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'Let me stow it away down here- * You are accustomed to coaches, there's plenty of room.'

no doubt,' went on the stranger, 'Not unless you wish it ground who seemed determined not to let to impalpable powder,' interrupted the conversation stand still. 'I Esther, glancing as she spoke at the suppose they are still an acknowfeet of a huge Devonshire farmer ledged institution in these primitive who occupied the third place in the regions ? seat. 'I am not in the least incon- Our country is too grand for venienced. I only got up to look railways, sir. When you see-I away across the country to the left. mean,' colouring a little, if you It is a favourite view of mine. You ever see the hills about our house can see Lundy on a clear bright day, you will say that we can safely defy but the sun is too low and hazy the best engineers in the world. What now.'

a nice cold breeze is coming up from * You know this part of the coun- the north! doesn't it seem like try, then ?

another world after that stifling * I have lived here all my life, sir, heated air of London? John Hartuntil the last six months.'

man,' leaning over, and speaking to At Lynton ?

the coachman, 'what sort of weather • No, among the Countisbury Hills, has it been at home this spring ? about halfway between the valley and Main fine, Miss Esther,' answered Exmoor.'

John Hartman, in a great cheery “Rather a lonely place to live in, voice, and turning round a red face is it not?

smooth as a cider-apple; 'dry and 'Well, it is my home; and North open for the sowing, and wet from Devonshire is often thought the first o' March up to Easter. The most beautiful part of England, hay 's down to farmer Litson's aladded the girl a little proudly. ready, Miss Esther.' 'Ah! so I hear,' the stranger

"And more fule he!' remarked answered. 'I have never myself the gentleman with the feet, sentenbeen in this part of the world before.' tiously.

"And you are too early to see it in * Why, Mr.Vellicot?' asked Esther, its greatest beauty now. August is to whom all the red jolly faces on the time: when the valleys are the coach were evidently familiar white with the harvest, and the ones. “Why shouldn't Litson cut dwarf furze makes the combes and his hay when he likes ?' hillsides golden, and the broad 'I never said he weren't to cut it, moorlands seem all afire with one Miss Fleming; I said he were a fule grand sweep of ruby purple. If you for cutting it.' And Mr. Vellicot look straight away over that low hill pointed, with a significant colossal upon our right you can catch an out- finger, towards a distant line of inlying ridge of Exmoor already. Do tensely blue uplands on the right.

"Ah, there is Exmoor,' said Esther No, not exactly,' replied the to the stranger; 'and our seeing it young man, whose eyes happened so plainly now is a sign that we to be fixed at that moment upon shall have rain by to-morrow. Such Esther's own profile. “I am rather rain we have here! I don't think near-sighted.'

drops of the same size fall in any • You will have a better view a other place in the world. You get mile or two further on.

wet through in about a minute and like travelling outside a coach ?'

a half.' “Yes, under some circumstances. What a charming climate it must I have not been on one since I was be! Bitterly cold, as far as I undera schoolboy.'

stand our friend in front, until "Which must be a great many March ; rain for the remainder of years ago,' thought Esther, glancing the spring; and daily showers that shyly at his fresh face. “I hope you, wet you through in a minute and a too, are not going to turn out wearied half in the summer.' of everything “blazé," as the Dash- "Oh, but sportsmen don't care for woods call it.'

getting wet,' said Esther, laughing

you see?

Don't you

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* And you know the fish always rise face; and her hands were awfully best after rain. Is there good sport sunburnt, although tolerably well this season, Mr. Vellicot?'

shaped. * Depends on what folk reckon • Does the coach pass close to sport,' replied the farmer, laconi- your house ?' he asked her in a very cally.

fine-gentleman and patronizing manWell, are there many fish, I ner. `I suppose we are getting near mean?'

