FAR STRANGER THAN FICTION.

FAR STRANGER THAN FICTION.

CHAPTER VI.—Continued.

“I was sitting one day in her ladyship’s bedroom mending some lace, when I heard voices of people talking on the other side of the partition. The rooms were divided with wood panelling, and every word came as quite distinct to me as if spoken in my very ear. I might not have taken so much notice, only it seemed strange to hear English spoken in France; and besides, I felt as if I knew the voice.”

“It seems you did too.”

Yes, It was my old mistress’s voice, Mrs. Wilkins. She said,

We ought to leave here at once. It will never do to run the risk of meeting her at such close quarters.”

Then the other lady answered, in the slow sort of drawling way Miss Emily had of talking, and with her little lisp,

You are sure you made no mistake ? “

Do you think 1 am purblind or doting? ” asked Mrs. Wilkins. “ I saw her going out with her mistress this morning. Mistake ! One can’t mistake a face one has lived in the house with for years. She must not meet you again. I would rather run the gauntlet of a dozen detectives than one lady’s maid. There are a hundred little things they notice about one of their own sex a man would never see.”

“ It was a true observation,” remarked Mr. Ramsden, “ and one which did credit to the old lady’s astuteness. Well, what did the other answer ? ”

“ They were interrupted, I think—at any rate, I heard no more ; but what I had heard excited my curiosity, I asked Lady Poplett if she would kindly ask whether a Mrs. Wilkins was in the hotel, and the number of the room. I can’t think what possessed me, for I am sure I did not want to be mixed up with them ; but I sent a message t say I should like to pay my duty to Mrs. Mason.”

“ Yes ; and the answer ? ”

“ I had leave to do so ; but I did not see Mrs. Mason then, only Mrs. Wilkins, and she was chatty and pleasant, to be sure. She was so sorry her daughterwas out (but I knew she was not out), and didn’t 1 think her altered ? She said poor dear Mr. Mason had been a great trial, and there was no disguising the fact his death had’proved a great relief. Emily had been very ill for a long time after she was left a widow, and all that sort of thing; and then she asked lots of questions about what I was doing and how I happened to be in Paris.

“ 1 told her how I was leaving almost immediately, and asked if I could take anything back for her to England ; and then she was civil. She thought she would trouble me with a small parcel, and she only only wished Miss Emily was in ; but she had gone to see some friends in the outskirts, and would be away for a few days. Before I started, however, I managed to make sure Mrs. Mason was in the hotel all the time, and myself unseen to get a good look at her.

“ She is very like Miss Emily. I declare, even after what I had heard, I could riot have said for certain it was not my young mistress grown older, stouter and better looking.”

There was a moment’s pause. Mr. Ramsden turned his eyes upon Mr. Mason’s anxious face, then he looked at Mrs. Calcey, and said briskly,

“ We come, now, to the time when you went out of town with Master Arthur Montrelle. Tell me about what happened at the lodgings then, please.”

“ I had not a thought in my mind then about Mrs. Wilkins or her daughter,” answered Mrs. Calcey. ” I was troubled at having the whole care of Master Arthur, and yet I felt glad too. When he began to get stronger I did not stay in his room at night; and often after he was in bed I went down into the landlady’s parlor and had a chat with her, or else into the kitchen ; for the servant was a nice respectable young woman, well spoken and good principled.

“ One night it^o happened she had brought a little fancy sort of trunk—a kind of minature trunk, small enough to carry about easily and set on a table—into the kitchen to look out some buttons she wanted to trim a dres6.

“ They had got scattered about among the other things, and she turned out several articles in order to find them more easily.

« At last she put a funny box bffore my eyes, and said,

“ Did you ever see anything like that before? ” Evidently meaning that I never had.

I looked at it, and I looked again.

” May I take off the lid ? ” I asked.

“ And turn over everything there is inside, if you like,” she answered.

“ Where on earth did you get it ? ” I said.

“ A lady that is dead gave it to me,” she explained, going on looking for her buttons. ” It is more curious than pretty, I think ; but I havc kept it for her sake. Poor Mrs. Mason, she did suffer.”

“ Her words gave me such a turn, I could not see for a minute Lamp, table, box, everything seemed to go round and round ; but at last my head steadied, and there was Alice still hunting for buttons.

