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a plain collar and cuffs, and a dark orange
coloured ribbon over the bosom of her dress.
As they crossed the hall, and entered the breakfast-
room, Miss Vanstone was full of the all-absorbing
subject of the last night's concert.

"I am so sorry, mamma, you were not with
us," she said. "You have been so strong and so
well ever since last summeryou have felt so
many years younger, as you said yourselfthat
I am sure the exertion would not have been too
much for you."

"Perhaps not, my lovebut it was as well to
keep on the safe side."

"Quite as well," remarked Miss Garth,
appearing at the breakfast-room door. "Look at
Norah (good morning, my dear)—look, I say,
at Norah. A perfect wreck; a living proof of
your wisdom and mine in staying at home. The
vile gas, the foul air, the late hourswhat can
you expect? She's not made of iron, and she
suffers accordingly. No, my dear, you needn't
deny it.  I see you've got a headache."

Norah's dark, handsome face brightened into
a smilethen lightly clouded again with its
accustomed quiet reserve.

"A very little headache; not half enough to
make me regret the concert," she said, and
walked away by herself to the window.

On the far side of a garden and paddock, the
view overlooked a stream, some farm-buildings
which lay beyond, and the opening of a wooded
rocky pass (called, in Somersetshire, a Combe),
which here cleft its way through the hills that
closed the prospect. A winding strip of road
was visible, at no great distance, amid the
undulations of the open ground; and along this strip
the stalwart figure of Mr. Vanstone was now
easily recognisable, returning to the house from
his morning walk. He flourished his stick gaily,
as he observed his eldest daughter at the
window. She nodded and waved her hand in return,
very gracefully and prettilybut with something
of old-fashioned formality in her manner, which
looked strangely in so young a woman, and
which seemed out of harmony with a salutation
addressed to her father.

The hall-clock struck the adjourned breakfast
hour. When the minute-hand had recorded the
lapse of five minutes more, a door banged in the
bedroom regionsa clear young voice was heard
singing blithelylight rapid footsteps pattered on
the upper stairs, descended with a jump to the
landing, and pattered again, faster than ever, down
the lower flight. In another moment, the youngest
of Mr. Vanstone's two daughters (and two only
surviving children) dashed into view on the
dingy old oaken stairs, with the suddenness of a
flash of light; and clearing the last three steps
into the hall at a jump, presented herself breathless
in the breakfast-room, to make the family
circle complete.

By one of those strange caprices of Nature,
which science leaves still unexplained, the
youngest of Mr. Vanstone's children presented
no recognisable resemblance to either of her
parents. How had she come by her hair? how
had she come by her eyes? Even her father and
mother had asked themselves those questions, as
she grew up to girlhood, and had been sorely
perplexed to answer them. Her hair was of that
purely light brown hueunmixed with flaxen, or
yellow, or redwhich is oftener seen on the
plumage of a bird than on the head of a human
being. It was soft and plentiful, and waved
downward from her low forehead in regular folds
but, to some tastes, it was dull and dead, in its
absolute want of glossiness, in its monotonous
purity of plain light colour. Her eyebrows and
eyelashes were just a shade darker than her hair,
and seemed made expressly for those violet blue
eyes, which assert their most irresistible charm
when associated with a fair complexion. But it
was here exactly that the promise of her face
failed of performance in the most startling
manner. The eyes, which should have been dark,
were incomprehensibly and discordantly light:
they were of that nearly colourless grey, which,
though little attractive in itself, possesses the
rare compensating merit of interpreting the
finest gradations of thought, the gentlest changes
of feeling, the deepest trouble of passion, with a
subtle transparency of expression which no darker
eyes can rival. Thus quaintly self-contradictory
in the upper part of her face, she was hardly less
at variance with established ideas of harmony in
the lower. Her lips had the true feminine delicacy
of form, her cheeks the lovely roundness and
smoothness of youthbut the mouth was too
large and firm, the chin too square and massive for
her sex and age. Her complexion partook of the
pure monotony of tint which characterised her hair
it was of the same soft warm creamy fairness
all over, without a tinge of colour in the cheeks,
except on occasions of unusual bodily exertion,
or sudden mental disturbance. The whole countenance
so remarkable in its strongly-opposed
characteristicswas rendered additionally striking
by its extraordinary mobility. The large, electric,
light-grey eyes were hardly ever in repose; all
varieties of expression followed each other over
the plastic, ever-changing face, with a giddy
rapidity which left sober analysis far behind in
the race. The girl's exuberant vitality asserted
itself all over her, from head to foot. Her
figuretaller than her sister's, taller than the
average of woman's height; instinct with such
a seductive, serpentine suppleness, so lightly
and playfully graceful that its movements
suggested, not unnaturally, the movements of a
young cather figure was so perfectly developed
already that no one who saw her could have
supposed that she was only eighteen. She bloomed
in the full physical maturity of twenty years or
morebloomed naturally and irresistibly, in right
of her matchless health and strength. Here, in
truth, lay the mainspring of this strangely-
constituted organisation. Her headlong course
down the house-stairs; the brisk activity of all
her movements; the incessant sparkle of expression

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