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                A STRANGE STORY.


                   CHAPTER XXX.

I CALLED that day on Mrs. Poyntz, and
communicated to her the prospect of the glad news
I had received.

She was still at work on the everlasting
knitting, her firm fingers linking mesh unto
mesh as she listened; and when I had done, she
laid her skein deliberately down, and said, in her
favourite characteristic formula,

So at last!—that is settled!”

She rose and paced the room as men are apt
to do in reflectionwomen rarely need such
movement to aid their thoughtsher eyes were
fixed on the floor, and one hand was lightly
pressed on the palm of the otherthe gesture of
a musing reasoner who is approaching the close
of a difficult calculation.

At length she paused, fronting me, and said,

Accept my congratulationslife smiles on
you nowguard that smile, and when we meet
next, may we be, even, firmer friends than we are

When we meet nextthat will be to-night
you surely go to the mayor’s great ball. All the
Hill descends to Low Town to-night.”

No; we are obliged to leave L—— this
afternoonin less than two hours we shall be
gonea family engagement. We may be weeks
away; you will excuse me, then, if I take leave
of you so unceremoniously. Stay, a motherly
word of caution. That friend of yours, Mr.
Margrave! Moderate your intimacy with him;
and especially after you are married. There is
in that stranger, of whom so little is known, a
something which I cannot comprehenda
something that captivates, and yet revolts. I find him
disturbing my thoughts, perplexing my
conjectures, haunting my fanciesI, plain woman
of the world! Lilian is imaginative: beware of
her imagination, even when sure of her heart.
Beware of Margrave. The sooner he quits L——,
the better, believe me, for your peace of mind.
Adieu, I must prepare for our journey.”

That woman,” muttered I, on quitting her
house, “seems to have some strange spite against
my poor Lilian, ever seeking to rouse my own
distrust of that exquisite nature which has just
given me such proof of its truth. And yetand
yetis that woman so wrong here? True!
Margrave with his wild notions, his strange beauty!
truetruehe might dangerously encourage
that turn for the mystic and visionary which
distresses me in Lilian. Lilian should not know
him. How induce him to leave L——? Ah
those experiments on which he asks my
assistance! I might commence them when he comes
again, and then invent some reason to send him
for completer tests to the famous chemists of
Paris or Berlin.”

                CHAPTER XXXI.

IT is the night of the mayor’s ball! The guests
are assembling fast; county families twelve miles
round have been invited, as well as the principal
families of the town. All, before proceeding to
the room set apart for the dance, move in
procession through the museumhomage to science
before pleasure!

The building was brilliantly lighted, and the
effect was striking, perhaps because singular and
grotesque. There, amid stands of flowers and
evergreens, lit up with coloured lamps, were grouped
the dead representatives of races all inferior
some deadlyto man. The fancy of the ladies had
been permitted to decorate and arrange these
types of the animal world. The tiger glared with
glass eyes from amidst artificial reeds and
herbage, as from his native jungle; the grisly
white bear peered from a mimic iceberg. There,
in front, stood the sage elephant, facing a hideous
hippopotamus; whilst an anaconda twined its
long spire round the stem of some tropical tree
in zinc. In glass cases, brought into full light
by festooned lamps, were dread specimens of the
reptile racescorpion and vampire, and cobra
capella, with insects of gorgeous hues, not a few
of them with venomed stings.

But the chief boast of the collection was in the
varieties of the Genus Simiababoons and apes,
chimpanzees, with their human visage, mockeries
of man, from the dwarf monkeys perched on
boughs lopped from the mayor’s shrubberies, to
the formidable ourang-outang, leaning on his
huge club.

Every one expressed to the mayor delight; to
each other antipathy, for this unwonted and
somewhat ghastly, though instructive, addition to the
revels of a ball-room.

Margrave, of course, was there, and seemingly

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