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The vicar dropped his pipe and broke "Well, my dear Richard," the vicar it, but was too much agitated to heed the said, “I have little hope I can be of use, mishap.

but I 'll do my best. I fear it is a task “You want me to tackle Miss Brown!” beyond my powers-a perfect labor of he gasped. "But, my dear boy-upon Hercules; but you have appealed to my my word, I–Miss Brown is an awful friendship, and I will not be weighed in woman. I have lived in this parish five the balance and found wanting. As one and thirty years,” he protested, “and of our old divines says, 'friendship is the never met her equal. A good woman, a allay of our sorrows, the discharge of our thoroughly good woman, but of so un- oppressions, and the sanctuary of our yielding a temper she would not hesitate calamities.' to put down the bishop himself.”

"Well put! He must have been a "Well, you must not let yourself be capital fellow. Who was he?” put down. You must march boldly up "The pious and learned Bishop Tayat the head of your invincible arguments, lor, commonly known as Jeremy, his as a soldier marches up to a battery.” Christian name being Jeremiah, which

“But, my dear boy," replied the old in the original Hebrew signifies 'Exalted gentleman, with a nervous chuckle, “I of the Lord,'"explained Mr. Doubleday, am a man of peace, not a man of war; I with gentle superiority. cannot help thinking that a little patience on your part, a little judicious tarrying THEOPHILUS DOUBLEDAY slept badly for some favorable opportunity-" that night. The pledge his nephew had

“Come, Uncle, you are not going to de- extracted from him haunted him throughsert me in my difficulty? Don't say that." out the dark hours. Before departing, Richard had induced him to believe that to explain without waiting for me to the happiness of his, Richard Merry- guess. weather's, life depended on him, and re- This was not a snub; it was only sponsibility for the young man's future manner: but Miss Brown's manner often weighed upon him like a nightmare. made timid people feel that a snub was He fell asleep just as the gray dawn came intended. creeping in, and when he woke again, The vicar fidgeted for a moment, then rose quite unrefreshed, with a very poor rallied, and came to the point. appetite for breakfast.

"I am here, Miss Brown," he beganWhen he started to accomplish his "eh, eh, eh you will think it very oddmission, the clear morning air freshened it is very odd-for really, you know, I him up and partly dispelled the terrors am the last person in the world any one of the night. He stepped out briskly would suspect of such an errand—but I enough until he came within sight of am here as a messenger of love." Miss Brown's house, when he was as- As a what!” exclaimed Miss Brown. sailed by a treacherous hope that she “As a messenger of love," repeated might not be at home, and paused to the vicar, meekly. “Though,” he added exorcise it and induce a better frame of with another feeble giggle, 'I do not mind.

look much like Cupid.” The first person he saw as he drew "No, you do not,” said Miss Brown, near was Bella Croft, who was standing curtly. by the door of the house tending a rose- It was evident that Miss Brown contree that grew up one side of the porch. strued his remark as meaning he was not Hearing the click of the garden gate, she lightly attired in a pair of wings and a turned; as she did so, the vicar, even in quiver, and that she considered such a his agitated condition, thought Richard jest unbecoming between a clergyman might, as he himself had said, have gone and a single spinster. farther and fared worse. Indeed, how- "I mean,” he endeavored to explain, ever far one traveled, it would have "that as a man in the decline of life, and been difficult to find a more attractive being unfortunately a bachelorspecimen of a young English country- "Why unfortunately" interposed Miss woman.

Brown. "Good morning," the vicar said, al- "Well, really, Miss Brown," said the most cheerfully. "Is your aunt within?" vicar, who might or might not have had

Yes, sir; she is,” answered Bella. his own little romance in his own little "Will you please to step this way?" springtide, "that is, if you will allow me

The vicar stepped that way, and fol- to say so, neither here nor there." lowed her into the parlor. Left alone, “Oh, very good,” she answered, as if, he listened nervously for Miss Brown's in that case, he need not have said anyfootsteps, which were soon heard. The thing about it. door opened, and she appeared.

