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"Public gossip is sometimes the best security
for the due completion of private arrangements.
As long as a girl is not known to be engaged,
her betrothed must be prepared for rivals.
Announce the engagement, and rivals are warned
off."

"I fear no rivals."

"Do you not? Bold man! I suppose you
will write to Lilian?"

"Certainly."

"Do so, and constantly. By the way, Mrs.
Ashleigh, before she went, asked me to send
her back Lady Haughton's letter of invitation.
What for? to show to you?"

"Very likely. Have you the letter still?
May I see it?"

"Not just at present. When Lilian or Mrs.
Ashleigh write to you, come and tell me how
they like their visit, and what other guests
form the party."

Therewith she turned away and conversed
apart with the traveller.

Her words disquieted me, and I felt that they
were meant to do so. Wherefore, I could not
guess. But there is no language on earth which
has more words with a double meaning than
that spoken by the Clever Woman, who is never
so guarded as when she appears to be frank.

As I walked home thoughtfully, I was accosted
by a young man, the son of one of the wealthiest
merchants in the town. I had attended him
with success, some months before, in a rheumatic
fever; he and his family were much attached
to me.

"Ah, my dear Fenwick, I am so glad to see
you; I owe you an obligation of which you are not
awarean exceedingly pleasant travelling
companion. I came with him to-day from London,
where I have been sight-seeing and holiday-
making for the last fortnight."

"I suppose you mean that you kindly bring
me a patient?"

"No, only an admirer. I was staying at
Fenton's Hotel. It so happened one day that I
had left in the coffee-room your last work
on the Vital Principle, which, by-the-by, the
bookseller assures me is selling immensely
among readers as non-professional as myself.
Coming into the coffee-room again I found a
gentleman reading it. I claimed it politely; he
as politely tendered his excuse for taking it.
We made acquaintance on the spot. The next
day we were intimate. He expressed great
interest and curiosity about your theory and your
experiments. I told him I knew you. You
may guess if I described you as less clever in
your practice than you are in your writings.
And, in short, he came with me to L——, partly
to see our flourishing town, principally on my
promise to introduce him to you. My mother,
you know, has what she calls a déjeúner
tomorrow; déjeúner and dance. You will be
there?"

"Thank you for reminding me of her invitation.
I will avail myself of it if I can. Your
new friend will be present? Who and what is
he? A medical student?"

"No, a mere gentleman at ease; but seems
to have a good deal of general information.
Very young; apparently yery rich; wonderfully
good-looking. I am sure you will like him;
everybody must."

"It is quite enough to prepare me to like him,
that he is a friend of yours." And so we shook
hands and parted.

                    CHAPTER XXIII.

IT was late in the afternoon of the following
day before I was able to join the party assembled
at the merchant's house; it was a villa about two
miles out of the town, pleasantly situated, amidst
flower-gardens celebrated in the neighbourhood
for their beauty. The breakfast had been
long over; the company was scattered over the
lawn; some formed into a dance on the smooth
lawn; some seated under shady awnings; others
gliding amidst parterres, in which all the glow
of colour took a glory yet more vivid under
the flush of a brilliant sunshine, and the ripple
of a soft western breeze. Music, loud and lively,
mingled with the laughter of happy children,
who formed much the larger number of the
party.

Standing at the entrance of an arched trellis,
that led from the hardier flowers of the lawn to
a rare collection of tropical plants under a lofty
glass dome (connecting, as it were, the familiar
vegetation of the North with that of the
remotest East), was a form that instantaneously
caught and fixed my gaze. The entrance of the
arcade was covered with parasite creepers, in
prodigal luxuriance, of variegated gorgeous
tintsscarlet, golden, purpleand the form, an
idealised picture of man's youth fresh from the
hand of Nature, stood literally in a frame of
blooms. Never have I seen human face so
radiant as that young man's.

There was in the aspect an indescribable
something that literally dazzled. As one continued
to gaze, it was with surprise, one was forced
to acknowledge that in the features themselves
there was no faultless regularity; nor was the
young man's stature imposingabout the
middle height. But the effect of the whole was
not less transcendent. Large eyes, unspeakably
lustrous; a most harmonious colouring; an
expression of contagious animation and
joyousness; and the form itself so critically fine,
that the welded strength of its sinews was best
shown in the lightness and grace of its
movements.

He was resting one hand carelessly on
the golden locks of a child that had nestled
itself against his knees, looking up in his
face, in that silent loving wonder, with which
children regard something too strangely
beautiful for noisy admiration; he himself was
conversing with the host, an old grey-haired gouty
man, propped on his crutch-stick, and listening
with a look of mournful envy. To the wealth
of the old man all the flowers in that garden
owed their renewed delight in the summer air
and sun. Oh, that his wealth could renew to
himself one hour of the youth that stood beside

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