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A STRANGE STORY.

BY THE AUTHOR OF "MY NOVEL," "RIENZI," &c.

CHAPTER XXVIII.

The conversation with Mrs. Poyntz left my
mind restless and disquieted. I had no doubt,
indeed, of Lilian's truth, but could I be sure that
the attentions of a young man, with advantages
of fortune so brilliant, would not force on her
thoughts the contrast of the humbler lot and the
duller walk of life in which she had accepted as
companion a man removed from her romantic
youth less by disparity of years than by gravity
of pursuits? And would my suit now be as
welcomed as it had been by a mother even so
unworldly as Mrs. Ashleigh? Why; too, should
both mother and daughter have left me so
unprepared to hear that I had a rival? Why not
have implied some consoling assurance that such
rivalry need not cause me alarm? Lilian's
letters, it is true, touched but little on any of the
persons round herthey were filled with the
outpourings of an ingenuous heart, coloured by
the glow of a golden fancy. They were written
as if in the wide world we two stood apart, alone,
consecrated from the crowd by the love that,
in linking us together, had hallowed each to
the other. Mrs. Ashleigh's letters were more
general and diffusive, detailed the habits of the
household, sketched the guests, intimated her
continued fear of Lady Haughton, but had said
nothing more of Mr. Ashleigh Sumner than I
had repeated to Mrs. Poyntz. However, in my
letter to Lilian I related the intelligence that
had reached me, and impatiently I awaited her
reply.

Three days after the interview with Mrs.
Poyntz, and two days before the long-anticipated
event of the mayor's ball, I was summoned to
attend a nobleman who had lately been added to
my list of patients, and whose residence was
about twelve miles from L——. The nearest
way was through Sir Philip Derval's park. I
went on horseback, and proposed to stop on the
way to inquire after the steward, whom I had
seen but once since his fit, and that was two
days after it, when he called himself at my house
to thank me for my attendance, and to declare
that he was quite recovered.

As I rode somewhat fast through Sir P. Derval's
park, I came, however, upon the steward,
just in front of the house. I reined in my horse
and accosted him. He looked very cheerful.

"Sir," said he, in a whisper, "I have heard from
Sir Philip; his letter is dated sincesince—  my
good woman told you what I saw;—well, since
then. So that it must have been all a delusion
of mine, as you told her. And yet, wellwell
we will not talk of it, doctor. But I hope
you have kept the secret. Sir Philip would not
like to hear of it, if he comes back."

"Your secret is quite safe with me. But is
Sir Philip likely to come back?"

"I hope so, doctor. His letter is dated Paris,
and that's nearer home than he has been for
many years; andbut bless mesome one is
coming out of the house? a young gentleman!
Who can it be?"

I looked, and to my surprise I saw Margrave
descending the stately stairs that led from the
front door. The steward turned towards him,
and I mechanically followed, for I was curious
to know what had brought Margrave to the house
of the long-absent traveller.

It was easily explained. Mr. Margrave had
heard at L—— much of the pictures and internal
decorations of the mansion. He had, by dint of
coaxing (he said, with his enchanting laugh),
persuaded the old housekeeper to show him the
rooms.

"It is against Sir Philip's positive orders to
show the house to any stranger, sir; and the housekeeper
has done very wrong," said the steward.

"Pray don't scold her. I dare say Sir Philip
would not have refused me a permission he
might not give to every idle sight-seer. Fellow
travellers have a freemasonry with each other;
and I have been much in the same far countries
as himself. I heard of him there, and could tell
you more about him, I dare say, than you know
yourself."

"You, sir! pray do then."

"The next time I come," said Margrave, gaily;
and with a nod to me, he glided off through the
trees of the neighbouring grove, along the winding
footpath that led to the lodge.

"A very cool gentleman," muttered the steward;
"but what pleasant ways he has. You
seem to know him, sir. Who is hemay I ask?"

"Mr. Margrave. A visitor at L——, and he

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