I asked her to tell me all about Mrs. Mason. I said I once lived with a lady of that name; and she told me all quite straight. How she was living in London at the time with a Miss Gresham, who let out apartments, and Mrs. Mason and her mother came up from somewhere in the country, so as to be near medical advice.

“ They were going abroad as soon as the younger lady got well eriough to travel; “ But, Lor,” said Alice, “ she soon went a far longer journey. When the doctor came, he said she was in a galloping consumption ; and sure enough it was all over within a couple of months. The poor mother did take on dreadful; it might have touched a heart of stone to see her. 1 heard her say one day to her daughter. “ 1 don’t know, Emilv, what will become of me when you are gone.’ And Mrs. Mason answered quite indifferent like ; but then she was so bad and ill that no doubt she did not care much about anything. “ It is unfortunate, certainly, mamma, but it is not my fault.” There was no shortness of money, but they seemed friendless and all alone in the world. Not a soul came to see them, and not a creature ‘ followed ’ but the mother.’ ”

“ Humph ! ” said Mr. Ramsden dryly. “ Do you happen to remember, Briart, where this Miss Gresham lived ? ”

“ I took it all down, sir, as I got it from Alice—leastways 1 wrote it in a book when I got to my own room. The name of the street and the number, the address of the doctor—everything you will find set down here, sir;” and Mrs. Calcey handed him an old diary bound in red morocco, which had been given to her years and years previously.

“ You have no idea, I suppose,” asked Mr. Ramsden, as he took the book from her, “ who this lady is that you suppose cannot be Miss Emily, otherwise Mrs. Mason ? ”

“ Yes, sir, I have,” was the unexpected reply; “ and that came about in a most curious way too. A mate of my poor dear husband’s was born and reared in that part of the country whe’e all the Wilkinses belonged. He used to lodge with us, and many a time has talked about Mrs. Wilkins and her mean ways, and Miss Emily, afterwards Mrs. Mason. He remembered her from a child.

“Well, after I came to London, to Mr. Montrelle’s, 1 saw him two or three times at my cousin’s, and once he chanced to say he had been working on the line near Purling; and at church there he had seen my former mistress, Mrs. Wilkins.

“And Mrs. Mason too, I suppose?” I said.

“No,” he answered ; ” she was not there, but her cousin was—old Mat. Wilkins’ daughter; she would make two of Miss Emily, and has the loveliest head of hair you ever looked at.”

“ I asked a few questions, and found out all he could tell me; and that is all sir, I think.”

“ Very good,” commented Mr. Ramsden ; and now turning to Mr. Mason, he added, “ I suppose you will leave the matter with me.”

“ Heavens knows I do not desire to have any say in it,” answered the young man ; then, turning to Mrs. Calcey, he added, “ You will not mention the affair to any one without my pertnission, Ellen.”

” No, sir. I never have said a word about it except to my mother; and I should not have spoken now, only that 1 could not rest with the weight of it on my mind.”

CHAPTER VII.

A MF.RRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR.

CHRISTMAS-EVE came to the great world of London, and especially, so it seemed to Mrs. Calcey, to the large house in the unfashionable square.

Such a season for gifts was never beheld. Such people for giving as the Montrelles it would have been difficult to find.

Out of their small income they contrived to make more homes happy than many with ten times their wea.th.

As for Miss Molly, a sum of money had been sent to her on the morning of the 24th, anonymously, which quite turned her head.

On the inside of the envelope was written in an unknown hand ;

“A trifle to aid in helping your humble friends to spend a merry Christmas.”

And be sure that money did not long burn her pockets.

To one she sent coals; to another a joint; to a third some warm apparel; where there were children, toys ; where there was illness, the nourishment or the attendance which seemed most needed. Ellen was about with her all that day ; and Ellen watched her in the evening, when Mr. Mason came and kissed her, not under the jmistletoe, but away from all the others.

“ My darling,” he said, “ I wonder if before this time next year you will agree to make me as happy as you have those poor people today.”

And there was a hopeful tone in his voice, and a glad light in his eye, Ellen had never heard in the one, or seen before in the other.

That night, as they gathered round the hearth, after all the guests had departed, his talk ran on Martinly Hall.

