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proceeded to describe the proposal which his
employers had addressed to him, with every external
appearance of viewing it in the light of an
intolerable hardship.

The great firm in the City had obviously made
a discovery in relation to their clerk, exactly
similar to the discovery which had formerly
forced itself on the engineer in relation to his
pupil. The young man, as they politely phrased
it, stood in need of some special stimulant to stir
him up. His employers (acting under a sense of
their obligation to the gentleman by whom Frank
had been recommended) had considered the question
carefully, and had decided that the one
promising use to which they could put Mr.
Francis Clare was to send him forthwith into
another quarter of the globe.

As a consequence of this decision, it was now
therefore proposed, that he should enter the
house of their correspondents in China; that
he should remain there, familiarising himself
thoroughly on the spot with the tea-trade and
the silk-trade, for five years; and that he should
return, at the expiration of this period, to the
central establishment in London. If he made a
fair use of his opportunities in China, he would
come back, while still a young man, fit for a
position of trust and emolument, and justified in
looking forward, at no distant date, to a time
when the House would assist him to start in
business for himself. Such were the new prospects
whichto adopt Mr. Clare's theorynow
forced themselves on the ever-reluctant,
ever-helpless, and ever-ungrateful Frank. There was
no time to be lost. The final answer was to be
at the office on "Monday, the twentieth;" the
correspondents in China were to be written to by
the mail on that day; and Frank was to follow
the letter by the next opportunity, or to resign
his chance in favour of some more enterprising
young man.

Mr. Clare's reception of this extraordinary
news was startling in the extreme. The glorious
prospect of his son's banishment to China
appeared to turn his brain. The firm pedestal of
his philosophy sank under him; the prejudices
of society recovered their hold on his mind. He
seized Frank by the arm, and actually
accompanied him to Combe-Raven, in the amazing
character of a visitor to the house!

"Here I am with my lout," said Mr. Clare, before
a word could be uttered by the astonished family.
"Hear his story, all of you. It has reconciled me,
for the first time in my life, to the anomaly of his
existence." Frank ruefully narrated the Chinese
proposal for the second time, and attempted to
attach to it his own supplementary statement of
objections and difficulties. His father stopped
him at the first word, pointed peremptorily
south-eastward (from Somersetshire to China); and
said, without an instant's hesitation: "Go!"
Mr. Vanstone, basking in golden visions of his
young friend's future, echoed that monosyllabic
decision with all his heart. Mrs. Vanstone, Miss
Garth, even Norah herself, spoke to the same
purpose. Frank was petrified by an absolute
unanimity of opinion which he had not anticipated;
and Magdalen was caught, for once in
her life, at the end of all her resources.

So far as practical results were concerned, the
sitting of the family council began and ended with
the general opinion that Frank must go. Mr.
Vanstone's faculties were so bewildered by the
son's sudden arrival, the father's unexpected
visit, and the news they both brought with them,
that he petitioned for an adjournment, before the
necessary arrangements connected with his young
friend's departure were considered in detail.
"Suppose we all sleep upon it?" he said.
"Tomorrow,  our heads will feel a little steadier; and
to-morrow will be time enough to decide all
uncertainties." This suggestion was readily
adopted; and all further proceedings stood
adjourned until the next day.

That next day was destined to decide more
uncertainties than Mr. Vanstone dreamed of.

Early in the morning, after making tea by
herself as usual, Miss Garth took her parasol, and
strolled into the garden. She had slept ill; and
ten minutes in the open air before the family
assembled at breakfast, might help to compensate
her, as she thought, for the loss of her night's
rest.

She wandered to the outermost boundary of
the flower-garden, and then returned by another
path, which led back, past the side of an
ornamental summer-house commanding a view over
the fields from a corner of the lawn. A slight
noiselike, and yet not like, the chirruping of
a birdcaught her ear, as she approached the
side of the summer-house. She stepped round
to the entrance; looked in; and discovered
Magdalen and Frank seated close together. To Miss
Garth's horror, Magdalen's arm was unmistakably
round Frank's neck; and, worse still, the
position of her face, at the moment of discovery,
showed beyond all doubt, that she had just been
offering to the victim of Chinese commerce, the
first and foremost of all the consolations which a
woman can bestow on a man. In plainer words,
she had just given Frank a kiss.

In the presence of such an emergency as now
confronted her, Miss Garth felt instinctively that
all ordinary phrases of reproof would be phrases
thrown away.

"I presume," she remarked, addressing
Magdalen with the merciless self-possession of a
middle-aged lady, unprovided for the occasion
with any kissing remembrances of her own—"I
presume (whatever excuses your effrontery may
suggest) you will not deny that my duty compels
me to mention what I have just seen to your
father?"

"I will save you the trouble," replied
Magdalen, composedly. "I will mention it to him
myself."

With those words, she looked round at Frank,
standing trebly helpless in a corner of the
summer-house. "You shall hear what happens,"

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