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"I beg your pardon," began Frank, attempting,
at this point, to enter his protest.

"The second character in the play," pursued
Magdalen, without taking the smallest notice of
the protest, "is Falklanda jealous lover, with
a fine flow of language. Miss Marrable and I
discussed Falkland privately on the window-seat
while the rest were talking. She is a delightful
girlso impulsive, so sensible, so entirely
unaffected. She confided in me. She said, 'One
of our miseries is that we can't find a gentleman
who will grapple with the hideous difficulties
of Falkland.' Of course I soothed her. Of
course I said, 'I've got the gentleman, and he
shall grapple immediately.'—'Oh, Heavens!
who is he?'—'Mr. Francis Clare.'—'And where
is he?'—'In the house at this moment.'—'Will
you be so very charming, Miss Vanstone, as to
fetch him?'—'I'll fetch him, Miss Marrable,
with the greatest pleasure.' I left the window-seat
I rushed into the morning-roomI smelt
cigarsI followed the smelland here I am."

"It's a compliment, I know, to be asked to
act," said Frank, in great embarrassment. "But
I hope you and Miss Marrable will excuse

"Certainly not. Miss Marrable and I are
both remarkable for the firmness of our
characters. When we say Mr. So-and-So is
positively to act the part of Falkland, we
positively mean it. Come in, and be introduced."

"But I never tried to act. I don't know

"Not of the slightest consequence. If you
don't know how, come to me, and I'll teach

"You!" exclaimed Mr. Vanstone. "What
do you know about it?"

"Pray, papa, be serious! I have the strongest
internal conviction that I could act every
character in the playFalkland included. Don't
let me have to speak a second time, Frank.
Come and be introduced."

She took her father's arm, and moved with
him to the door of the greenhouse. At the
steps, she turned and looked round to see if
Frank was following her. It was only the action
of a moment; but in that moment her natural
firmness of will rallied all its resources
strengthened itself with the influence of her
beautycommandedand conquered. She
looked lovely: the flush was tenderly bright
in her cheeks; the radiant pleasure shone and
sparkled in her eyes; the position of her figure,
turned suddenly from the waist upwards,
disclosed its delicate strength, its supple firmness,
its seductive serpentine grace. "Come!" she
said, with a coquettish beckoning action of her
head. "Come, Frank!"

Few men of forty would have resisted her, at
that moment. Frank was twenty, last birthday.
In other words, he threw aside his cigar, and
followed her out of the greenhouse.

As he turned and closed the doorin the
instant when he lost sight of herhis
disinclination to be associated with the private
theatricals revived. At the foot of the house-
steps he stopped again; plucked a twig from
a plant near him; broke it in his hand; and
looked about him uneasily, on this side and on
that. The path to the left led back to his
father's cottagethe way of escape lay open.
Why not take it?

While he still hesitated, Mr. Vanstone and
his daughter reached the top of the steps.
Once more, Magdalen looked round; looked
with her resistless beauty, with her all-conquering
smile. She beckoned again; and again he
followed herup the steps, and over the
threshold. The door closed on them.

So, with a trifling gesture of invitation on
one side, with a trifling act of compliance on the
other: sowith no knowledge in his mind, with
no thought in hers, of the secret still hidden
under the journey to Londonthey took the
way which led to that secret's discovery, through
many a darker winding that was yet to come.


THE stage English cottage and the real
English cottage are two very different things.

The canvas fabricover-dressed with painted
roses, at whose door the rustics who are
perpetually striking work in order to come forward
and sit down, and sing gaily about Annette at a
little flimsy three-legged green tablebears very
little resemblance to poor Pinchback's cottage in
Downshire. There are no flowers near it, but
a good deal too much of dung-heap; it is not
a bower of roses; it is a nest of rheumatism and
a den of ague and low fever.

But then the stage world, it may be said, is
not meant to represent English life exactly; and
it must be confessed that Sally Pinchback, who
wears old top-boots of the squire's, and her
father's great-coat, and goes out from seven A.M.
to five P.M. stone-picking in the fields, does
not bear much resemblance to that maypole
dancing ballet-girl Annette, who comes on the
stage in an exceedingly short gown, and carries
a crook with bunches of blue ribbon tied to it
which is in everybody's wayand a little flower-
basket on her left armwhich is of no use. It
would be needless to describe, therefore, the
economy of the stage labourer's cottage, as
a preparation to describing that of the real
Downshire labourer's; so we proceed at once to
discuss the merits and defects of the latter, and
the duties of landlords to increase the advantages
of such residences, and to diminish the
number of their evils.

The country clergyman, and all who know the
poor well and love that patient long-suffering
race, feel deeply how much the present miserable
condition of the labourer's cottage not only
diminishes his happiness, but lowers his
morality. No one will deny that poor Pinchback,
leads a hard life. No Opera in it, Lady Mouser
no hunting, Lord Rasperno gay theatre,
young Mr. Pittno club, your Graceno books,
dear authorsno grand tours, excellent travellers!
No; Pinchback rises at dark and goes