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adulatory, and declared himself ready to start whenever Mrs. Merton was prepared.
The weather was delicious. The sky was scarcely flecked by a cloud, and the earth revelled in a largesse of golden sunshine. On through the leafy lanes they went; the country was mellowed with the first autumnal hues; and “ through the golden stubble was heard the frequent gun." As Bob reflected on the whole situation, watched the beauty of the landscape, talked with Mrs. Merton on things in general, and on himself and herself in particular, he came to the conclusion that there were many things less tolerable in existence than to handle a pair of perfect horses, to be seated the while beside a charming woman without encumbrance and worth 40,0001., and to be carried at a pace not inconveniently rapid through as pretty woodland scenery as England possesses. The freshness of the air seemed infectious; the sparkling of the dew on the pendent boughs of the larches reflected itself in the general tone of the conversation. Bob was in unusually good spirits, and Mrs. Merton was complimentary enough to say that his talk was brighter than usual.
What a contrast to the brilliant sunshine of the open, the gloomy interior of these chilly caves !—for they had reached them by this time, and the natty little groom was holding the horses while the pair devoted themselves to the investigation of the abodes of stalactites, darkness, and cold. An idea struck Bob Kennedy. He was not unprolific in ideas, but this seemed to him an exceptionally happy one-an opportunity for delicately putting a leading question, and neatly leading up to an important point. Mrs. Merton had told him in the morning, that this might be their last chance of visiting the caves. Why? Was his widow about to desert him just as conquest seemed fairly within his grasp ? Bob Kennedy wished to understand the full significance of the remark; and so, struck by the atmospheric contrast, which, on entering where he now stood, he had just experienced, he thought that it might be conveniently utilised for the extraction of the information which he required. have said, Bob was struck with a notion: the brightness outside, the gloom in. Why not, by a felicitous application of metaphor, make these point a moral and adorn a tale? Something Mrs. Merton had told him this morning marvellously reminded him of the change from brightness to gloom which they had just experienced. What was it? Mrs. Merton would so like to know.
Well, Mrs. Merton,” replied the complimentary Bob, “ your proposal, that we should visit the caves, removed the superincumbent chill upon my depressed soul, just as the sunshine does the dew” (a slight confusion of similes here, thought Bob, but it doesn't matter); "and your intelligence immediately accompanying it, that it might be the last chance we should have, by suggesting to me the probability of our parting, fell as a damp upon me, even as the
temperature of this infernal” (Bob Kennedy had just brought his tibia into contact with a projecting angle of the rock, so that the expression may be in part pardoned) “cave."
“ Very prettily turned," replied Mrs. Merton ; " but you have a little bit mistaken my meaning,” she added, just with the slightest significance in her voice.
“Mrs. Merton,” said Mr. Kennedy, his key of badinage exchanged for one of earnestness, “if what I supposed is not the case, pray tell me. If you will not tell me, there is at least something which I might tell—"
“Ah, Kennedy,” said a cheery voice kindly, “ didn't know you were so fond of prying into the viscera of the earth.”
“ My luck again,” muttered Bob to himself, and looking round, he saw the rubicund countenance of Major Gervase.
“ Sly dog," whispered the old officer to him as they stepped out on to the sunlit sward once again ; " knew 'twas your last chance, didn't
you, now?" Bob had no opportunity to reply, but he did soliloquise in a few sentences to himself. " What the devil does it all mean? That sudden appearance of the Major not at all a bad apology for her celestial highness pronuba Juno."