“Now would be the time for you to see the place, Mrs. Montrelle,” he said, “ while it is tenantless;” and then they all laughed at the idea, as though it were a capital joke; and one of the boys insisted upon the ghost story associated with the Hall being repeated at length, and the younger girls said they should be afraid to go to bed after bearing it, and Molly smiled softly with a tender love-light shining in her sweet face.

The next morning what kissing and making of presents there was before breakfast! It was a pretty sight to see the family gathered about their mother, wishing her a merry, merry Christmas, and papa wiping his spectacles with suspicious persistency, and saying. “ There, there, that will do! Why you might still be babies !”

Not a servant in the house was forgotten. Even the boy who cleaned the knives and polished the boots found his present lying ready directed beside his brushes, and a bright half-crown folded in tissuepaper for him to take home to his grandmother.

They all went to church, and after an early dinner spent a quiet cosy evening.

They never had much company on a Christinas day; only their own, very own, people—mamma’s sister’s and brothers, and papa’s onlynephew and niece. There were no reconciliations, because there were no preceding quarrels ; but all family ties seemed to be knit more closely upon each succeeding Christmas-day ; and the children learnt from the looks they saw passing amongst their elders many ami many a lesson, which served them in good stead when the time came for them to go into the world, and to strive and keep their hearts untainted by it.

Before they separated, Mr. Mason pressed into the hand of each person present a little note.

“ It is only an invitation,” he explained ; and then went away, to let them read his words at their leisure.

“I want you all to do me the great favor of spending Twelfth-day at Martinly Hall,” that was what he said ; “ Mr. Montrelle will arrange about the journey, if you can do me this kindness.”

Then there was a great cry.

He had not been jesting, then ; something wonderful had happened, and papa was in the secret.

“ And Molly too,” added the boys.

“ No,” said Molly. “ I know nothing ; but I think there is something to know, and that papa knows it.

“And papa is not going to tell it,” answered that gentleman. “ However, I may inform you that a most wonderful twelfth-cake is going to be ordered to-morrow, and that I for one mean to accept the invitation.”

“You would like to know what has been done, and how Mrs. Wilkins took it all,” remarked Mr. Ramsden to Ellen, when he asked to see her for a minute ere leaving town. “ There is not going to be any trial or any prison or any punishment. We ought not, of course, to have shown mercy; but Mr. Mason’s heart is softer than the typical nether millstone, and he found it easier to forgive your old mistress than to send her to prison.

“ I went down and had a quiet chat with her; remarked that sve knew es’erything, even to the fact of her having vainly tried to insure her daughter’s life. (I heard that quite accidentally, and it was refused because her lungs were hopelessly gone.)

“ She is a wonderful old lady. She listened tome without saying a word till I had quite finished; then she asked.

Can’t you give me a fortnight? By that time Mrs. Mason will be transformed into Mrs. Glive.”

“ No,” I answered, “ not an hour.”

“ You will leave us our savings, at any rate,” she persisted.

“Yes,” I said, “ we would do that.”

And you will keep it out of the newspapers.”

“ 1 agreed to do that also, if she promised to make some excuse to the vicar at Purling for breaking off the match.”

If you like to live honestly for the future,” I said, “ we will not prevent you doing so ; but we will not allow you to spoil any more lives— do you understand ?”

” Miss Wilkins was even easier to manage. She reproached her aunt in no measured terms, and wrote and signed a full confession of the rise and progress of the imposition. That is all I have to say about them. There will be a wedding in the spring, I hope, and a bride at Martinly, God bless her!”

As for the Twelfth-day at Martinly, was there ever such a Twelfthday spent any where before or since ? Such cartloads ot holly, such piles of red berries, such miles of green wreaths, such lavish adornment of the old portraits, such fires, such logs of wood, such a welcome, such fare, such a cake, only eclipsed by one which was cut when the primroses were dotting the hedgerows, and the snowdrops were blooming above the bare earth.

The master had come to his own, and not a heart could be so cold or envious as to refrain from wishing him joy.

And flitting about the dear old house, half frightened, half pleased, too simple to be over-elated, and yet too wise to realize the magnitude of the change which had so suddenly been wrought, was that dear Miss Molly, who had, so her father said, made poverty seem sweeter to him, and who would enhance all the pleasures his riches could bring to the owner of Martinly.

