hasty flitting, and Mr. Leslie and Bess joyfully prepared to begin life afresh under prosperous auspices. But Kitty secretly mourned; it seemed to her that she had taken root in this green remote corner, where, nevertheless, she had loved and suffered so much; the very tendrils of her heart seemed to cling to it, and she scarcely knew how she should endure being torn away from it.
A day or two before that fixed for their departure she gathered some violets and carried them to Sheba's grave; having arranged them in a little wreath upon the sodden grass, she leaned against the cross which headed it, so lost in thought that she did not hear Stephen Hardy's approach.
"I thought you were coming here," he said, as she turned with a start, "and I followed you-it's easier to say it here. I owe it both to the poor girl lying here, as well as yourself. I wronged you both."
"Oh, no," said Kitty faintly, "not me -you didn't wrong me."
"I wronged ye in my heart," he cried, "I think ye knew that. I was too harsh too hard-altogether unjust. I beg your pardon."
"Oh, you were right to blame me," returned Kitty. "I deserved to lose your good opinion. And I was unjust too."
"Nay, my good opinion isn't worth much," he returned sorrowfully. "God knows it isn't. 'Twas natural enough for you so young as you scarcely more than a child, to be a bit weak-but I! It little became me to set myself up in judgment."
He glanced downward at the grave and went on brokenly:
"I did her a cruel wrong in asking her to marry me, for I never loved her as she ought to ha' been loved-the thought o' that's been my punishment. It's lain heavy on my heart ever since I lost her, and I couldn't part from you wi'out your knowing the truth."
"Oh, don't say that now," cried Kitty, with deep emotion; "don't say it here. Don't forget-your last words to her were, 'You first.'"
"I can't let you think she was first!" he exclaimed vehemently. "Ye'd best know the truth. If Sheba was deceived, I thank God for it-I thank God my poor girl went to her death without a doubt of me-but when she called out to me to save you first I was sorely tempted to take her at her word. You're going away, they tell me, very soon now, and I may never meet ye face to face like this again-I'll not be a hypocrite at the last. Good-bye." He was turning away, when Kitty uttered a little cry:
"Oh, Stephen-don't go!"
The words escaped her involuntarily, but even as they fell from her lips it seemed to her that the whole worldthe little conventional world she had known-broke up and fell in ruins
about her. Pride, hereditary instinct,
But Stephen did not speak, and
"He'll not humble himself to you twice"; and then another warningStephen's own:
"I'll never ask you again."
He, too, was proud-and he never broke his word. It was her turn to humble herself now. She stretched out her hands to him across the grave:
"Stephen," she faltered, "I don't know how to say good-bye."
WHEELS WITHIN WHEELS.
"This little book fed me in a very hungry place."
"Riding adown the country lanes One day in spring,
The small round sun was dazzling white,
Coaching has its Nimrod, the Turf its Druid, the locomotive, nay, the upstart motor-car, has its heroics written in the whirlwind vein of "Tamburlaine the Great," with due accompaniment of gong and cymbals. But the bicycle, in the whole forty years of its popular existence, has found not a single literary champion. It has passed into a busy world unsung. The word "cycle," it has been decided by one school Heavy at heart with all the pains of thought, has proved a deterrent; the Of man's imagining: "bike" of booking-office parlance is The mist was not yet melted quite Into the sky; more ignominious still. Had it but been called a pair-wheel, or a footwheel, or, as poet Barnes suggested, a "wheel-saddle," there might have been some hope for it. Or it might have been surnamed after St. Germain, the patron saint of the wheel. But plain unvarnished cycle! It is true that the hero of "Locksley Hall" speaks, but even then in belittling terms, of "a cycle of Cathay." Canon Beeching, Mr. Frank Sidgwick, Mr. Arthur Waugh, and others, have tried to berhyme an unkindly-named machine into the favor of those who resort to anthologies. Lord Byron, with the intuition of a true poet, has given utterance to a most intimate thought of the wheelman in the well-known
The merry larks sang high."
"My very chain and I grew friends, So much a long communion tends To make us what we are."
And a master singer of to-day, Mr. Robert Bridges, may well have had the obnoxious word in mind when he wrote
But if so, he was careful not to name it. There is at any rate a suggestiveness about the surroundings which prompts the query-Was the poet awheel? For getting one up in the morning there is nothing like the prospect of a ride in early spring ere the mist has evaporated, when the pedals are yet new to the feet, and the-machine-seems to fly under the propulsion of leviathan muscles. Then is the time for observation and the flow of ideas. The pains of man's imagining evaporate with the mist. One may get off at the summit of a sharp rise, and,