Lynton now.' "Yes, there be fish, Miss Fleming.' *We are still four miles away "And don't they rise ?'

from Lynton, answered Esther, They do to them they knows,' utterly indifferent to any change in said Mr. Vellicot, looking with stolid his manner: 'and nearly as far from sarcasm at his young neighbour's my home, which lies among the bran new and elaborately-scientific Countisbury hills, straight away beLondon rod. “Though there's scores fore us. But I shall get down when of strangers already a-lashing and a- we reach the valley that you see fuling about the fish, Master David yonder;' and she pointed down a killed four brace last Monday.' steep leafy chasm close beside the

He did better than that, end of road, through which the distant roar May, 'fore the visitors come,' begun of unseen waters could be heard. the coachman; then & sudden re- "The mill down below is the nearest collection of the indelicacy of the point to my home, and the rest of remark, or of the possible half-crown the way I shall walk.' he was risking, seemed to overcome * With cousin David,' thought the him, and he corrected himself; 'be- stranger promptly. 'Philomel and fore the weather turned off so dry. Baucis, Chloe and Strephon, among Mrs. Engleheart be looking spracker the woods.' And, although he had than ever this spring, Miss Esther, just decided that Esther possessed and Miss Joan the same.'

very few personal attractions, he "And Mr. David ?'

remained uncommonly silent during 'Oh, Master David, he keeps the next quarter of an hour. This much as usual-much as usual, travelling outside a coach, after all, Driss Esther, thank ye.'

was frightfully boring work; partiWill he be at the mill to meet cularly when the close neighbourme, do you think, John ?'

hood of a young and loquacious Not much fear of that,' remarked woman made it imperative on one's the farmer. 'He were up to our own sense of gallantry not to smoke. house last night in the dark, Mr. • There he is !' cried Esther, in David were, after a pair of young immense excitement, as a sudden pigeons for you, Miss Fleming. And turn of the road brought them to Mr. Vellicot followed up this inform- the bottom of the hill; and the ation with a far-off smothered sound coachman pulled up close beside a which, when it first left its destina- little mouldering foot-plank across tion, might possibly have been in- the river. There is David, standtended by its originator for a laugh. ing on the bridge! Good-bye, Mr.

Miss Fleming received the intelli- Vellicot; love to Maggie, and tell gence without the faintest symptom her to come and see me soon. Good of embarrassment; but the young evening, sir,' and she turned with a stranger nevertheless conceived an shy but not ungraceful salutation to instant dislike towards this unknown the stranger. I hope you will have David. The male cousins of very good sport, and like our country pretty girls are always objectionable. when you come to know it better.'. David, with his pastoral gallantries But the young man's eyes were of young pigeons and wayside trysts intently fixed on a most remarkableat mills, was, no doubt, some red- looking figure which, 'too diffident cheeked rustic fool, to whom this as it seemed to approach nearer, was young woman had been engaged standing in an attitude ludicrously since she was seven years old. She expressive at once of unbounded was not so very handsome, after all, delight and utter helplessness upon when you got accustomed to her the little bridge. Cousin David, then, was no fair-faced landsome engaged in reading the name upon lad of twenty; but a man of gro- the label; ' perhaps this is the misstesque exterior, with a loose slovenlying parcel.' And he handed down gait, with long shambling limbs, Esther's travelling plaid, which in with a vacuous childish face: a man her hurry of saying good-bye she of almost idiotic manner, and of had left beside him on the seat. middle age. How sweet Miss Flem- She thanked him with a smile in ing's voice broke upon him with its which, naturally, there was a whole hearty 'Good evening,' just as he world more of acquaintanceship now attained to this culminating point of that she had learnt his name, and in his investigation! What a beauti- another minute John Hartman was ful frank face it was that turned to on the box, and the coach had him for a moment before she left his started towards Lynton. side!

* Good evening. I-I perhaps may have the pleasure of ineeting

CHAPTER III. you some day while I am in this

A MUSCULAR HEROINE. neighbourhood?' And he actually caught himself-he, a man of the The sinking sun was shining, warm world of two-and-twenty-feeling and golden, upon the farm at Countembarrassed under the girl's steady isbury when Esther and her cousin eyes.

first caught sight of it from the • It is very likely, I think. I often valley. go out fishing with my cousin.' And It was an irregular low-built stone then Esther, after making this house, entirely hemmed in by destraightforward reply, blushed ra- solate hills save on the west, where ther unnecessarily as the stranger the landscape opened by a wild and offered his hand to assist her in her precipitous ravine into the wooded descent.

