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In eight days more the night of performance
would arrive; a phalanx of social martyrs two
hundred strong, had been convened to witness
it; three full rehearsals were absolutely necessary;
and two characters in the play were not
filled yet. With this lamentable story, and with
the humblest apologies for presuming on a slight
acquaintance, the Marrables appeared at Combe-
Raven, to appeal to the young ladies for a
"Lucy," and to the universe for a "Falkland,"
with the mendicant pertinacity of a family in

This statement of circumstancesaddressed to
an audience which included a father of Mr.
Vanstone's disposition, and a daughter of Magdalen's
temperamentproduced the result which might
have been anticipated from the first.

Either misinterpreting, or disregarding, the
ominous silence preserved by his wife and Miss
Garth, Mr. Vanstone not only gave Magdalen
permission to assist the forlorn dramatic
company, but accepted an invitation to witness the
performance for Norah and himself. Mrs. Vanstone
declined accompanying them on account
of her health: and Miss Garth only engaged to
make one among the audience, conditionally on
not being wanted at home. The " parts" of
''Lucy" and "Falkland" (which the distressed
family carried about with them everywhere, like
incidental maladies) were handed to their
representatives on the spot. Frank's faint
remonstrances were rejected without a hearing; the
days and hours of rehearsal were carefully noted
down on the covers of the parts; and the Marrables
took their leave, with a perfect explosion
of thanksfather, mother, and daughter sowing
their expressions of gratitude broadcast, from
the drawing-room door to the garden-gates.

As soon as the carriage had driven away,
Magdalen presented herself to the general observation
under an entirely new aspect.

"If any more visitors call to-day," she said,
with the profoundest gravity of look and manner,
"I am not at home. This is a far more serious
matter than any of you suppose. Go somewhere
by yourself, Frank, and read over your
part, and don't let your attention wander if you
can possibly help it. I shall not be accessible
before the evening. If you will come herewith
papa's permissionafter tea, my views on the
subject of Falkland will be at your disposal.
Thomas! whatever else the gardener does, he is
not to make any floricultural noises under my
window. For the rest of the afternoon, I shall
be immersed in studyand the quieter the
house is, the more obliged I shall feel to everybody."

Before Miss Garth's battery of reproof could
open fire, before the first outburst of Mr. Vanstone's
hearty laughter could escape his lips, she
bowed to them with imperturbable gravity;
ascended the house-steps for the first time in her
life, at a walk instead of a run; and retired then
and there to the bedroom regions. Frank's
helpless astonishment at her disappearance, added
a new element of absurdity to the scene. He
stood first on one leg and then on the other;
rolling and unrolling his part, and looking piteously
in the faces of the friends about him.
"I know I can't do it," he said. " May I come in
after tea, and hear Magdalen's views? Thank
youI'll look in about eight. Don't tell my
father about this acting, please: I should never
hear the last of it." Those were the only words
he had spirit enough to utter. He drifted away
aimlessly in the direction of the shrubbery, with
the part hanging open in his handthe most
incapable of Falklands, and the most helpless of

Frank's departure left the family by
themselves, and was the signal accordingly for an
attack on Mr. Vanstone's inveterate carelessness
in the exercise of his paternal authority.

"What could you possibly be thinking of,
Andrew, when you gave your consent?" said
Mrs. Vanstone. " Surely my silence was a sufficient
warning to you to say No?"

"A mistake, Mr. Vanstone," chimed in Miss
Garth. " Made with the best intentionsbut a
mistake for all that."

"It may be a mistake," said Norah, taking her
father's part, as usual. "But I really don't see
how papa, or any one else, could have declined,
under the circumstances."

"Quite right, my dear," observed Mr.
Vanstone. "The circumstances, as you say, were
dead against me. Here were these unfortunate
people in a scrape on one side; and Magdalen,
on the other, mad to act. I couldn't say I had
methodistical objectionsI've nothing methodistical
about me. What other excuse could I
make? The Marrables are respectable people,
and keep the best company in Clifton. What
harm can she get in their house? If you come
to prudence and that sort of thingwhy shouldn't
Magdalen do what Miss Marrable does? There!
there! let the poor things act, and amuse themselves.
We were their age onceand it's no use
making a fussand that's all I've got to say
about it."

With that characteristic defence of his own
conduct, Mr. Vanstone sauntered back to the
greenhouse to smoke another cigar.

"I didn't say so to papa," said Norah, taking
her mother's arm on the way back to the house,
"but the bad result of the acting, in my opinion,
will be the familiarity it is sure to encourage
between Magdalen and Francis Clare."

"You are prejudiced against Frank, my love,"
said Mrs. Vanstone.

Norah's soft, secret, hazel eyes sank to the
ground: she said no more. Her opinions were
unchangeablebut she never disputed with
anybody. She had the great failing of a reserved
naturethe failing of obstinacy; and the great
meritthe merit of silence. "What is your
head running on now," thought Miss Garth, casting
a sharp look at Norah's dark, downcast face.
"You're one of the impenetrable sort. Give me
Magdalen, with all her perversities; I can see
daylight through her. You're as dark as night."

The hours of the afternoon passed away, and