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is so fine for crossing the river; the summer seems coming already. The Beverley woods are quite green, and the birds are building a nest in my old pear-tree. Have you seen Sir John to-day, Alice?"
“I have been to the house, but he was sleeping, so I did not venture into his chamber."
“I was with him this morning. He was suffering much in body; but I think this sickness has been sent in love and mercy, whatever be the issue. Sir John's life is of great value; but the Lord can do His work in the State and in the Church without any
of us, if it so please Him. But come, Mistress Skinner, we must not linger-not even to gossip with gentle Alice, sister. Farewell, my dear; keep up a brave heart."
Alice watched her friend and his companion until they were out of sight, and then walked quickly towards home. As she pushed open the heavy door leading into the hall, she saw what brought the colour to her cheeks. In the courtyard beyond two horses were being led away to the stable, and Simon-an old servant that always accompanied the Colonel on his journeys-was unstrapping the saddle-bags from the strong beast he had ridden himself, and talking to a strange serving-man who was preparing to dismount. Before she could cross the hall, Janet came out of the dining-room, saying, “The master is come, Mistress Alice, and has brought company with him! To think you should be away, after waiting so long!"
But Alice did not wait to listen or to reply. She heard her father's voice in the library, and thither her feet speedily carried her; and in another moment she was folded in his arms, sobbing with delight and surprise. The Colonel's eyes were moist, as he tenderly stroked his daughter's head; but they were not alone, and the soldier soon covered his emotion, saying, lightly, "How now, my Alice ! look up. Here is Master Ralph Hildyard waiting to be presented.”
The maiden, who had seen no one but her father, lifted her head from his breast, and dashed the water from her eyes, blushing deeply as she encountered the gaze of a gallant young cavalier, with long, black hair, and very dark eyes, who stepped forward and kissed her hand. The courtly style of his salutation, and the remembrance of her own childish outburst, painfully confused Alice, who ventured no second glance at her father's guest ; while Ralph, fresh from the society of Whitehall, thought that he had seen nothing prettier than this artless display of affection.
The Colonel stooped once more to kiss her forehead, untying the hood that had fallen back, and saying, "I think thou art grown sweetheart. I am mightily glad to be back again. Did'st think' me very long, Alice ?"
“Long! Yes, indeed, father," replied the maiden, still clinging shyly to his arm; “ the days seemed weeks. Methinks I have done little else of late but watch from the house-top for your approach."
“And missed my coming, after all. The time might well hang heavy on your hands, little one, if that is how you spent it. My daughter sets a high price on her old father, Ralph.”
“He is not so old, Mistress Alice, but he must over-ride his good horse to-day, that he might the sooner embrace a certain fair lady," replied Ralph; "it would be useless to ask what price he sets
“Ah! young gentleman," said the Colonel, “this is my one ewe lamb, and I am jealous over it. My heart misgave me, Alice, when you did not appear to welcome me.”
Here Simon entered with the baggage, and his eyes sparkled with pleasure when he saw his young mistress, who kindly inquired how the journey had prospered.
“Faith, mistress, our old town is the best place in the whole country,” said the man, energetically.
“What, better than the great city, Simon ? Some folks would hardly believe that,” replied Alice.
"London is a fine, big place, but it isn't home, mistress Alice."
“ Perhaps you are not so fond of travelling as you were once, Simon, when you followed my father to fight in foreign lands," said the maiden. She did not dare to say that he was getting old, for Simon was sensitive on that point.
“I found it all right then, mistress, for a change; but I saw enough of outlandish places to serve me for the rest of my life; and the roads get worse every year, I think; they well-nigh put all my bones out of joint.
The Colonel had been diving into his bags meanwhile, and Ralph had been looking round him with a curious eye. The room they were in, called by courtesy the library, displayed more signs of the battle and the chase than of scholastic pursuits. There were some heavy oak bookcases, well filled with expensive volumes; but the contents of only half-a-dozen shelves showed signs of much usage, and these included works of poetry and fiction, with the more substantial productions of popular divines. The apartment and its furniture were handsome, and had a homelike and friendly air ; but the room was scattered from one end to the other with a miscellaneous variety of things, evidently the master's own belongings; whips, spurs, gloves, pistols, riding gear, &c., lay upon the tables and settees, or were tumbled in a heap in the corners. Alice noticed the direction of the stranger's eye, and felt slightly ashamed of the disorder; for the truth was, that she had forbidden the servants to remove anything after her father's departure, much to
Janet's discontent. The family honour was very dear to her, and at this moment she was fretted to think that so fine a guest should have been first introduced into the only untidy room in the house. The Colonel thought more of comfort than display; the library was his favourite room, and Alice thought it the most delightful place possible, for her happiest hours since childhood had been spent there—in winter by its wide hearth, and in summer in its cosy window-nooks.
“Here, Alice," said her father, “I have not forgotten your wish;" and he drew forth from his capacious bag something carefully wrapped up. She came to his side, and seemed too glad to utter a word as he put into her hands a beautiful volume, bound in black leather, with silver clasps. He watched her face of delight as she undid the clasps with trembling hands; she looked just as he fancied she would, and it would be hard to say which was most pleased.
“I cannot thank you enough, father," she said, with grateful love brimming over from her blue eyes.
“Is it a story-book ?" asked Ralph, coming near, as Alice turned over the leaves of her treasure.
“ 'Tis a copy of the Bible," replied the Colonel, gravely. “My daughter wanted one of her own, and chose it rather than trinkets. I was of a mind after all to bring you some, my dear, for I saw some mighty grand things in a shop near London Bridge.”
