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than I could have hoped: he will be a minister
some day, in right of his talents, and a peer if he
wishes it, in right of his lands. So that matter
is settled."

There was a pause, during which my mind
passed rapidly through links of reminiscence and
reasoning, which led me to a mingled sentiment
of admiration for Mrs. Poyntz as a diplomatist
and of distrust for Mrs. Poyntz as a friend. It
was now clear why Mrs. Poyntz, before so little
disposed to approve my love, had urged me at
once to offer my hand to Lilian, in order that she
might depart affianced and engaged to the house
in which she would meet Mr. Ashleigh Sumner.
Hence, Mrs. Poyntz's anxiety to obtain all the
information I could afford her of the sayings and
doings at Lady Haughton's; hence, the publicity
she had so suddenly given to my engagement;
hence, when Mr. Sumner had gone away, a rejected
suitor, her own departure from L——; she had
seized the very moment when a vain and proud
man, piqued by the mortification received from one
lady, falls the easier prey to the arts which allure
his suit to another. All was so far clear to me.
And Iwas my self-conceit less egregious and
less readily duped than that of yon gilded
popinjay's! How skilfully this woman had knitted
me into her work with the noiseless turn of her
white hands! and yet, forsooth, I must vaunt the
superior scope of my intellect, and plumb all
the fountains of NatureI, who could not fathom
the little pool of this female schemer's mind!

But that was no time for resentment to her
or rebuke for myself. She was now the woman
who could best protect and save from slander
my innocent, beloved Lilian. But how approach
that perplexing subject?

Mrs. Poyntz approached it, and with her usual
decision of purpose which bore so deceitful a
likeness to candour of mind.

"But it was not to talk of my affairs that I
asked you to call, Allen Fenwick." As she
uttered my name, her voice softened, and her
manner took that maternal, caressing tenderness
which had sometimes amused and sometimes
misled me. "No, I do not forget that you asked
me to be your friend, and I take, without scruple,
the license of friendship. What are these stories
that I have heard already about Lilian Ashleigh,
to whom you were once engaged?"

"To whom I am still engaged."

"Is it possible? Oh, then, of course the
stories I have heard are all false. Very likely;
no fiction in scandal ever surprises me. Poor
dear Lilian, then, never ran away from her
mother's house?"

I smothered the angry pain which this mode of
questioning caused me; I knew how important
it was to Lilian to secure to her the countenance
and support of this absolute autocrat; I
spoke of Lilian's long previous distemper of
mind; I accounted for it as any intelligent
physician, unacquainted with all that I could not
reveal, would account. Heaven forgive me for
the venial falsehood, but I spoke of the terrible
charge against myself as enough to unhinge, for
a time, the intellect of a girl so acutely
sensitive as Lilian; I sought to create that
impression as to the origin of all that might otherwise
seem strange; and in this state of cerebral
excitement she had wandered from homebut
alone. I had tracked every step of her way; I
had found and restored her to her home. A
critical delirium had followed, from which she
now rose, cured in health, unsuspicious that
there could be a whisper against her name. And
then, with all the eloquence I could command,
and in words as adapted as I could frame them
to soften the heart of a woman, herself a mother,
I implored Mrs. Poyntz's aid to silence all the
cruelties of calumny, and extend her shield over
the child of her own early friend.

When I came to an end, I had taken, with
caressing force, Mrs. Poyntz's reluctant hands
in mine. There were tears in my voice, tears in
my eyes. And the first sound of her voice in reply
gave me hope, for it was unusually gentle. She
was evidently moved. The hope was soon quelled.

"Allen Fenwick," she said, "you have a
noble heart, I grieve to see how it abuses your
reason. I cannot aid Lilian Ashleigh in the way
you ask. Do not start back so indignantly.
Listen to me as patiently as I have listened to
you. That when you brought back the unfortunate
young woman to her poor mother, her
mind was disordered, and became yet more
dangerously so, I can well believe; that she is now
recovered, and thinks with shame, or refuses to
think at all, of her imprudent flight, I can believe
also; but I do not believe, the World cannot
believe, that she did not, knowingly and
purposely, quit her mother's roof, and in quest of
that young stranger so incautiously, so unfeelingly
admitted to her mother's house during the
very time you were detained on the most awful
of human accusations. Every one in the town
knows that Mr. Margrave visited daily at Mrs.
Ashleigh's during that painful period; every one
in the town knows in what strange, out-of-the-way
place this young man had niched himself;
and that a yacht was bought, and lying in wait
there. What for? It is said that the chaise in
which you brought Miss Ashleigh back to her
home was hired at a village within an easy reach
of Mr. Margrave's lodgingof Mr. Margrave's
yacht. I rejoice that you saved the poor girl
from ruin: but her good name is tarnished, and
if Anne Ashleigh, whom I sincerely pity, asks
me my advice, I can but give her this: ' Leave
L——, take your daughter abroad, and if she is
not to marry Mr. Margrave, marry her as quietly
and as quickly as possible to some foreigner.'"

"Madam! madam! this, then, is your friendship
to herto me! Oh, shame on you to insult
thus an affianced husband! Shame on me ever
to have thought you had a heart!"

"A heart, man!" she exclaimed, almost
fiercely, springing up, and startling me with the
change in her countenance and voice. "And
little you would have valued, and pitilessly have

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