*’ You arc to keep the lodge, Ellen, if you will,” said Mr. Mason to Mrs. Calcey, pointing to a dear little house, built of dark stone and covered all over with roses and creepers.

“ And bring your mother and the children to live with you,” supplemented Miss Molly.

But Ellen could not answer either of them for happy tears. She fell it would be easier for her to leave the cottage by the canal than to part from Miss Molly.

That was a Twelfth day 1 It is remembered and talked about still in many a home, from which the shadows were lifted when the owner crossed the threshold of the house he had hitherto scarcely looked upon as his own.

[THE END.)

FAR STRANGER THAN FICTION.

FAR STRANGER THAN FICTION.

CHAPTER V.

ELLEN’S PERPLEXITY.

Before Mrs. Calcey arrived at Dapplemead, a change for the better had taken place in her child’s condition, and although the doctor could not pronounce him out of danger, yet he spoke more hopefully about the boy, and said that possibly he might be able to save him.

For days and nights the mother sat beside the bed, feeling with Jacob, “ If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved.” But at the end of a week all cause for anxiety was over ; and the little fellow, weak but convalescent, was smiling in his mother’s face, and playing with her dress.

At Dapplemead, however, as in London, Mrs. Calcey was subject to those fits of abstraction which so puzzled her fellow-servants.

When her child lay asleep she would sit for an hour at a stretch doing nothing, lookiirg at nothing, but seemingly lost in a reverie. If at such times airy one addressed her she would start and look confused, as though suddenly aroused from a dreim. She said she was happy in her situation, and had no words sufficient to express her affection for Mrs. Montrelle and all the family ; and yet she seemed unsettled and unhappy, alternating between feverish activity and idle depression.

Mrs. Briart had not been slow to notice this change, which she at first attributed to anxiety concerning the child ; but she could not avoid seeing that, so far from growing more cheerful when the first pressing dread was over, her daughter seemed to sink into a state of greater despondency. She waited for a short time, thinking that perhaps confidence might be given unasked, for never befote had she known Ellen keep a secret from her ; but, observing no symptom of frankness, she determined one evening to broach the subject.

It was Sunday evening; the children were in bed; the fire had burnt low at d bright ; the kitchen where they sat was snug and warm ; there was roup in a little saucepan on the trivet, getting hot for their suppers by anil by ; the Pilgrim’s Progress lay open on the round table, and the place where she had been reading was marked by Mrs. Brian’s spectacles. The light given by one candle seemed rather to increase the gloom rather than to dispel it. Leaning back in an old armchair, Mrs. Calcey watched the glowing embers, but spoke never a word.

“You have got something on your mind, girl,” said Mrs. Briart, breaking the silence with an abruptness which made her daughter start.

And if I have, mother?” asked the younger woman.

” Why, you had better tell me all about it,” was the answer.

“ Perhaps if I did you would say you would rather I had held my tongue.”

“Try me,” advised Mrs. Briart. Then, as the other relapsed into her accustomed silence, she repeated the words once again.

” Try me,” she said ; and she stretched out her hand, and stroked her daughter’s hair with a touch that seemed to carry comfort in its quiet tenderness.

” Mother ; 1 am very unhappy,” began Mrs. Calcey.

“ I see you are, Nell.”

“ I do not know what to think or to do,”

“Suppose we take counsel together, then, dear. Two heads are better than one, it is said.”

“ But I do not want to make you uncomfortable.”

“ I cannot be comfortable seeing you troubled as you are.”

“ I think, mother, you will never believe what I am going to tell you.”

“I will believe anything, Nell, unless you tell me you are going to marry again ; and I should be very sorry to have to believe that.”

The younger widow shook her head.

“ I do not think I shall ever come to you with that story, mother.”

“ Well, then, what is the story ?” asked the elder woman, impatiently. “You have not robbed or murdered anybody, I suppose ?”

“ No; I have not robbed any one.”

” Who has, then, in the name of patience ?” cried Mrs. Briart. “For gracious’ sake, Nell, speak out, and let us have done with it. All my life long I could never a-bear secrets yid mysteries.”

