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      Chapter 8 GIFT AND GIVER.

      Of course, there was the steward, Helby; and a housekeeper, who was a great deal more stately than the late duchess had been; and a butler, to say nothing of a groom of the chambers, and other high and lofty functionaries. But this girl, five feet nothing, and with little soft, mousey ways, ruled like a queen over them all. Her word, spoken in the softest of voices, was law from one end of the vast place to the other; and never was law more wisely administered. The duke was extremely fond of her, and when he occasionally waxed obstinate, after the manner of old men, Lilias was the only person who had any influence over him. Between Trafford and herself there existed a very deep and strong affection. They regarded each other as brother and sister; and it was to Trafford, whom she admired and almost reverenced, that she turned when in want of advice and assistance.

      [Pg 225]

      "Your neighbouryour good Mrs. Crowther's husbandtold me that his lawyer travelled with you from Paddingtonon the 31st of Decemberthe year before last. He got into conversation with youyou remember, perhaps?"

      "Mind? The quieter the better for me! I think a smart wedding is a preventive of matrimony. That sounds like a bull. I will say I think there are many wretched bachelors living in dismal chambers, and preyed upon by landladies, who might have been happily married, but for the fear of a smart wedding. We will have as quiet a wedding as you and Disney can desire; but I should like Lostwithiel to be present. He is my only near relation, and I don't want to cut him on the happiest day of my life. Why, Mrs. Disney, you are trembling! You have agitated yourself about this business; you have talked too much for your strength. Let me take you back to the carriage."Once and once only during that season of delirium the elder of her nurses carried the baby to her bedside, the tiny form in snowy cambric and lace, a little roseate face, on which the first glimmer of intelligence was already dawning, sweet blue eyes that smiled at the light, rosebud lips that invited kisses. The nurse took the infant to the side of the bed, and asked the young mother to look at him. Those fever-bright eyes stared at the sweet small face with a gaze of ever-growing horror, and then with a wild shriek Isola clasped her hands before her eyes, and drew herself cowering to the further side of the bed.




      What! take our Ralda! shouted Taffy. Why, blame his old skin, lets chuck him in the river, boys!Serves me right for not doing as I was told!