"I mean," he resumed, “that the "Good morning, good morning, Miss heart—the heart, my dear Miss BrownBrown,” he cried, with the effusiveness need not grow old. No, no; it can still of extreme agitation. “What delightful sympathize and feel.” weather we are having! We are really Here the vicar paused, thinking he had looking-I mean the country is looking made a good point; though what he had -quite charming."

really done was to create an impression Miss Brown saw he was excited and that he had suddenly become insane, and by no means master of himself. As she that his madness was taking the form of returned his greeting she awaited devel- making proposals.

making proposals. His next words, opments.

however, dispelled this idea. "You will hardly guess, Miss Brown," “My nephew, Richard Merryweather, said Mr. Doubleday, “now I am sure you is, I assure you, a most excellent young will hardly guess why I have called on man.” you this morning."

"I know very little about him," Miss "Perhaps, sir," replied Miss Brown, Brown said sh with civil austerity, “it would be better "I am aware of that, Miss Brown, though he has met you more than once. important part of my duty to warn her But, upon better acquaintance, you will against the evils of married life.” find what I have said of him fully justi- “The evils of married life!” exclaimed fied. I know of no young man better the vicar. Come, come, Miss Brown, qualified to make a most suitable you don't mean that. You can't mean it." husband.”

Miss Brown waved the protest aside. At this Miss Brown looked slightly “The single woman is the mistress of bewildered. “Your niece is a most her own fate. The married woman is charming girl, Miss Brown. I know of the mere plaything of a man.” no young woman better qualified for "Nay! nay! Really, such a view of making the most admirable of wives.married life is a sadly perverted one.

“Oh, that's it, is it?'' said Miss Brown, It really is, you know. And, after all,” grimly.

the vicar continued, warming to the "That is it, Miss Brown. To put the discussion in spite of himself, "the single matter quite plainly, he has—ahem!-he woman's existence is a poor, incomplete has fallen in love with her."

affair. She herself is an isolated, melan"Nonsense!” cried Miss Brown.

choly object; a-” Remembering where The vicar winced like a little boy who he was, Mr. Doubleday stopped in conhas had his ears boxed for saying some- fusion. Miss Brown, standing in front thing he ought not to have said on a for- of him, suddenly appeared to be growing bidden subject. Still, he could not allow remarkably tall, while her eyes flashed this contemptuous exclamation to pass down upon him with a dangerous light. altogether unchallenged. "For shame, "I-I beg your pardon!” he stammered. Miss Brown! Love all nonsense? Oh, "Of course, in exceptional cases fie! fie!"

ahem!-when we find a woman endowed "I mean when men talk of marrying with great force of character, of an unwomen because they love them that is usually self-reliant nature—but in most nonsense. When they are young and instances, I think, Miss Brown-I really foolish, they may think they do, and think,”—after his crude blunder, he when girls are young and foolish, they made this statement apologetically, may believe them. For my part, Mr. “the married woman's lot is the happier Doubleday, I am an elderly woman

one."No, no!" protested the vicar. "Oh, Miss Brown shook her head, with a dear, no!"

contemptuous smile. “I am a woman advanced in life" — “And then, from a worldly point of she was forty-three, and looked re- view," said the most unworldly vicar, markably well for her age, as slim, well- "my nephew would be an excellent featured women are apt to do,-“and," match. He would be able to maintain a continued Miss Brown, who had passed wife in every comfort." the whole of her womanhood in the "My niece will be provided with every management of her little farm, “I know comfort suitable to her station without the world."

being beholden to any man.” “And I, Miss Brown,” replied Mr. "Still, within reasonable limits, and if Doubleday, who for over thirty years well employed, my dear Miss Brown, the had never been more than a few miles good things of this world are not to be outside his own parish, "I also know the despised. No, no; they are not to be world. In fact," he added pleasantly, "I despised." am an old stager--quite an old stager.” “What do you mean by the good

"I love my niece. That kind of love is things of this world?" demanded Miss not all nonsense.”

Brown. “The flesh-pots of Egypt?" “I am sure it is not,” responded the The vicar turned red and felt quite vicar, heartily. "I am indeed sure of angry. He was not one to hanker after that."

flesh-pots of any nationality whatsoever, “I have striven to do my duty by her.” and a woman who had been a parishioner

“And you have done it, Miss Brown, of his for many years ought to know betyou have done it."

ter than to address such a remark to him. “I have always regarded it as a most “Besides,” Miss Brown resumed, after


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a silence, there is no need to discuss this place, startling the pigeons on the roof, any further, for even it Mr. Merry- and causing the lazy old house-dog to weather cares for my niece, she does not prick up his ears in the yard. care for him; so that makes an end of the "Bella! Bella! Come here!" matter."

