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by dwelling on the details of this affair.
Constance, coming from the convent where she
was learning French, would contrive to meet
him. This he abstractedly would set down to
pure accident. Then would follow a walk, in
which she, with some art, invited him to the
subject of his troubles. She found his bitter
complaints of the place and its society did him
good.

"I know what the plan on foot now is," he
would say, excitedly. "Only fancyto let that
poor young girl be sacrificed among these
wretches, all because they think it will annoy
me. It is shocking; is it not? But it shall not
take place. I know aboutthem more than
they think."

He had known the squire, and he thought
him a simple, foolish, but good man, who would
be sure to take fright at a warning; or even a
hint. "I have only to say a word. Though,
indeed, if we were to set about exposing all
the impostors that come into this place, where
would it end?"

Constance, though admiring everything he
did or even proposed, could not restrain the look
of distress that came into her face. "Don't
do that," she said, imploringly. "Oblige me
in that one little thing."

"Why?" he asked, smiling at her
earnestness.

"Because it will lead to mischief. They will
combine against you, and make a party; for
they are such cruel, unscrupulous people, and
stick at nothing. Dearest cousin, do this one
little thing for me. I know I am foolish; but
I would not see you more unhappy thanI
mean unhappy, that is——"

"Unhappy," he said. "Well, now I do
think you are a foolish cousin, and you must
think me an empty, childish man indeed.
Unhappy. Why? No. I am interested, and
therefore should be happy. Unhappy because
a light, not overwise girl, whose father, as they
say, I am old enough to be, has chosen to play
off her girlish tricks on me? No, no; we shall
wait to see the end, whatever that end may
be."

"Poor foolish unhappy child," said she, with
real sympathy. "I feel a conviction it will not
end as she wishesthat Vivian will never
marry her."

"You think so?" he said, eagerly. "So do
Iso do I. These soldiers are not of the
marrying mind. I could tell her half a dozen
instances myself of disappointment; but she
is impatient. We will know very soon; for
he will get orders to join his regiment, and
then the thing must be decided one way or
other."

That evening he went up to the squire,
who had quite lost his timorous air of
gratitude for being noticed, and had actually
grown pompous, with an air of business and
importance. Mr. West, perhaps, was not the
most skilful negotiator; but he was in earnest.
He quietly said: "You are a great deal with
those Beauforts, and I suppose know all about
them and their family?" The other thought,
foolishly, that his interest was about being
sought for one of the little dinners.

"Oh, I know them very well," he said,
pompously. "We are quite a set together, you
know; but really I have made it a rule not to
make any request of them. Blacker settles
everything for them."

"They say they are from Staffordshire, I
think," went on Mr. West, taking no notice of
Wilkinson's disclaimer.

"Oh dear yes," said the other. "Beaufort
Manor is one of the show places; charming
people they are."

"No doubt; but to places of this sort many
charming people come whose account of
themselves is their only guarantee. You see, Mr.
Wilkinson, you have not been abroad before,
andone learns to be very cautious.

The other's face grew red. "I don't
understand. I know as muchand can take care
of myself as other men. What do you mean?
I am sure——"

"Are you sure," said the other, "that they
are the Beauforts of that show place you spoke
of?"

"Of course they are. We are to go there
and spend a month when they go back. What
on earth are you insinuating?"

"Because," said Mr. West, a little
imprudently, "I heard in London that those very
Beauforts have no children."

"I am sure I don't know," said the other,
impatiently. "One can hear plenty of idle
stories in London, if one only listens to them.
I don't understand."

Wilkinson went away fuming, but a little
troubled. The first person he met was Mr.
Dacres, who sang out to him cheerfully, with
his hand extended:

"Ah, hermit so grey, and so reverend too,
Tell me what pain is this at my heart!

Well, my troubadour, how is the bewitching
Mrs. W. to-day?"

"She is gone to drive with the Beauforts.
By the way," he said, doubtfully, "wouldn't
you say those Beauforts were what you call all
right?"

"God bless me," said Mr. Dacres, quickly,
"have they blown up? Are they gone off?
Have they, too, levanted?"

"Not at all," said Wilkinson, testily; "but
I just parted from that Mr. West there, and he
had some story about the real Beauforts having
no children."

"Oh, that was it," said Mr. Dacres, thoughtfully;
"that came from West, did it? My
gentleman says more than his prayers.
Methinks, knowing what I do of that party,
that I should leave the case to any jury
(not a French one, of course), and they'd
give their opinion of him, without turning
round in the box. My opinion, sir, of the
said Mr. West is sowellnot so high as it
was."

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