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withered but still sinewy—are clasped behind his back; every feature in his face is full of sad and anxious thought.
What changes the passing of a few short hours have wrought! -80 he muses. Yesterday the man now chilled and silent for evermore was as full of animation as he his brotherwho to-day stands so sorrowfully beside his corpse. His blood had run as freely in his veins, his pulses throbbed as evenly, his very voice had been sounding strong and clear and hearty, when Death, remorseless, claimed him for his own.
Poor Reginald! Had he known of the fell disease that had nestled so long within his heart ?—
—or had no symptoms ever shown themselves to give him kindly warning ? Certainly no hint of it had ever passed his lips, even to those most near and dear to him. He had lived apparently free from care or painful forebodings of any kind,-a good and useful life too, leaving nothing for those bebind (who loved him) to regret. Indeed, of late he had appeared even gayer, happier, than before; and now
It seems such a little time ago since they both were lads together. A tiny space taken from the great eternity, when all is told. How well the living man remembers at this moment many a boyish freak and light-hearted jest, many a kindness shown and gift bestowed by the dead, that until now had wellnigh been forgotten!
He thinks of the good old college days, when they worked little, and fought hard, and trained their fresh young limbs to mighty deeds, and walked, and rode, and held their own with the best, and showed open defiance of dons and deans and proctors; he lingers, too, on the days still farther on, when Reginald, having attained to his kingdom, lavished with no meagre hand upon
his more extravagant brother the money so Borely needed.
Now Reginald is gone, and he, Arthur, reigns in his stead, and- -Alas! alas! poor Reggy !-Poor, dear old fellow!
He rouses himself with an effort, and, going very softly to a small door that opens from the apartment, beckons gently to somebody beyond.
An old woman, dressed in deepest mourning, and of the housekeeper type, answers his summons, her eyes red with excessive weeping.
"I am going now," Lord Sartoris whispers to her, in a low tone. “I have finished everything. You will remain here until my return."
“Yes, Mr. Arthur,-yes, my Lord," she answers, nervously; and then, as she gives the old title for the first time to the man before her, she bursts out crying afresh, yet silently, in a subdued fashion, as though ashamed of her emotion.
Sartoris pats her shoulder kindly, and then with a sigh turns away, and passes from the room with bent head and hands still clasped behind him, as has become a habit with him of late years.
Down the stairs and along the hall he goes, until, reaching a door at the lower end, he pauses before it, and, opening it, enters a room, half library, half boudoir, furnished in a somewhat rococo style.
It is a room curiously built, being a complete oval, with two French windows opening to the ground, and a glass door between them-partly stained—that leads to the parterre outside. It is filled with mediæval furniture, uncompromising and as strictly uncomfortable as should be, and has its walls (above the wooden dado) covered with a high-art paper, on which impossible storks, and unearthly birds of all descriptions, are depicted as rising out of blue-green rushes.
This room is known as my lady's chamber,"—having ever been the
exclusive property of the mistress of the house, until Mrs. Dorian Branscombe, in default of any other mistress, had made her own of it during her frequent visits to Hythe, and had refurnished it to suit her own tastes, which were slightly Æsthetic.
Now, she too is dead and gone, and the room, though never entirely closed or suffered to sink into disrepair, is seldom used by any of the household.
As Lord Sartoris goes in, a young man, who has been standing at one of the windows, turns and comes quickly to meet him. He is of good height, and is finely formed, with brown hair cut closely to his head, a brown moustache, and deep-blue eyes. His whole appearance is perhaps more pleasing and aristocratic than strictly handsome, his mouth being too large and his nose too pronounced for any particular style of beauty.
Yet it is his eyes-perfect as they are in shape and colorthat betray the chief faults of his disposition. He is too easygoing, too thoughtless of consequences, too much given to
letting things go,-without consideration or fear of what the end may bring; too full of life and spirits to-day, to dream of a sadder morrow ;
-80 happy in the present that the future troubles him not at all.
“How ill you look !" he says, anxiously, addressing his uncle. “My dear Arthur, you have been overdoing it. You should not have remained so long in that room alone.”
Well, it is all over now,” Sartoris says, wearily, sinking into a chair near him. “I was glad to finish it once for all. Those private papers he kept in his own room should be examined sooner or later; and now my task is at an end I feel more contented.” “ Was there anything beyond ?
Very little. Just one letter sealed and directed to me. It contained a desire that poor Maud's letters should be buried with him. I found them in a drawer by themselves, neatly tied with pale-blue ribbon,-her favorite color,--and with them an old likeness of her, faded almost white.'
“For how long he remembered her !" says the young man, in a tone of slow astonishment.
