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statement rather too carefully worded; and,
suspecting him of trying to make the best of a
bad case, would have entertained serious doubts
on the subject of Frank's future. Mr. Vanstone
was too easy-tempered and sanguineand too
anxious as well, not to yield his old antagonist
an inch more ground than he could helpto
look at the letter from any such unfavourable
point of view. Was it Frank's fault if he had
not got the stuff in him that engineers were
made of? Did no other young men ever begin
life with a false start? Plenty began in that
way, and got over it, and did wonders
afterwards. With these commentaries on the letter,
the kind-hearted gentleman patted Frank on the
shoulder. "Cheer up, my lad!" said Mr.
Vanstone. "We will be even with your father one
of these days, though he has won the wager this

The example thus set by the master of the
house, was followed at once by the familywith
the solitary exception of Norah, whose incurable
formality and reserve expressed themselves, not
too graciously, in her distant manner towards
the visitor. The rest, led by Magdalen (who
had been Frank's favourite playfellow in past
times), glided back into their old easy habits
with him, without an effort. He was "Frank"
with all of them but Norah, who persisted in
addressing him as "Mr. Clare." Even the
account he was now encouraged to give of the
reception accorded to him by his father on the
previous night, failed to disturb Norah's gravity.
She sat with her dark handsome face steadily
averted, her eyes cast down, and the rich colour
in her checks warmer and deeper than usual.
All the rest, Miss Garth included, found old Mr.
Clare's speech of welcome to his son, quite
irresistible. The noise and merriment were at their
height, when the servant came in, and struck
the whole party dumb by the announcement of
visitors in the drawing-room. "Mr. Marrable,
Mrs. Marrable, and Miss Marrable; Evergreen
Lodge, Clifton."

Norah rose as readily as if the new arrivals
had been a relief to her mind. Mrs. Vanstone
was the next to leave her chair. These two
went away first, to receive the visitors.
Magdalen, who preferred the society of her father
and Frank, pleaded hard to be left behind; but
Miss Garth, after granting five minutes' grace,
took her into custody, and marched her out of
the room. Frank rose to take his leave.

"No, no," said Mr. Vanstone, detaining him.
"Don't go. These people won't stop long. Mr.
Marrable's a merchant at Bristol. I've met
him once or twice, when the girls forced me to
take them to parties at Clifton. Mere acquaintances,
nothing more. Come and smoke a cigar
in the greenhouse. Hang all visitorsthey
worry one's life out. I'll appear at the last
moment with an apology; and you shall follow
me at a safe distance, and be a proof that I was
really engaged."

Proposing this ingenious stratagem in a
confidential whisper, Mr. Vanstone took Frank's
arm, and led him round the house by the back
way. The first ten minutes of seclusion in the
conservatory, passed without events of any
kind. At the end of that time, a flying figure
in bright garments flashed upon the two
gentlemen through the glassthe door was flung
openflower-pots fell in homage to passing
petticoatsand Mr. Vanstone's youngest daughter
ran up to him at headlong speed, with every
external appearance of having suddenly taken
leave of her senses.

"Papa! the dream of my whole life is
realised," she said, as soon as she could speak. "I
shall fly through the roof of the greenhouse, if
somebody doesn't hold me down. The
Marrables have come here with an invitation.
Guess, you darlingguess what they're going to
give at Evergreen Lodge!"

"A ball," said Mr. Vanstone, without a
moment's hesitation.

"Private Theatricals!!!" cried Magdalen,
her clear young voice ringing through the
conservatory like a bell; her loose sleeves falling
back, and showing her round white arms to the
dimpled elbows, as she clapped her hands
ecstatically in the air. "The Rivals is the play,
papathe Rivals by the famous what's-his-
nameand they want ME to act! The one
thing in the whole universe that I long to do
most. It all depends on you. Mamma shakes
her head; and Miss Garth looks daggers; and
Norah's as sulky as usualbut if you say Yes,
they must all three give way, and let me do as
I like. Say yes," she pleaded, nestling softly
up to her father, and pressing her lips with a
fond gentleness to his ear, as she whispered the
next words. "Say Yesand I'll be a good
girl for the rest of my life."

"A good girl?" repeated Mr. Vanstone—"a
mad girl, I think you must mean. Hang these
people, and their theatricals! I shall have to
go in-doors, and see about this matter. You
needn't throw away your cigar, Frank. You're
well out of the business, and you can stop

"No he can't," said Magdalen. "He's in
the business too."

Mr. Francis Clare had hitherto remained
modestly in the background. He now came
forward, with a face expressive of speechless

"Yes," continued Magdalen, answering his
blank look of inquiry with perfect composure.
"You are to act. Miss Marrable and I have a
turn for business, and we settled it all in five
minutes. There are two parts in the play left
to be filled. One is Lucy, the waiting-maid;
which is the character I have undertakenwith
papa's permission," she added, slyly pinching
her father's arm; "and he won't say No, will
he? First, because he's a darling; secondly,
because I love him and he loves me; thirdly,
because there is never any difference of opinion
between us (is there?); fourthly, because I give
him a kiss, which naturally stops his mouth and
settles the whole question. Dear me, I'm
wandering. Where was I, just now? Oh yes!
explaining myself to Frank——"