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standing, that it seemed scarcely likely that any acquaintance of Sir David's could be completely unknown to the other. Were they all united in treachery against him ? Had his chosen friend—the man he loved so well—been able to enlighten him, and had he coldly withheld his knowledge? No, he told himself, that was not possible. Sir David Forster might be the falsest, most unprincipled of mankind; but he could not believe John Saltram capable of baseness, or even coldness, towards him.
He was at the end of his journey by this time. The Grange stood before him—a great rambling building, with many gables, gray lichen-grown walls, and quaint old diamond-paned casements in the upper stories. Below, the windows were larger, and had an Elizabethan look, with patches of stained glass here and there. The house stood back from the road, with a spacious old-fashioned garden before it; a garden with flower-beds of a Dutch design, sheltered from adverse winds by dense hedges of yew and holly; a pleasant old garden enough, one could fancy, in summer weather. The flower-beds were for the most part empty now, and the only flowers to be seen were pale faded-looking chrysanthemums and Michaelmas daisies. The garden was surrounded by a high wall, and Gilbert contemplated it first through the rusty scroll-work of a tall iron gate, surmounted by the arms and monogram of the original owner. On one side of the house there was a vast pile of building, comprising stables and coach-houses, barns and granaries, arranged in a quadrangle. The gate leading into this quadrangle was open, and Gilbert saw the cattle standing knee-deep in a straw-yard.
He rang a bell, which had a hoarse rusty sound, as if it had not been rung very often of late ; and after he had waited for some minutes, and rung a second time, a countrified - looking woman emerged from the house, and came slowly along the wide mossgrown gravel-walk towards him. She stared at him with the broad open stare of rusticity, and did not make any attempt to open the gate, but stood with a great key in her hand, waiting for Gilbert to speak.
* This is Sir David Forster's house, I believe,' he said.
'I know that. You have some lodgers here—a lady and gentleman called Holbrook.'
He plunged at once at this assertion, as the easiest way of arriving at the truth. He had a conviction that this solitary farmhouse was the place to which his unknown rival had brought Marian.
“Yes, sir,' the woman answered, still staring at him in her slow stupid way. Mrs. Holbrook is here, but Mr. Holbrook is away up in London. Did you wish to see the lady ?
Gilbert's heart gave a great throb. She was here, close to him !
In the next minute he would be face to face with her, with that one woman whom he loved, and must continue to love, until the end of his life.
“Yes,' he said eagerly, 'I wish to see her. You can take me to her at once. I am an old friend. There is no occasion to carry in my name.'
He had scarcely thought of seeing Marian until this moment. It was her husband he had come to seek; it was with him that his reckoning was to be made ; and any meeting between Marian and himself was more likely to prove a hindrance to this reckoning than otherwise. But the temptation to seize the chance of seeing her again was too much for him. Whatever hazard there might be to his scheme of vengeance in such an encounter slipped out of his mind before the thought of looking once more at that idolised face, of hearing the loved voice once again.
The woman hesitated for a few moments, telling Gilbert that Mrs. Holbrook never had visitors, and she did not know whether she would like to see him ; but on his administering half-a-crown through the scroll-work of the gate, she put the key in the lock and admitted him. He followed her along the moss-grown path to a wide wooden porch, over which the ivy hung like a voluminous curtain, and through a half-glass door into a low roomy hall, with massive dark oak-beams across the ceiling, and a broad staircase of ecclesiastical aspect leading to a gallery above. The house had evidently been a place of considerable grandeur and importance in days gone by; but everything in it bore traces of neglect and decay. The hall was dark and cold, the wide fireplace empty, the iron dogs red with rust. Some sacks of grain were stored in one corner, a rough carpenter's bench stood under one of the mullioned windows, and some garden-seeds were spread out to dry in another.
The woman opened a low door at the end of this hall, and ushered Gilbert into a sitting-room with three windows looking out upon a Dutch bowling - green, a quadrangle of smooth turf shut-in by tall hedges of holly. The room was empty, and the visitor had ample leisure to examine it while the woman went to seek Mrs. Holbrook.
It was a large room with a low ceiling, and a capacious oldfashioned fireplace, where a rather scanty fire was burning in a dull slow way. The furniture was old and worm-eaten,-furniture that had once been handsome,—and was of a ponderous fashion that defied time. There was a massive oaken cabinet on one side of the room, a walnut-wood bureau with brass handles on the other. A comfortable-looking sofa, of an antiquated design, with chintz-covered cushions, had been wheeled near the fireplace; and close beside it there was a small table with an open desk upon it, and some papers scattered loosely about. There were a few autumn flowers in a
Gilberto opened spread out of the”,
homely vase upon the centre table, and a work-basket with some slippers, in Berlin-wool work, unfinished.
Gilbert Fenton contemplated all these things with supreme tenderness. It was here that Marian had lived for so many months
-alone most likely for the greater part of the time. He had a fixed idea that the man who had stolen his treasure was some dissipated worldling, altogether unworthy so sacred a trust. The room had a look of loneliness to him. He could fancy the long solitary hours in this remote seclusion.
He had to wait for some little time, walking slowly up and down; very eager for the interview that was to come, yet with a consciousness that his fate would seem only so much the darker to him afterwards, when he had to turn his back upon this place, with perhaps no hope of ever seeing Marian again. At last there came a light footfall; the door was opened, and his lost love came into the room.
Gilbert Fenton was standing near the fireplace, with his back to the light. For the first few moments it was evident that Marian did not recognise him. She came towards him slowly, with a wondering look in her face, and then stopped suddenly with a faint cry of surprise.
"You here !' she exclaimed. “0, how did you find this place ? Why did you come ?'
She clasped her hands, looking at him in a half-piteous way that went straight to his heart. What he had told Mrs. Branston was quite true. It was not in him to be angry with this girl. Whatever bitterness there might have been in his mind until this moment fled away at sight of her. His heart had no room for any feeling but tenderness and pity.
• Did you imagine that I should rest until I had seen you once more, Marian ? Did you suppose I should submit to lose you without hearing from your own lips why I have been so unfortunate ?'
“I did not think you would waste time or thought upon any one so wicked as I have been towards you,' she answered slowly, standing before him with a pale sad face and downcast eyes. “I fancied that whatever love you had ever felt for me—and I know how well you did love me—would perish in a moment when you found how basely I had acted. I hoped that it would be so.'
“No, Marian; love like mine does not perish so easily as that. 0, my love, my love! why did you forsake me so cruelly ? What had I done to merit your desertion of me?'
•What had you done! You had only been too good to me. I know that there is no excuse for my sin. I have prayed that you and I might never meet again. What can I say? From first to last I have been wrong. From first to last I have acted weakly and wickedly. I was flattered and gratified by your affection for me; and when I found that my dear uncle had set his heart upon our
is no excuse. What can I have acted wh for me;