You know I don’t want to be bride’s-maid to anybody!”

“And Dolly’s to be the fourth,” was her father’s idiotic reply.

Here Number Three put in her oar. “Oh, it is settled, Mother dear,

really and truly! Mary told us all about it. It’s to be next Tuesday

four weeks–and three of her cousins are coming; to be bride’s-maids–


“She doesn’t forget it, Minnie!” the Mother laughingly replied.

“I do wish they’d get it settled! I don’t like long engagements.”

And Minnie wound up the conversation–if so chaotic a series of remarks

deserves the name–with “Only think! We passed the Cedars this

morning, just exactly as Mary Davenant was standing at the gate,

wishing good-bye to Mister—I forget his name. Of course we looked

the other way.”

By this time I was so hopelessly confused that I gave up listening,

and followed the dinner down into the kitchen.

But to you, O hypercritical reader, resolute to believe no item of this

weird adventure, what need to tell how the mutton was placed on the

spit, and slowly unroasted–how the potatoes were wrapped in their

skins, and handed over to the gardener to be buried–how, when the

mutton had at length attained to rawness, the fire, which had gradually

changed from red-heat to a mere blaze, died down so suddenly that the

cook had only just time to catch its last flicker on the end of a

match–or how the maid, having taken the mutton off the spit, carried

it (backwards, of course) out of the house, to meet the butcher,

who was coming (also backwards) down the road?

The longer I thought over this strange adventure, the more hopelessly

tangled the mystery became: and it was a real relief to meet Arthur in

the road, and get him to go with me up to the Hall, to learn what news

the telegraph had brought. I told him, as we went, what had happened

at the Station, but as to my further adventures I thought it best, for

the present, to say nothing.

The Earl was sitting alone when we entered. “I am glad you are come in

to keep me company,” he said. “Muriel is gone to bed–the excitement

of that terrible scene was too much for her–and Eric has gone to the

hotel to pack his things, to start for London by the early train.”

“Then the telegram has come?” I said.

“Did you not hear? Oh, I had forgotten: it came in after you left the

Station. Yes, it’s all right: Eric has got his commission; and, now

that he has arranged matters with Muriel, he has business in town that

must be seen to at once.”

“What arrangement do you mean?” I asked with a sinking heart, as the

thought of Arthur’s crushed hopes came to my mind. “Do you mean that

they are engaged?”

“They have been engaged–in a sense–for two years,” the old man gently


“that is, he has had my promise to consent to it, so soon as he could

secure a permanent and settled line in life. I could never be happy

with my child married to a man without an object to live for–without

even an object to die for!”

“I hope they will be happy,” a strange voice said. The speaker was

evidently in the room, but I had not heard the door open, and I looked

round in some astonishment. The Earl seemed to share my surprise.

“Who spoke?” he exclaimed.

“It was I,” said Arthur, looking at us with a worn, haggard face,

and eyes from which the light of life seemed suddenly to have faded.

“And let me wish you joy also, dear friend,” he added, looking sadly at

the Earl, and speaking in the same hollow tones that had startled us so


“Thank you,” the old man said, simply and heartily.

A silence followed: then I rose, feeling sure that Arthur would wish to

be alone, and bade our gentle host ‘Good night’: Arthur took his hand,

but said nothing: nor did he speak again, as we went home till we were

in the house and had lit our bed-room candles. Then he said more to

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Categories: Carroll, Lewis