“I am sure I do not like them either ; and if I could only make up my mind what was right—”

“ I should think no one need ever think twice about what is right; that must be always clear enough,” interrupted her mother. “Come, child, let us hear all about it.”

“ You know I have told you what a nice young lady Miss Molly is,” began Mrs. Calcey.

” Yes ; sure, but it is nothing about her, I hope.”

“ And what a pleasant, affable, generous gentleman she has got for a lover.”

Mrs. Briart nodded.

“ But I have not told you his name.”

Her mother looked up interested, but spoke no word.

“ It is Mason ; he is that “ Hal” Mr. Harlesdon Mason talked about on his deathbed, and he is the owner now of Martinly Hall.”

“ Then he will be a good match for your Miss Molly.”

“ No ; they are so poor they can’t marry at present. It seems that Mr. Harlesdon made some settlement on Miss Emily, which gives her three thousand a year for life ; and as long as she lives this gentleman has nothing but the old Hall and a small quantity of land. These could not be willed away or settled ; but master might have left the three thousand a year to his wife if he had liked, and then she could have given it to any one she chose. That was what Mrs. Wilkins wanted him to do, I believe, on his deathbed; but he would not. The way things are now is, that while Mrs. Mason lives he is, in a manner of speaking, a beggar. There is some mortgage on the Hall; and there are expenses connected with keeping up the place.It has been let till lately ; but the gentleman who rented it has lost all his money and been obliged to go abroad ; so that really, as far as I can understand, the present Mr. Mason is worse off than if he had no property at all.”

“Still property is property,” remarked Mrs. Briart sapiently ; “and when Mrs. Mason dies he will have a vast of money ; though to be sure she is as likely to outlive him as he is to outlast her.”

Her daughter did not answer. She only leant her head on her hand and looked into the fire.

“ Why need you trouble yourself about it, Nell ?” asked her mother, after a pause. ” After all a wife is a wife, and Mr. Mason had a right to do what he liked with his own.”

“ I never heard anybody say he had not,” replied Mrs. Calcey ; ” but it is not that which worries me.”

“Well, what is it, then ?”

“You see, if Mrs. Mason were dead this young gentleman would be rich enough.”

“ Of course he would ; but he does not want to kill her, does he ?”

“ No ; but I believe she is dead.”

The elder woman drew back a little, and asked, in evident suprise,

“ When did she die ?”

“ That I do not know.”

“ What do you mean, girl ? Do you think there has been any foul play ?”

” I am afraid so, and 1 am afraid it is still going on. I feel as sure as 1 am sitting here that Mr. Harlesdon Mason’s widow is dead, and that the lady I saw at Purling is no more Mrs. Wilkins’ daughter than I am.”

“ I do not understand you.”

“ Why, mother, surely I have spoken ‘plain enough. If Miss Emily is dead, that money ought to go to this present gentleman.”

Mrs. Briart sat silent for a moment ; then she asked,

“Who knows of this besides yourself?”

“ 1 do not think anybody has pieced it altogether but me.”

“ Then the best thing you can do is to unpiece it—a pack of nonsense, child !”

“ It is not nonsense, mother; I only wish it was.”

“ Well, whatever it may be, it is no business of yours; it is not a matter for you to make or to mell in. Let the gen iefolks look after their own affairs for themselves. If they are being cheated they will find that out fast enough, I warrant.”

“ But you said, mother, one need never think twice about what is right.”

“And I say so again. If you keep straight yourself you’ll have quite enough to do, without putting your fingers into other folks’ pies.”

“ But, mother, just listen to me.”

“ I don’t want to hear nothing more about it,” said Mrs. Briart tersely, if ungrammatically. “ Lot of rubbish, Nell. You have been reading some of those silly novels that are enough to turn a stronger head than yours.”

Ellen Calcey sighed. The experiment of taking another person into her confidence had not, she felt, proved so far signally successful.

CHAPTER VI.

RIGHT IS RIGHT.

Mr. Henry Mason sat alone in his chambers, situated on the secondfloor of a house in Clement’s Inn. He felt singularly depressed and disheartened. The dull days before Christmas had come with a leaden sky and a drizzling rain ; and dull times had fallen upon his fortunes, and one disaster after another seemed darkening his present and obscuring his future.