“I am glad you did not, father; I have more jewels now than I ever wear.”
“I know you have, child, and you must begin to use them soon. Master Selden was at the bookseller's when I bought your Bible, so I asked him to choose it; and when I said what a turn you had for music, he advised your having this one with notes to the Psalms. But Master Ralph will be glad to be shown to his chamber."
“I crave his pardon," said Alice ; "your coming, father, has made me forget everything else. I will send Simon to attend upon you, Master Hildyard."
Janet's wits were not astray; she had already seen the guestchamher made ready and a fire kindled, and was now up to her elbows in the dining-room, giving her orders and spreading the board with refreshments enough for a dozen famishing men, but lamenting all the while to the servants over the ill condition of the larder. Alice surveyed the table for a moment; then, feeling thankful that Janet's thoughts were less wandering than her own, she carried off her gift to her chamber, and there fell into fresh raptures over it; so that her maid, Lucy, had some difficulty in performing her mistress's toilet. Lucy often wished her young lady
would take more interest in the subject of dress ; she could not understand how books and flowers could be more attractive than silks, and laces, and pearls. To-day the maid's patience was unusually tried; she had seen the handsome guest alight, and considered that his presence demanded a particular attention to appearances, while her mistress seemed more than ever indifferent on the matter.
“ You will not put on this dark woollen gown for supper, Mistress Alice ?” asked Lucy, holding up the despised garment.
“ Yes; why not?” returned Alice, puttivg aside her book reluctantly, as she beard her father's step on the stairs.
“There is company, and my master likes to see you well appointed."
“Oh, this will do, Lucy; it is late, and my father will have too much to think of to notice my gown.” And Alice suddenly remembered Sir John, and her joyful spirits sank.
“You have not taken one look in the mirror," said Lucy, as her lady was leaving the chamber. Alice smiled. “You are my mirror, Lucy; when you look satisfied I know I am ready for company, and you viewed me over just now as if you approved of the old grey gown after all.”
“I was thinking that you would look like a lady, Mistress Alice, even if you dressed in sackcloth.”
“I shall remember that, Lucy, when you talk to me of satias and brocades ;” and the maiden tripped downstairs quite unconscious of her own singular beauty and sweetness.
The travellers did full justice to the Yorkshire dishes, and Ralph Hildyard praised his host's canary, and the beauty of the silver flagon in which it was served to him; so that, when the table talk was repeated in the kitchen, Janet's family pride was gratified. At first the Colonel was too hungry to say much ; but Alice's
1 affectionate eyes noticed that, now the first excitement was over, her father looked anxious, and even older than when he left hardly three months ago, and the lines round his mouth were deepened, as if some heavy cares were pressing on him. He sat a few moments when the meal was done, buried in thought; until happening to look up, he met his daughter's earnest gaze; it recalled him to the present, and he asked, “What was Janet saying about your Uncle John, Alice ? She knew more than she could tell, I believe. Is he really ill? Seeing you put him out of my mind."
“Yes, father; he is ill indeed, and wants to see you very much. Aunt has been in great distress. Perhaps you will go, father, as soon as you are more rested."
“I will go now, child," said the Colonel, rising. “I expected he þad started for London a week ago. Ralph, you must be at home
here, and pardon my leaving you to-night. Alice will do the honours of the house, and I daresay you will be glad to go to rest early. Good night, sweetheart. I may be late ; so send Simon to bed, and bid Jenkyn sit up for me.” A minute afterwards the front door closed, and Alice was left alone with their guest.
The maiden was bashful at all times, having seen very little company of any sort or degree; and this fine gentleman, with his easy, graceful manners and courtly dress, embarrassed her extremely, and made her heartily wish that he would take her father's hint, and retire. It is true that the year before she had had a glimpse of the gay world, when King Charles I. had paid the town a visit, and stayed with Sir John Lister. Then she had been presented by her aunt, and the King had bestowed upon her one of his melancholy smiles, and called her “the Yorkshire forgetme-not;” but although her father had entertained some of the gentlemen in the royal train, yet to the timid girl His Majesty's visit had come and gone
like a dazzling dream, that made her dread moro than ever being taken to London and mingling with the grand city folks. The King's notice, though nearly lost upon its fair object, was not lost upon His Majesty's attendants, and “the Yorkshire forget-me-not” was toasted for some weeks afterwards by cavaliers and pages, and the good people of Hull were proud of the title conferred upon their pretty, blue-eyed young townswoman.
Ralph Hildyard, accustomed to bandy words with maids-ofhonour in both the French and English courts, and having seen the world at home and 'abroad, was at no loss how to address his hostess. He saw the half-frightened look she cast towards him, and, smiling to himself, began to try and set her more at ease. He really succeeded in making himself agreeable, though he won from Alice little more than monosyllables, at first, in reply to his frank and lively remarks; but her intelligent looks and answering smiles told him that she was worth the trouble of entertaining. To her surprise she learned that he had been born in Hull, at the old Manor Palace, which belonged to his family, and that, leaving this place when quite a child, he had never been inside the town until to-day.
"There are not many people I remember here," he said. “Your old bousekeeper's face looks familiar ; but I had some difficulty in recognising your father when I saw him first at York. There is one person, however, whom I remember well, and that is your mother, Mistress Alice; she used to walk up and down that lovely 'King's garden,' at the Manor Palace, with my own mother, who followed her so soon to the grave.”
“Do you indeed recollect my mother?” exclaimed Alice, forgetting her reserve for a moment. “ How I envy your memory! I