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I say it because I am half afraid of some,—some,-
diminution of good feeling,
between you and your uncle.
such a monstrous pity."

-some

perhaps, I had better call it, Anything of that kind would be

"I am not aware of any such probability."

This Mr. Palliser said with considerable dignity; but when the words were spoken he bethought himself whether he had not told a fib.

"No; perhaps not. I trust there is no such probability. But the duke is a very determined man if he takes anything into his head; and then he has so much in his power."

He has not me in his power, Mr. Fothergill.'

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No, no, no.

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One man does not have another in his power in this country,-not in that way; but then you know, Mr. Palliser, it would hardly do to offend him; would it?"

"I would rather not offend him, as is natural. Indeed, I do not wish to offend any one."

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Exactly so; and least of all the duke, who has the whole property in his own hands. We may say the whole, for he can marry to-morrow if he pleases. And then his life is so good.

don't know a stouter man of his age, anywhere."

I'm

very glad to hear it."

I'm sure you are, Mr. Palliser. But if he were to take offence, you know?

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I should put up with it."

Yes, exactly; that's what you would do. But it would be worth while to avoid it, seeing how much he has in his power." Has the duke sent you to me now, Mr. Fothergill?"

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"No, no, no,-nothing of the sort. But he dropped words the other day which made me fancy that he was not quite,quite, quite at ease about you. I have long known that he would be very glad indeed to see an heir born to the property. The other morning, I don't know whether there was anything in it, but I fancied he was going to make some change in the present arrangements. He did not do it, and it might have been fancy. Only think, Mr. Palliser, what one word of his might do! If he says a word, he never goes back from it." Then, having said so much, Mr. Fothergill went his way.

Mr. Palliser understood the meaning of all this very well. It was not the first occasion on which Mr. Fothergill had given him advice,-advice such as Mr. Fothergill himself had no right to give him. He always received such counsel with an air of half-injured dignity, intending thereby to explain to

Mr. Fothergill that he was intruding. But he knew well whence the advice came; and though, in all such cases, he had made up his mind not to follow such counsel, it had generally come to pass that Mr. Palliser's conduct had more or less accurately conformed itself to Mr. Fothergill's advice. A word from the duke might certainly do a great deal! Mr. Palliser resolved that in that affair of Lady Dumbello he would follow his own devices. But, nevertheless, it was undoubtedly true that a word from the duke might do a great deal!

We, who are in the secret, know how far Mr. Palliser had already progressed in his iniquitous passion before he left Hartlebury. Others, who were perhaps not so well informed, gave him credit for a much more advanced success. Lady Clandidlem, in her letter to Lady de Courcy, written immediately after the departure of Mr. Palliser, declared that, having heard of that gentleman's intended matutinal departure, she had confidently expected to learn at the breakfast-table that Lady Dumbello had flown with him. From the tone of her ladyship's language, it seemed as though she had been robbed of an anticipated pleasure by Lady Dumbello's prolonged sojourn in the halls of her husband's ancestors. “I feel, however, quite convinced," said Lady Clandidlem, " that it cannot go on longer than the spring. I never yet saw a man so infatuated as Mr. Palliser. He did not leave her for one moment all the time he was here. No one but Lady Hartletop would have permitted it. But, you know, there is nothing so pleasant as good old family friendships."

CHAPTER XLIV

VALENTINE'S DAY AT ALLINGTON

LILY had exacted a promise from her mother before her illness, and during the period of her convalescence often referred to it, reminding her mother that that promise had been made, and must be kept. Lily was to be told the day on which Crosbie was to be married. It had come to the knowledge of them all that the marriage was to take place in February. But this was not sufficient for Lily. She must know the day.

And as the time drew nearer,-Lily becoming stronger the while, and less subject to medical authority,-the marriage of

Crosbie and Alexandrina was spoken of much more frequently at the Small House. It was not a subject which Mrs. Dale or Bell would have chosen for conversation; but Lily would refer to it. She would begin by doing so almost in a drolling strain, alluding to herself as a forlorn damsel in a play-book; and then she would go on to speak of his interests as a matter which was still of great moment to her. But in the course of such talking she would too often break down, showing by some sad word or melancholy tone how great was the burden on her heart. Mrs. Dale and Bell would willingly have avoided the subject, but Lily would not have it avoided. For them it was a very difficult matter on which to speak in her hearing. It was not permitted to them to say a word of abuse against Crosbie, as to whom they thought that no word of condemnation could be sufficiently severe; and they were forced to listen to such excuses for his conduct as Lily chose to manufacture, never daring to point out how vain those excuses were.

