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The communication which Mr. Benthall,
in his bluff off-hand manner, had made to
Walter Joyce, had surprised the latter very
much, and embarrassed him not a little.
Ever since the receipt of Marian Ashurst's
letter announcing her intention of marrying
Mr. Creswell, Joyce had lived absolutely free
from any influence of "the cruel madness
of love, the poison of honey flowers, and all
the measureless ill." All his thoughts had
been given up to labour and ambition, and,
with the exception of his deep-rooted and
genuine regard for Lady Caroline, and his
friendly liking for the Creswell girls, he
entertained no feeling for any woman
living, unless a suspicion of and an aversion
to Marian Creswell might be so taken into
account. Had he this special partiality for
Maud Creswell, of which Benthall had
spoken so plainly? He set to work to
catechise himself, to look back through
the events of the past few months, noting
what he remembered of their relations to
each other.

Yes, he had seen a great deal of Maud;
he remembered very frequent occasions on
which they had been thrown together. He
had not noticed it at the time; it seemed
to come naturally enough. Gertrude, of
course, was engaged with Benthall when
he was in town, in writing to him or
thinking of him when he was away, and
Lady Caroline had to go through all the
hard work which falls upon a great lady in
society, work the amount of which can
only be appreciated by those who have
performed it or seen it performed. So that,
as Joyce then recollected, he and Maud had
been thrown a great deal together, and, as
he further recollected, they had had a great
many discussions on topics very far removed
from the mere ordinary frivolity of society-
talk; and he had noticed that she seemed
to have clear ideas, which she understood
how to express. What an odd thing, that
what Benthall said had never struck him
before! It must have been patent to other
people, though; and that put the matter,
unpleasantly, in rather a ridiculous
light. After all, though, what was there
ridiculous in it? Maud was a very
handsome girl, a clever girl, and an
unmistakable lady. What a pretty, slight, girlish
figure she had! such a graceful outline!
her head was so well posed upon her neck!
And Joyce smiled as he found himself
drawing lines in the air with the paper-
knife, which he was idly tossing in his hand.

And he had Benthall's assurance that
the girl cared for him; that was
something. Benthall was a man careful in the
extreme as to what he said, and he would
not have made such a statement where a
girl was concerned, and that girl his own
sister-in-law, unless he were tolerably
certain of being right. His own sister-in-law;
he had it then, of course, from Gertrude,
who was Maud's second self, and would
know all about it. It was satisfactory to
know that there was a woman in the world
who cared for him, and though without
the smallest particle of vanity he accepted
the belief very readily, for his rejection by
Marian Ashurst and the indignity which
he had suffered at her hands had by no
means rendered him generally cynical or
suspicious of the sex. Marian Ashurst!
what an age ago it seemed since the days