valley of the Lynn: its only apSimple though she was, some fine proach a rugged moorland track, intuition had, I suppose, instructed never traversed save by the carts of her as to the meaning of the young peat-cutters or herds of cattle on man's altered manner. At all events, their way down from the moors: its her eyes drooped beneath his, and only neighbours the weird and giant during the half minute that he firmly forms of the overhanging barren held her hand the colour on her face cliffs. The first question that an deepened into quite a guilty crim- indweller of towns would involun

Then he saw how wonderfully tarily ask himself on seeing it was, handsome that delicate dark face how any human being could build a really was: beauty is so much habitation in such a spot? the seheightened by its consciousness of cond, how any other human being our own regard : and, I am forced to could choose the habitation, when confess, his hand lingered a moment buult, to live in? And yet, as Esther longer than was strictly necessary caught the first glimpse of its low on Miss Fleming's while he aided gray walls this summer evening it her descent into the extended arms came upon her strongly that she of the great rosy country girl who had seen nothing half so charming stood rearly to receive her.

as her own home during the six ' Is this yours tu, Miss Fleming ? months she had been away from it. inquired the coachman, taking out a The rosy white of the blossoming small black valise from the inside of thorn before the door; the lichened the coach, where he was struggling pointed roof glowing orange in the after Esther's possessions among the sunset; the masses of delicate gray objectu membrii of the four out ed stone upon the neighbouring hillinside passengers: 'I can't make side; the fading purple of the moormore than seven parcels if it isn't.' lands far above-all smote her with

No; that is mine,' cried the so much of the pathetic clearness of young stranger; but, I imagine, familiar faces, for a time grown unwithout deceitful emphasis; for Miss familiar, that, somewhat to her comFleming's eyes were at that moment panion's embarrassment, she leaned

son.

heavily on his arm just when they ours did Mr. Vellicot take the troureached the wicket of the garden ; ble to express his opinion about ?' and without volunteering any ex- Nothing at all, Joan, except planation whatever of her reasons and the girl turned round with a for doing so, began to cry.

smile to David; `except your kind• Don't, if you please, Esther,' ness in getting me the pigeons, whispered David Engleheart, softly. cousin. I have so often wished for There is Joan coming out of the some nice

white pigeons like honse to meet us. She is quite sure Maggie's. to see you have been crying, and David blushed in a manner ludiyou know her objection to tears.' crously conscious for a man of his age

'I can't help it, David, dear,' said and appearance: Miss Joan gave a Esther; ‘it is only out of joy to be single and by no means pleasantback again with you. Joan herself sounding laugh. * Pigeons!' she couldn't mind that.'

repeated, with an emphatic ircny However, she turned aside before that seemed to redouble David's entering the garden gate; and under confusion. 'Pigeons ! I think I see pretence of addressing Patty, who, them, picking the mortar out of the weighed down by the portmanteau chimneys, and eating my early peas ! and all other parcels, was walking However, I needn't alarm myself cheerily beside them, managed to None but a fool, or David Englewipe away every trace of obnoxious heart, would think of full-fledged and foolish emotion before Joan pigeons stopping in a new cot, a Engleheart came up.

mile away from where they were * Here you are,' cried a voice, not bred. There's only one way to keep $0 much loud as persistently strong them.' and unmodulated in its tones. “Half 'A little salt,' suggested David, an hour behind your time, at least. feebly. 'I have heard if a little salt Patty, girl, don't carry the portman- is sprinkled under their new cot, it teau by the handles; it drags 'em to will make them pieces. Esther, how do you do? * Rubbish!' remarked Joan ; 'rubyou look pale.

bish! Put 'em in a pie and ent 'em; And Miss Joan bestowed what that's the only thing to prevent she doubtless would herself have

them flying away. Go in by the termed a kiss upon her young rela- window, Esther. At David's wish, tion's forehead. It felt more like and in spite of my mother's rheuthe push from a stick or other hard matism, we have had the tea set in material, than the contact of frail the house-place to-night.' flesh-and-blood lips; however, since The house-place was a large stoneEsther had been accustomed to it flagged room in the centre of the at intervals from her infancy, she building. In winter it was horribly took it in its mystical or figurative cold, and made all the rest of the meaning.