During the return journey, Major Jones Gervase insisted upon keeping up with the phaeton the whole way; consequently all chances of reopening the conversation at the interesting point at which it had been interrupted were destroyed. Bob Kennedy was not in a good humour. It is annoying when you are out shooting to see your final vesuvian fail you in endeavouring to strike a light for your pipe. It is not less annoying, when you are in country quarters, beyond the reach of effervescing fluids, to discover that just as your parched throat was panting for cognac and seltzer, the last bottle of that refrigerating and refreshing alkaline compound has burst in your cupboard. Tantalus doubtless experienced a good deal of discomfort at the disgusting resistance which the fugitive water offered to his thirst-cracked lips. But it may be questioned whether any of these tortures are more excruciating than the fact of being suddenly pulled-up short when the accents of a declaration of passion are trembling on your lips. And this was precisely Bob's condition at the present time. In course of the homeward drive, however, his ruffled feelings regained something of their normal tranquillity; and when, as she contrived to do, Mrs. Merton whispered to him as they came up to the hall-door at Kingscourt manor, “Mr. Kennedy, if you should happen to be walking in the rosegarden to-morrow morning before breakfast, say from 8.30 to 9.30, you might see me, and have an opportunity, if you like to use it, of finishing your speech to me," -Bob, charmed with Mrs. Merton's Anglo-Indian candour of manners, had completely recovered his equilibrium. Nay, as he dressed that evening for dinner, he not only came to the conclusion that the game was on the cards, but he was even great on the subject of special providences.
There was a new arrival that evening at dinner, in lieu of Mrs. Lester, who had not returned. Not a lady, however, but a City man—a Mr. Lynchall, who was great upon mercantile gossip. 'Twas a dull evening, thought Bob. Mrs. Merton retired to her room early, and before her disappearance she had seemed more reserved and distant than usual—had seemed so, in fact, ever since a letter bearing the Southampton post-mark had been placed in her hands upon their return from the caves. Bob Kennedy, however, was not surprised at this. The matrimonial plunge is one of considerable magnitude, and Bob thought that naturally Mrs. Merton might like calmly to survey the situation before the interview of the following morning.
“ Slow drags the time till parting lovers meet." The morning, however, came. Mr. Kennedy was scrupulously careful about his personal appearance, and though by no means an early riser as a rule, was up and stirring betimes. Before half-past eight had chimed from the stable clock our hero was in the rose - garden : a more lovely scene for such a purpose, fancied Bob, could not be imagined. Where was Mrs. Merton ? A gradual bend in the grass walk gave him a glimpse of a breezy muslin dress. It was Mrs. Merton's.
“Hold up, my heart, be strong," was Bob's prayer. A few steps more, and he was brought face to face with the owner. Yes, Mrs. Merton indeed it was; but not alone. By her side there walked a gentleman, tall, stalwart, of military air, bronzed by the sun, and with the dust of travel not yet shaken off from his dress. One step more, and before he could recover from his surprise, Mrs. Merton had said, “Mr. Kennedy, let me introduce you to my husband, Colonel Merton."
Of course Bob bowed. Neither did he give any violently evident signs of his feelings; but after the first few words of greeting had passed, and Colonel Merton had informed him that he had just returned from New Zealand, and that in consequence of the fortunate coincidence of trains and coaches he had arrived at Kingscourt a full two hours before he had expected, Bob retired.
Angry naturally he was. For once our friend's equanimity entirely forsook him. What the devil did Colville mean about his widow? Why the deuce had Major Jones Gervase and Mrs. Gervase allowed him to make such a confounded fool of himself? and why had Colville written to him as he did ? He would let them know what he thought; and ringing for his servant, he was on the point of telling him to pack up, and of writing a note to Major Gervase announcing his sudden departure, and combining a pretty vehement denunciation of the whole affair, when a note was brought him. It was from Mrs. Merton. Would Mr. Kennedy come and see her for a few minutes in the rose-garden? He went, surcharged with vituperation, and primed with an intelligibly bitter wrath.