Not a post arrived but brought with it some contribution of unpleasantness, big or little. There was nothing he desired he appeared able to obtain ; he had but to stretch his hand out to seize any object and, Io, it eluded his grasp. One appointment alter another he tried to secure, but his endeavors proved useless. He thought over every possible way of repairing his fortunes, but without success. He had lit upon a vein of ill-luck, and seemed destined to work it out exhaustively.

There was Martinly on his hands now. He did not know what to do with that.

“ I almost think I will live down there myself and turn farmer,” he said half aloud , “but if I did, I suppose the hay would heat and the weevil get amongst the wheat. I should have my sheep dying with rot, and the stall-cattle would develop some fresh form of plague. Were it not for Molly I would sail for the Colonies ; but I cannot go away and leave her—I cannot.”

And he tenderly, as if already it were part and parcel of himself, took out a little case, and looked at the bright bauble it contained, lying so softly on the rich blue-velvet lining.

“ What a poor little gift it is !” he thought; ” and yet how pleased my darling will be to have it! I can in anticipation hear her scolding me for my extravagance. O Molly, I only wish for your sake I could afford to be extravagant!”

And he fell to musing, thinking how delightful it would Le if he were rich enough to buy all sorts of rare and lovely things for his pretty one, his good, true, brave, sweet little girl.

From this reverie he was aroused by a knock at the door of his room.

“Come in !” he cried, and then stood up, amazed to see a woman cross the threshold.

It was in the half-light, that is so dim and indistinct during the winter-time of year, and till she came nearer to the hearth he could not distinguish her face; but the moment he did so he cried, ” What is the matter, Ellen ? Anything wrong with—with—”

“ No, sir; Miss Molly is quite well, and they are all quite well at the Square. I have come, sir, to speak to you, if I may, about a matter that has long been troubling me.”

“To be sure you may,” he answered. “ I only hope 1 shall be able to help you. Sit down. And now what is it ?”

“ Sir,” she began, “ I think you are being kept out of your rights, and that I ought to have spoken sooner; but, you see, I could not tell for certain—”

“ What could you not tell for certain ?” he asked, as she paused and hesitated.

“ Whether my old mistress, Miss Emily; was really dead and buried and some one else getting her money in her stead.”

Mrs. Calsey stopped suddenly. The young man was holding her tightly by the wrist.

“Take care what you are saying,” he exclaimed. “I am not in a mood for foolery, and this is not the 1st of April.”

” I am speaking the truth, sir, as far as I know it,” she answered. “ My mother advised me not to make or mell in the affair, for it was no business of mine ; but when I came back and saw Miss Molly’s sweet face, and the children gathered about me with their pleasant ways, I felt I could keep silence no longer ; so now, sir, you know just what I believe, and can act as you like.”

“ I beg your pardon.” he said, releasing her wrist, and seating himself in his accustomed chair. ” Now, tell me, please, exactly what you think, and why you think it.”

She began at the beginning, and told him everything through to the end. When she had finished he made no comment on her story, but, rising and taking his hat, said, ” Wait here, please, till I come back,” and then left her without another word.

She did not trouble or perplex herself about what he was to do : the matter was now out of her hands ; the secret, whether (or good or for evil, had passed away from her keeping. She had done right, if tardily; and if no one else had done wrong, why, no harm could come of it to any person.

And yet never in her life, perhaps, did she leel so kindly towards Mrs. Wilkins. Never was the knowledge more bitter that through her this blow must be dealt, if a blow were dealt at all.

She looked back over her life ; she thought of her own small temptations, of how securely she had been kept all her days from the desire to commit any heinous sin ; and yet how often she must have gone wrong but for the lessons learned at her grandfather’s knee, the patient endurance and unremitting toil of her mother, and the sight and knowledge of the stanch faithfulness and rugged honesty of the poor people amongst whom her childish days had been passed.

Since she had been out to service she had known little misses and little masters, whose hands were far more given to picking and stealing than the boys and girls with whom she went to school; and in a dumb inconsequent sort of way the idea assumed some sort of shape in her mind that to the peer as to the peasant it might be of the most enormous importance whether or not he came of an honest stock.

As, for instance, her mind ran idly over the scenes she had witnessed at Mrs. Wilkins’; the mean shifts, the false actions and falser statements, the utter selfishness, the lack of all idea of responsibility here or accountability hereafter ; the scheming, the absence of all worthy motives, the utter disregard of everything which could not advance worldly interests or further some ignoble end.

