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             WRECKED IN PORT.
                    BOOK III.

MR. BENTHALL'S neat cob was not standing
in a loose box in the Woolgreaves
stable, as was its usual wont when its
master had paid a visit to that hospitable
mansion. On this occasion the schoolmaster
had walked over from Helmingham,
and, though by nature an indolent man,
Mr. Benthall was exceedingly pleased at the
prospect of the walk before him on emerging
from Woolgreaves after his interview
in the library with Mrs. Creswell. He felt
that he required a vent for the excitement
under which he was labouring, a vent
which could only be found in sharp and
prolonged exercise. The truth was that
he was very much excited and very angry
indeed." It is a very charitable way of
looking at ita more than charitable way,"
he muttered to himself as he strode over
the ground, "to fancy that Mrs. Creswell
was ignorant of what she was doing! did
not know that she was offering me a bribe
to vote for her husband, and to influence
the farmers on this estate to do the same!
She knew it fast enough; she is by far too
clever a woman not to understand all
about it!  And if she would try that game
on with us, who hold a comparatively superior
position, what won't she do with those
lower on the electoral roll? Clever woman,
too, thorough woman of the world! I wonder
at her forgetting herself and showing her
hand so completely. How admirably she
emphasised the 'any of the inmates,' in
that sentence when she gave me my congé!
It was really remarkably well done! When
I tell Gertrude this, it will show her the
real facts at once. She has had a firm
impression that, up to the present time,
'madam,' as she calls Mrs. Creswell, has
had no idea as to the state of the case
between us; but I don't think even
incredulous Gertrude would have much doubt
of it if she had been present, and caught
the expression of Mrs. Creswell's face as
she forbade my communication with 'any'
of the inmates of her house. Neither look
nor tone admitted of the smallest ambiguity,
and I took care to appreciate both.
Something must be done to circumvent our
young friend the hostess of Woolgreaves."

Thus soliloquised the Reverend George
Benthall, as he strode across the bleak
barren fields, chopping away with his stick
at the thin, naked hedges as he passed
them, pushing his hat back from his brow,
and uttering many sounds which were at
least impatient, not to say unclerical, as he
progressed. After his dinner, feeling that
this was an exceptional kind of evening, and
one which must be exceptionally treated,
he went down to his cellar, brought therefrom
a bottle of excellent Burgundy, lit up
his favourite pipe, placed his feet on the
fender, and prepared himself for a careful
review of the occurrences of the day. On
the whole, he was satisfied. It may seem
strange that a man, indolent, uncaring
about most things, and certainly desirous
of the opportunity for the acquisition of
worldly goods, should have refused the
chance of such a position as Marian hinted
he might aspire toa position which her
own keen natural instinct and worldly
knowledge suggested to her as the very
one which he would most covetbut it
must be remembered that Mr. Benthall was
a man of birth and family, bound to endorse
the family politics in his own person, and
likely to shrink from the merest suggestion