"But she does care for him," cried the BELLA was prepared for this summons, vicar. “She is as much in love with him but she came very slowly, and presented as he is with her."

a very shamefaced appearance. "What!"

"Bella, do you know why Mr. DoubleMiss Brown uttered this monosylla- day has called here this morning?" ble in a way that made the vicar almost Bella was in possession of this guilty jump out of his chair; but the flesh-pots knowledge, being an accessory before of Egypt still rankling in his mind, he the fact; but she remained silent, and did found courage to reply.

not commit herself. "Miss Brown, I have said it," he de- "He has come to tell me that his clared.

nephew is in-in-in”—something stuck Miss Brown went to the door. Her in Miss Brown's throat, but she got it clear, strong voice rang through the out-"is in love with you."

"Mr. Richard Merryweather?" fal- ments without shame or disguise. You tered Bella.

owe all duty to her who has been as a “Of course I mean Mr. Richard Merry- mother to you, but you have done nothweather. Whom else could I mean? ing to be ashamed of or to regret. I Have you ever suspected anything of know Richard well, and you may take this kind? Speak, child!" She referred my word for that. Miss Brown, I wish to it as to a foul plot come to light. you a good morning and a grain or two

"Yes, Aunt dear," said Bella, meekly; more of charity. I have no doubt my "he-he

nephew will call on you himself.” "Don't say he has dared to tell you!" "Mr. Doubleday, I forbid your nephew “Yes, Aunt; he has told me."

this house. If he attempts to force his Miss Brown glanced at the vicar in way in, I will not be answerable for the bitter triumph, as if to say, “You see consequences.” the kind of person you have been com- Miss Brown looked very terrible at the mending-the viper you have cher- thought of her premises being invaded. ished at your hearth!

What is your

"You will not insult him, I trust," opinion of him now?Then she turned remonstrated the vicar. to her niece again.

"I will protect my niece," she retorted, “And you have been accused, wrong- and with this assurance the vicar defully, I trust, of being in love with him." parted. “I think I am, Aunt.”

The very next day it happened that “You think you are! Good heavens, Miss Brown and Richard Merryweather girl, don't you know your own mind?” met on the road just outside the village.

“Yes, Aunt; I am. We are in love “Miss Brown,” began Richard, with with each other."

his usual directness, “I understand you Mr. Doubleday was a true Christian, are strongly opposed to me as a suitor to but, nevertheless, he said:

your niece. May I ask what is your ob"I told you so, Miss Brown."

jection to me?" Miss Brown turned upon him. A ter- "I have no personal objection to you, rible outburst seemed imminent, and he simply because I know nothing much began to wish himself at the farther end about you." of his parish or even in the next one. “Then,” said Richard, “may I beg you However, after a strong effort of self- will do me the honor to know more of control, she spoke with calmness, with a me in the hope that I shall improve upon fearful calmness.

better acquaintance? May I ask this as "Mr. Doubleday," she said, "your a great favor, Miss Brown?" nephew is a wolf in sheep's clothing, and “I don't wish to know more of you," would be a disgrace to any sex but his replied that plain-spoken lady. “You own; but all men are wolves in sheep's would probably not improve on acquainclothing and a disgrace to their sex." tance. Men don't.”

“My dear madam," interposed the "Will you give me a chance of doing vicar, “think better of us. Let me en- so? Really, I am not a bad sort of feltreat you to think better of us.”

low, though I say it who should not. "I make no exceptions,” she pro- And as for yourself, I assure you, you ceeded, giving the Reverend Theophilus would find

most affectionate one for himself. “As vicar of this parish nephew." you have sought to sow discord where it Richard must have lost his head when has never existed since men ceased to he made this remark. It filled Miss live beneath this roof. I compliment Brown's cup of bitterness to overflowing. you on your morning's work.”

"Mr. Merryweather," she flashed out, The vicar took this remark as mean- "I forbid you to speak to my niece. I ing that, having perpetrated the vil- shall forbid my niece to speak to you; lainy referred to, he might withdraw to and-and-good morning." gloat over it.

Having thrown this valediction at him “My child,” he said, not without a like a stone from a sling, she strode touch of digni as he took Bella's hand, past him, completely disregarding a final “I am glad to hear you avow your senti- effort he made to detain her.



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