What had Miss Emily ever seen or heard to render her a good wife or a noble woman ? w’nat, perhaps, had Mrs. Wilkins herself ever seen? How could one reared in such an atmosphere escape mental infection, any more than a person dwelling with foul surroundings could escape mental infection, any more than a person dwelling with foul surroundings could escape disease ?

And there could be little doubt that the woman who Was now passing as Mrs. Mason had herself been educated to regard success as the only one thing needful.

Of herself she might not have been able to plan and carry out such a deception ; but she must, Mrs. Calcey felt, have taken to it kindly. Hers was the smooth skin, the calm brow, the quiet eye, the plump figure of one who was troubled by no qualms of conscience, by no remorse, by very little dread of detection. She looked prosperous and well-to-do, easy in her mind, with no fox gnawing at her breast.

All these things, and many more of the same kind, passed through Ellen’s mind as she sat near the window, looking out into the deepening darkness of the coming night. She could not have given expression to them, she could not have put them into shape and form, because the moulding and clothing of ideas are matters which do not come quite naturally to people of any rank in life, but least of all to one born in the rank Mrs. Calcey had sprung from, and educated as she had been ; but they stirred her very heart for all that, and filled it with a great pity and a yearning sorrow. She would have liked to save her old mistress from the consequences of her own act. She wanted to see Miss Molly’s future husband righted and in possession of his own, but she shrank from the idea that Mrs. Wilkins would be punished and perhaps beggared. She had never honored that lady’s grey hairs, but still she could not endure the idea of their being covered with shame.

It was hard that it should have been all her doing, but she could not hesita’e or draw back now. She had spoken, and could not recall her words. If she could, she would not. All she felt most grieved for was that she had kept silence so long.

Mr. Mason was but a short time absent. He came back accompanied by another gentleman, whose voice she recognized in a moment as it ran clear and hearty through the room.

” This is a strange way for us to meet, Mrs. Calcey,” said Mr. Ramsden, walking up to her and stretching out his h ind as pleasantly as if she had been some lady of high degree. “This is so odd a story you have been telling Mr. Mason, that as he seems rather confused I thought 1 would like to hear it for myself.”

And then he busied himself drawing down the blinds, while Mr. Mason lit the lamp, and pulled forward an easy-chair for his friend’s accommodation.

Now. Briart (the old name comes most naturally from my lips, you hear), to begin at the beginning of this strange tale : you got my letter, and then, as 1 understand, went to Purling and saw Mrs. Mason.”

” Yes, sir.”

“And it did not occur to you then there was anything wrong ?”

“ No, sir. I was puzzled a bit, but 1 did not imagine there was anything wrong. You see, many years had passed since I left Martinly, and Miss Emily was ill and weak in those days, and poor master harassed and tried, too; and they did not agree, as you know, and she was always fretting.”

“ Exactly; and so—”

“ When I saw her fat and well it did not seem to me so very strange that she should look different in same ways. As to her hair, the gold in it did not surprise me, because, as you have perhaps heard, ladies can make their hair any color nowadays ; and though the length and thickness astonished me, still 1 thought she might have got something to make it grow.”

‘‘Qui e true. Then when you lett you had no suspicion that you had not seen Mrs. Mason ?“

“ No, sir. I was not quite easy in my mind, and yet I could not have said why I was uneasy. The thing that 1 have thought of most since that day was that she did not know me. No, sir, she did not; and she did not to the last remember my name. When I tol l it to her, she took it up wrong, and called me Bryant and wrote Bryant; still I knew poor Miss Emily never troubled much to remember anything that did not concern herself, and many people forget names.”

“Of course they do. And so you got the character you went after, and engaged yourself as maid to Lady Poplett; and in the course of a few months you travelled to Paris with your new mistress. Tell us just what occurred there.”

[TO UK CONTINUED.]

—At a meeting of the City Council of Warren. O., an ordinance was passed rescinding an ordinance grant ng certain rights to the Warren Relief Water-works Company, passed in November, 1878. The Company laid the foundation of the works only, and for nearly a year have discontinued work, apparently abandoning their contract.