Indeed, in those days Lily reigned as a queen at the Small House. Ill-usage and illness together falling into her hands had given her such power, that none of the other women were able to withstand it. Nothing was said about it; but it was understood by them all, Jane and the cook included, that Lily was for the time paramount. She was a dear, gracious, loving, brave queen, and no one was anxious to rebel;-only that those praises of Crosbie were so very bitter in the ears of her subjects. The day was named soon enough, and the tidings came down to Allington. On the fourteenth of February, Crosbie was to be made a happy man. This was not known to the Dales till the twelfth, and they would willingly have spared the knowledge then, had it been possible to spare it. But it was not so, and on that evening Lily was told.

During these days, Bell used to see her uncle daily. Her visits were made with the pretence of taking to him information as to Lily's health; but there was perhaps at the bottom of them a feeling that, as the family intended to leave the Small House at the end of March, it would be well to let the squire know that there was no enmity in their hearts against him. Nothing more had been said about their moving,-nothing, that is, from them to him. But the matter was going on, and he knew it. Dr. Crofts was already in treaty on their behalf for a small furnished house at Guestwick. The squire was very sad about it, very sad indeed. When Hopkins spoke to him on the subject, he sharply desired that faithful gardener

to hold his tongue, giving it to be understood that such things were not to be made matter of talk by the Allington dependants till they had been officially announced. With Bell during these visits he never alluded to the matter. She was the chief sinner, in that she had refused to marry her cousin, and had declined even to listen to rational counsel upon the matter. But the squire felt that he could not discuss the subject with her, seeing that he had been specially informed by Mrs. Dale that his interference would not be permitted; and then he was perhaps aware that if he did discuss the subject with Bell, he would not gain much by such discussion. Their conversation, therefore, generally fell upon Crosbie, and the tone in which he was mentioned in the Great House was very different from that assumed in Lily's presence.

"He'll be a wretched man," said the squire, when he told Bell of the day that had been fixed.

"But I

"I don't want him to be wretched," said Bell. can hardly think that he can act as he has done without being punished."

"He will be a wretched man. He gets no fortune with her, and she will expect everything that fortune can give. I believe, too, that she is older than he is. I cannot understand it. Upon my word, I cannot understand how a man can be such a knave and such a fool. Give my love to Lily. I'll see her to-morrow or the next day. She's well rid of him; I'm sure of that;-though I suppose it would not do to tell her so."

The morning of the fourteenth came upon them at the Small House, as comes the morning of those special days which have been long considered, and which are to be long remembered. It brought with it a hard, bitter frost, a black, biting frost,such a frost as breaks the water-pipes, and binds the ground to the hardness of granite. Lily, queen as she was, had not yet been allowed to go back to her own chamber, but occupied the larger bed in her mother's room, her mother sleeping on a smaller one.

"Mamma," she said, "how cold they'll be!" Her mother had announced to her the fact of the black frost, and these were the first words she spoke.

"I fear their hearts will be cold also," said Mrs. Dale. She ought not to have said so. She was transgressing the acknowledged rule of the house in saying any word that could be construed as being inimical to Crosbie or his bride. But her feeling on the matter was too strong, and she could not restrain herself.

"Why should their hearts be cold? Oh, mamma, that is a terrible thing to say. Why should their hearts be cold?"

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Mrs. Dale was silent for a minute or two before she answered this, but then she did answer it. "I think I do," said she. "I think I do wish for it."

"I am very sure that I do," said Lily.

At this time Lily had her breakfast upstairs, but went down into the drawing-room in the course of the morning.

"You must be very careful in wrapping yourself as you go downstairs," said Bell, who stood by the tray on which she had brought up the toast and tea. "The cold is what you

would call awful."

"I should call it jolly," said Lily, "if I could get up and go out. Do you remember lecturing me about talking slang the day that he first came?'

"Did I, my pet?

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"Don't you remember, when I called him a swell? Ah, dear! so he was. That was the mistake, and it was all my own fault, as I had seen it from the first."

Bell for a moment turned her face away, and beat with her foot against the ground. Her anger was more difficult of restraint than was even her mother's,—and now, not restraining it, but wishing to hide it, she gave it vent in this way.

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I understand, Bell. I know what your foot means when it goes in that way; and you shan't do it. Come here, Bell, and let me teach you Christianity. I'm a fine sort of teacher, am I not? And I did not quite mean that." "I wish I could learn it from some one," said Bell. "There are circumstances in which what we call Christianity seems to me to be hardly possible."

"When your foot goes in that way it is a very unchristian foot, and you ought to keep it still. It means anger against him, because he discovered before it was too late that he would not be happy, that is, that he and I would not be happy together if we were married.”

"Don't scrutinise my foot too closely, Lily."

"But your foot must bear scrutiny, and your eyes, and your voice. He was very foolish to fall in love with me. And

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