“Mr. Kennedy,” began Mrs. Merton, “let me anticipate all that you would say. The night you first took me down to dinner you mistook me, I know, for Mrs. Lester, the widow worth 40,0001. I did not know it at the time, and I only learnt it a few days ago in a letter from Frank Colville. Now confess, Mr. Kennedy, you liked me, I daresay. But would you have liked me, had it not been for the 40,0001. which you associated with me? Well enough to tell me what you were going to tell me yesterday? Don't be angry, Mr. Kennedy ; there is no harm done. If you have been cured of widowhunting, you will have rather cause for gratitude. You, I am sure,
, are heart-whole as ever; and if I did not undeceive you for a couple of days, if I allowed matters to remain as they were,—was my joke a malicious one ? was it not rather a case of diamond cut diamond ? That is no reason why we should not be friends. Nay, rather it is a reason why we should be. Had it not been for the mistake into which you fell on the first night that we met, you might have committed a much more serious blunder. You might have even made the proposal, that you had screwed yourself up to making to me yesterday, to Mrs. Lester, and then what a false position, had she accepted you, would you have been in !—for that City gentleman who dined with us yesterday brought us the intelligence, that in some railway speculations—and Mrs. Lester is a notorious railway gambler -she lost almost every sixpence that she possessed. Say, how would it have been then ? Perhaps it is well, is it not? You forgive me any thoughtlessness of mine in the last few days? You know, we wives of Indian officers on absence enjoy certain little presumptive privileges, and these are of them. As for the meeting between myself and my husband, it was, as he told you, purely accidental. He was not expected till noon, and he was here at eight. Shake hands, and let us be friends. At least I have spared you Mrs. Lester and penury."
Bob Kennedy took the proffered hand. Nettled he was for the moment, and to a certain extent annoyed he is with Major Gervase now. But when any of his friends at the Deipnosophist announce their intention of going in for a widow, he never fails to give them the warning of his own experience.
“I was foiled by a flirt; but I was also saved by her," he winds up.
“ Sic me servavit Apollo,"
UNDER THE GERMAN OCEAN
BY J. E. TAYLOR, AUTHOR OF 'NORFOLK BROADS,' ETC.
It is just possible that few of my readers have wandered along that terra incognita to Londoners—the Norfolk coast. The journey is anything but cheerful. Near Yarmouth the shore is skirted by a low and undulating ridge of marram' hills, so called from the particular species of grass whose roots partially bind down and hold together the otherwise shifting sand-dunes. Besides this there is little herbage, and that of the most meagre description. The landscape is nearly as bleak as it is possible to suppose one can become. Here and there maybe, at various distances, squat a few houses, built principally of drift-wood or old boats, much after the fashion which Dickens has described in David Copperfield. These are chiefly fishing villages or settlements. The most noticeable feature about them is the general absence of the male kind. The latter are absent on their fishing expeditions, and their numerous yawls and trawling-vessels scattered over the sea hard by relieve the silent monotony of the landscape. This German Ocean is the piscine harvest-field of the metropolis, and generally of England. It is exceedingly shallow; for there are parts where hardly twelve feet of water exists. Dangerous sandbanks dot its surface, whose neighbourhood at high tide can be easily told by long lines of white breakers. Between them are navigable channels, the deepest of which is about sixty yards. This is known on the charts as the deep-water channel,' and its course is more or less parallel to the coasts of Essex, Suffolk, and Norfolk. Fringing every spit of sand are shoals of cod, haddock, turbot, plaice, sole, &c., all of them greedy to prey upon the mollusca which there find a suitable habitat. The open sea is the haunt of the herring and the mackerel, so that the fishing navy is naturally divided into the two classes whose business it is to seek ground and surface fish. The busy scene seawards always provides the spectator with sufficient objects. The vast numbers of trawl- and herring-boats, and the fleets of Newcastle colliers, make it more lively than any other portion of the British seas. This fact, coupled with its dangerous character, accounts for the thick cluster of black dots, which, in each year's wreck-chart, indicates where vessels have gone to pieces.
Proceeding northwards from Great Yarmouth, past Caistor, Somerton, and Winterton, as the pedestrian approaches Happisburgh, he finds a change taking place in the coast landscape. The last memento of the sand dunes is Eccles Church, nearly buried