house cold from its northerly aspect *How is Aunt Englelieart, Joan ? and ill-fitting doors; but for three I saw Mr. Vellicot on the coach, and months of the year it got an hour or he and John Hartman told me she two of warmth and light at sunset, was looking better than ever this and from the time when Esther was summer. What do you think? a little child it had always been an

‘My mother is perfectly well,' re- especial jubilee for her when Miss plied Miss Joan. It was a way of Joan would allow the supper to be hers always to answer questions by placed there on a summer evening. making an independent staternent The small comfortable sitting-room of general facts. · Yes' or 'no' to the south, which the elder memmight be very well for persons bers of the family had the good who allowed themselves to be led sense to prefer, possessed no charms by others in conversation: Miss for her like the grotesque corners Joan was not going to be led by and closets, the huge old-fashioned others in anything. ‘My mother is fire-place, the low rafted ceiling, the well, and able to exert herself as many-paned lozenged windows of much as ever. What other affair of the house-place: and she felt duly

was

sensible of poor David's , kindness hard and angular merely that they and crafty generalship in having tea may make amusing studies for other ready for her there on this first human creatures to speak or write evening of her return. Miss Joan, about, but because untoward acciherself, had no taste whatever for dents have, at one time or another, the picturesque; and it took a good beaten and crushed them into their deal of argument to bring her into angularity. Doubtless, when she changing any of the routine arrange- a baby, Miss Joan had the ments of the household.

And no

roundness of soul and body which it one knew better than Esther what is normal for the young of our it was to argue with Miss Engle- species to possess during the first heart.

two years of existence; doubtless, At the present moment, however, as a child, she had enjoyed mischief with the rich rays of the level sun and sweet food like other children: streaming through the open win- as a young girl-no, a young girl dow-transmuting its odorous frame she never was! Before she was of roses into gold, and lighting up sixteen, Joan Engleheart knew that the old oak-pan led walls into her lot had fallen upon hard and ruddiest orange-brown-even Miss barren places; that she was plain, Joan herself could not accuse the ungraceful, reputed sullen, and, house-place of looking

chill or worse than all-poor. From that gloomy. To Esther, following upon time until the present-how many the horrible gentility of her Ken- gray, cold, bitter years that period sington school-room, the hearty, embraced, she, herself, only knew! homely look of the old house was Joan Engleheart, soul and body, had like going back to the familiar en- been progressing in the process chantment of a fairy story, after the of ossification. When Esther was chilling, although improving, atmo- little, she used to beg to be whipt sphere of Mangnali's Questions. with a rod instead of Miss Joan's She could scarcely believe that she fingers; 'they stung so.' And this had been enjoying the first advan- peculiar stinging property belonged tages of Kensington Gravel-pits for quite as much to her heart and six long months. Miss Bates, and tongue as to her fingers. “Life is all belonging to her, seemed a bad too short to attend to such fiddledream. The old house-place in the faddles,' she used to say, when any setting sun, David's kind face, Miss one writhed, visibly, under her Joan herself, were the pleasant bitter home-truths. Delicate dishome realities to which she was crimination, fine sensibilities ! does awakening.

any one get on better in the world A reality of a very forcible nature for possessing such a mighty thin Joan Engleheart undoubtedly was. skin, I should like to know ? CerIf muscular heroines happen to tainly not. Then, why should I come into fashion during the pre- lose my time in trying to avoid sent generation, her form would, I pricking it? No one ever tried to am sure, serve as a perfect model avoid hurting me, and, I am thankfor any novelist bent upon pleasing ful to say, no one could hurt me the popular taste to draw from. if they wished. Life is a battle : let Strong, sharp, and spare, there was every one make use of their own not an ounce of superfluous flesh on arms in fighting it. Mine are not her body. Muscles, bones, a tough flowers of speech and flattery.' outside covering of dark skin, in- Certainly they were not. If the domitable eyes, and a general stoni- opinion be true, that to be utterly ness of feature, were her leading and disagreeable is to be a fine character characteristic charms. She looked -Joan Engleheart's was

a noble like a woman, who having found life She was wonderfully disagreeunpleasant, had every intention of able. She did everything against making other people share her own which human nature, ordinarily, opinion: and such was, in truth, the revolts. She rose at unearthly key-note of her character. Human hours in the depth of winter. She creatures, as a general rule, are not could sit without winking through

one.

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