“Too long for our present day," returns his uncle, absently. Then there is silence for a moment or two, broken only by the chatter of the birds in the sunlit garden outside. Presently Sar. toris speaks again. “Where is Horace ?" he asks, indifferently.
“He was here, half an hour ago, with Clarissa. She came over when she heard of our sad news. They went out together,—to the stables, I think. Shall I find him for you ?"
“No, I do not want him," says Sartoris, a little impatiently. “How strange no one told me of Clarissa's coming! And why did you not go with her to the stables, Dorian ? Surely you know more about horses than he does.
About twenty years before my story opens, Dorian, fourth Lord Sartoris, died, leaving behind him three sons, -Reginald (who now, too, has passed into the land of shadows), Arthur, the present earl, and Dorian, the younger.
This Dorian alone, of all the brothers, had married. his wife (who was notable for nothing beyond her deceitful temper and beautiful face, being as false as she was fair) having died too, in giving birth to her second child Horace, and her husband having followed her to the grave about three years later, the care of the children devolved upon their uncle Reginald, who had been appointed guardian.
But Reginald-being a somewhat careless man in many respects, and little given to children-took small heed of them, and, beyond providing masters for them at first, and later on sending them to school and college, and giving them choice of professions, had left them very much to their own devices.
True, when college debts accumulated, and pressing bills from long-suffering tradespeople came pouring in, he would rouse himself sufficiently to remonstrate with them in a feeble fashion, and, having received promises of amendment from both boys, he would pay their bills, make each a handsome present (as atonement for the mild scolding), and, having thus dropped a sop to Cerberus,—or conscience, -would dismiss money matters, nephews, and all from his thoughts.
So the children grew, from youth to boyhood, from boyhood to early manhood, with no one to whom to appeal for sympathy, with no woman's voice to teach them right from wrongs, -with few hardships, fewer troubles, and no affections.
Arthur Branscombe, indeed, who had come back from India six months after his father's death, and had stayed at Hythe for two interminable years (as they seemed to him), had during that time so worked himself into the heart of the eldest boy Dorian, and had so far taken him into his own in return, that long years had failed to efface the fondness of either. Indeed, now that he has returned from abroad (only, as fate has willed it, to take his brother's place), he finds the love he had grafted in the child still warm in the heart of the man.
Horace, the younger, had chosen his profession, and gone in heavily for law. But Dorian, who inherited two thousand a year from his father, and a charming residence, situated about three miles from Hythe, and two from the pretty village of Pullingham,-had elected to try his hand at farming, and was at first honestly believed in by confiding tenants, who discussed him as a being up to his eyes in agricultural lore and literally steeped in new and improved projects for the cultivation of land.
But time undeceived these good souls. And now, though they love him better, they believe in him not at all. To adore one's horses, and to be a perfect slave to one's dogs, is one thing; to find a tender interest in the price of guano, and a
growing admiration for prize pigs, is quite another. When Dorian had tried it for six months, he acknowledged, reluctantly, that to him mangels were an abomination, and over-fed cattle a wearying of the flesh!
Every now and then, indeed, he tells himself that he must “ look about him," as he calls it, and, smothering a sigh, starts for a quick walk across his land, and looks at a field or two, or into the nearest paddock, and asks his steward how things are going on, and if all is as satisfactory now as in the old days when his father held the reins of government, and, having listened absently to comfortable answers and cheerful predictions for the future, strolls away again, thoroughly content, not caring to investigate matters further.
He is fond of London life, and spends a good deal of his time there; is courted and petted and made much of by enterprising dowagers with marriageable daughters, as a young man charming, well bred, altogether chic, and undoubted heir to an earldom; for of Arthur Sartoris's ever marrying, now he has so long passed the prime of life, no one ever dreams.
He knows all the best people in town, and puts in a good time when there; is a fair hand at whist, and can beat most men at billiards; will now and then put money on a favorite for the Oaks or the Grand National, but cannot be said to regard gambling as an amusement. He is extravagant in many ways, but thoroughly unselfish and kind-hearted, and generous to a fault. He is much affected by women, and adored by children, who instinctively accept him as a true friend.
Horace, both in face and in figure, is strangely like his brother,-in character very different. He is tall and well built, with eyes large, dark, and liquid, but rather too closely set to be pleasing. His mouth is firm and somewhat hard, his smile soft, but uncertain. He is always charming to women, being outwardly blind to their caprices and an admirer of their follies, and is therefore an immense favorite with a certain class of them, whose minds are subservient to their bodies. Yet to every rule there is an exception. And by women good, and true, and loyal, Horace has been, and is, well beloved.
As Lord Sartoris and Dorian cross the hall, they meet Horace, and a pretty girl-tall, slender, and graceful-coming towards