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IN the first shock of amazement at the
calamity which had overtaken the family
at the vicarage, none of those who
participated in it had had room in their minds
for the entertainment of any minor sensation
of surprise.

But it was not very longnot many
days, that is to saybefore Lady Tallis,
or as her proper title now ran, Lady Tallis
Gale, began to wonder how Mr. Levincourt
had discovered her whereabouts, and
to question Maud on the subject.

The latter had been very ill during the
first days of her stay in London. Grief
and anxiety alone would not have
prostrated the youthful vigour of her body.
But so many harrowing emotions preceding
a long night-journey, and so overwhelming
a shock awaiting at the close of the
journey a frame in great need of food and
rest, had stricken down the young girl,
and laid her on a bed of sickness.

Her aunt forgot her own delicacy of
health and inert habits to tend Maud. She
would scarcely allow a servant to come
near the suffering girl, but waited on her
day and night with untiring care.

In spite of the terrible circumstances
which had brought Maud to London, in
spite of the dreadful discovery that the
man who had been guilty of the abduction
of Veronica Levincourt was the husband
who had wronged, outraged, and finally
abandoned herself, it would not be too
much to say that Hilda Tallis enjoyed the
first moments of happiness she had known
during many weary years, by the bedside
of her sister's child.

It was sweet to feel that there was some
one bound by the ties of blood to feel
kindly toward her. It was still sweeter
to find a being whoat least for a time
depended upon her for love and care and

The poor lonely wife, in the first days of
the discovery that her husband had ceased
to feel for her, even such love as can be
inspired by a fair face, had longed with all
her heart for a child.

The conduct of Sir John Tallis, which
had gone on deepening through every
shade, from grey indifference down to
absolutely black brutality, had effectually
quenched whatever germ of regard for him
poor Hilda might once have cherished.
But for some time she clung to the idea
that he would be kinder to her if there
were any prospect of her bringing him an
heir. She was the kind of woman who
would probably have loved her children
better than her husband, even had that
husband been good and affectionate.

She would have enjoyed superintending
the government of a nursery, and have
craved for no other companionship than
that of her prattling babies.

The dependency of sickness made Maud
appear almost like a child in her aunt's
eyes. Lady Tallis nursed her with more
than needful devotion. She was jealous of
any person save herself approaching her
niece to render any service. The sound of
Maud's voice calling on her for the least
tendance was music in her ears. She
would even have liked the sick girl to be
more exacting in her demands. And had
Maud been the most fretful and imperious
of invalids, instead of being, as she was,