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A DAY'S RIDE: A LIFE'S ROMANCE.

CHAPTER XV.

ON entering the drawing-room, his excellency
presented me to an elderly lady, very thin, and
very wrinkled, who received me with a cold
dignity, and then went on with her crochet-work. I
could not catch her name, nor, indeed, was I
thinking of it; my whole mind was bent upon
the question, Who could she be? For what
object was she there? All my terrible doubts
of the morning now rushed forcibly back to my
memory, and I felt that never had I detested a
human being with the hate I experienced for
her. The pretentious stiffness of her manner,
the haughty self-possession she wore, were
positive outrages; and, as I looked at her, I felt
myself muttering, "Don't imagine that your
heavy black moiré, or your rich tails of lace,
impose upon me. Never fancy that this mock
austerity deceives one who reads human nature
as he reads large print. I know, and I abhor
you, old woman! That a man should be to the
other sex as a wolf to the fold, the sad
experience of daily life too often teaches; but that a
woman should be false to woman, that all the
gentle instincts we love to think feminine should
be debased to treachery and degraded into snares
for betrayal, this is an offence that cries aloud
to Heaven!

"No more teanone!" cried I, with an
energy, that nearly made the footman let the
tray fall, and so far startled the old lady, that she
dropped her knitting, with a faint cry. As for
his excellency, he had covered his face with the
Globe, and I believe was fast asleep.

I looked about for my hat to take my leave,
when a sudden thought struck me. "I will stay.
I will sit down beside this old creature, and, for
once at least in her miserable life, she shall hear
from the lips of a man a language that is not
that of the debauchee. Who knows what effect
one honest word of a true-hearted man may not
work? I will try, at all events," said I, and
approached her. She did not, as I expected,
make room for me on the sofa beside her, and I
was therefore obliged to take a chair in front.
This was so far awkward that it looked formal;
it gave somewhat the character of accusation
to my position, and I decided to obviate the
difficulty by assuming a light, easy, cheerful
manner at first, as though I suspected nothing.

"It's a pleasant little capital, this
Kalbbratenstadt," said I, as I lay back in my chair.

"Is it?" said she, dryly, without looking up
from her work.

"Well, I mean," said I, "it seems to have
its reasonable share of resources. They have
their theatre, and their music garden, and their
promenades, and their drives toto——"

"You'll find all the names set down there,"
said she, handing me a copy of Murray's Handbook
that lay beside her.

"I care less for names than facts, madam,"
said I, angrily, for her retort had stung me, and
routed all my previous intention of a smooth
approach to the fortress. "I am one of those
unfashionable people who never think the better
of vice because it wears French gloves, and goes
perfumed with Ess bouquet."

She took off her spectacles, wiped them, looked
at me, and went on with her work without
speaking.

"If I appear abrupt, madam," said I, "in
this opening, it is because the opportunity I
now enjoy may never occur again, and may be
of the briefest even now. We meet by what
many would call an accidentone of those
incidents which the thoughtless call chance
directed my steps to this place; let me hope that
that which seemed a hazard may bear all the
fruits of maturest combination, and that the
weak words of one frail, even as yourself, may
not be heard by you in vain. Let me therefore
ask you one questiononly oneand give me
an honest answer to it."

"You are a very singular person," said she,
"and seem to have strangely forgotten the very
simple circumstance that we meet for the first
time now."

"I know it, I feel it; and that it may also be
for the last and only time is my reason for this
appeal to you. There are persons who, seeing
you here, would treat you with a mock deference,
address you with a counterfeit respect, and go
their ways; who would say to their selfish hearts,
'It is no concern of mine, why should it trouble
me?' But I am not one of these. I carry a
conscience in my breast; a conscience that holds
its daily court, and will even to-morrow ask me,
'Have you been truthful, have you been faithful?
When the occasion served to warn a fellow-
creature of the shoal before him, did you cry out,
"Take soundings! you are in shallow water?"
or, "Did you with slippery phrases gloss over

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