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debates that no woman pretends to understand, except, indeed, the Lady Carlisle ?"
“But I hope I do understand," replied Alice, smiling;" at least, somewhat; and i'faith, sweet Katherine, I don't see why women should not concern themselves in public affairs. Why should not I like to hear that my Lord Strafford is committed to the Tower ?"
“Oh!” cried Kate; “is he? Well, I call that news which I love to bear; but the Parliament does not provide such interesting news every day. Grandfather and Ralph discourse in such dry fashion that I often thank heaven that I am a woman, and not constrained to be learned in politics.”
“I am never tired of hearing father talk, and I should be very lonely if I did not care to know what he is always thinking about.”
“But the Colonel amuses me; he comes out so roundly with what he means, and seems so in earnest. Ralph tries to explain things to me sometimes, and I get confused; there are so many wrongs that never get righted, and so much injustice in the land, that I get miserable, and don't want to think or hear about it. But I am glad you are not like me, little Alice. There is the signal for dinner. Colonel Lister, can you descend from the contemplation of abuses to the consideration of venison pasties and roast beef ?” The soldier smiled, and led Mistress Kate to the dinner, which was an informal meal that day, and eaten quickly, that the hall might be cleared for the coming dance.
At four o'clock, released from Lucy's hands, Alice descended to the drawing-room. The lamps were not yet lit, but great fires blazed on the hospitable hearths at either end of the room. There was a temporary lull in the house ; the preparations were completed, and every one was busy with top-knots, love-locks, and holiday attire. With a noiseless step the maiden crossed the wide, holly-dressed hall, looking like a small Christmas ghost, her stiff white silk gown softly rustling as she passed along. Kate next appeared, arrayed, like a queen, in white satin, with an amber scarf tied across her breast. Alice almost exclaimed, when she saw her in the uncertain, flickering light, it might have been one of the old Dame Hildyards come down from her frame in the gallery to join in the Christmas sports once more. Kate surveyed Alice keenly, as she had done the night before.
“A pearl you certainly are," was her verdict, gravely pronounced ; "and Alice--pardon the freedom--but what splendid diamonds you are wearing! Why, they are quite as large as Johanna's;
! , and she is so proud of hers. Did you know she was a great heiress ?”
Alice did not. “Well,” continued Kate, “ I am glad that these are as large as
hers. You may smile, but she really is very vain ; her hair always reminds me of the gold that perhaps some one will marry her for."
“Oh, Kate, why should any one marry her for such a hateful reason ? And her hair is very beautiful. I like to see it shining and waving on her shoulders. She is very fair, Kate : why should she not be loved ? "
I have known her a long time, Alice, but have not found any. thing in her to love yet. Gentlemen may love her for her white neck and shining hair: sometimes I think that a fair skin and pretty face is all they do care for : but we women look for something else. We don't choose our lady friends for their beauty-and this is all Johanna possesses. To me her face is not beautiful, perhaps because I know there is nothing lovely beneath the waxen surface."
" True, 'tis our own love that makes people handsome or plain," responded Alice.
“ You may think me hard upon Johanna," said Kate, quite seriously; " but few women care for her company. The cavaliers, however, do not neglect her; she is always well attended. In my opinion, women are the best judges of their own sex. We may be severe, but we know real goodness when we see it, spite of much plainness. I heard a foolish man say, the other day, that women could not properly value each other. He knew nothing about it. If men were wise, they would measure a maiden by the honour she was held in amongst her lady friends. But here comes Johanna ; 80 we will not philosophise any more."
Jobanna approached the fire, looking very like a stray cloud from a summer sunset, in her rose-coloured brocade, and that gleaming yellow hair gathered in knots round her temples, and floating to her waist behind. “The gentlemen are long in dressing," she remarked; then catching sight of Alice's ornaments, that flashed like sparks in the fitful firelight, she gazed at her and them in silent amazement. She had despised the Colonel's daughter in her own mind, but she did not know what to think when she saw her adorned like a peeress, and the curious antique setting of the diamonds told her that they were heirlooms, and not a recent purchase. Kate nearly laughed outright as she watched Johanna's face, and saw her annoyed surprise. “Every one is late, I think," she said, in answer to Johanna's remark; “it is after four-andab! here is grandmother at last.”
“I am in good time, my love," said Lady Hildyard. “Alice, dear heart, I have hardly seen you since the morning. Johanna, what a lovely colour your gown is." She kissed Alice's cheek, and tapped Johanna on the shoulder with her fan.
“ 'Tis the newest tint in rose broade, Lady Hildyard," returned the heiress, glancing complacently at her skirts, and glad to see
the gentlemen appearing, for now it was worth while to look charming
We cannot pretend to introduce the company that soon began to arrive and fill the room, as Sir Guy liked to see it filled on Christmas-eve; nor can we follow them through the mazes of the dances that wiled away the hours, from the stately minuet to the homely country dances, in which even grave Colonel Lister joined. During the morning's walk Ralph had engaged Alice for the first minuet, much against her will, for she had had no practice of late in that diversion, but he would take no denial. He declared it was vastly amusing to play the tutor, and teach her the new figures “fresh from Whitehall;" but Alice got bewildered, and wished herself amongst the spectators. By some chance Johanna was not led out for the first dance. In former times Ralph had often been her partner, and to see Alice chosen before herself was extremely mortifying to her vanity. From that time she conceived a strong dislike for the innocent maiden.
It was a late hour before the guests began to disperse. Some of them remained all night; others, who lived within reasonable distances, returned home well armed and attended.
“ To-morrow night we shall have something very different from this,” said Kate to Alice. " Grandfather's tenants, with their wives and children, will come, and I do love to see their enjoyment; the cbildren get surfeited with merriment. The recollection of Christ. mas night affords them delight all the
round.” She sat by Alice's fire until a band of village singers had sereDaded them. Rough as their voices were, in the open air their ancient hymns, sung for centuries by the Winestead peasants, came sweetly through the open casement. The singers were brought into the kitchen, and liberally served with cake and ales and while they were singing a parting hymn, Alice fell asleep, their voices mingling with her dreams like a choir of angels.
CHAPTER XI.-EVERGREENS AND MISTLETOE. In a serene and happy frame of mind Alice awoke next morning, and hardly had she unclosed her eyes when a bunch of bright red holly berries alighted on her pillow.
“A merry Christmas!” cried Kate, peeping round the curtains. “Do you hear the bells, how joyfully they sound! If last night's revels wearied the town maiden, how will she sustain those of to-night? Now, Lucy, you must hasten over your lady's toilet, or she will go fasting to churcb.” Kate stayed to help and to hurry Lucy, and, rescuing Alice from the maid's elaborate finishing touches, quickly conducted her downstairs, where her tender con. science smote her for having neglected her prayers. But there was no time then for repentance or amendment. Breakfast was eaten with much haste, ard still more laughter, for the spirits of every one seemed to be infected with the joviality of old King Christmas, and his mirthful train. The visitors who had remained overnight took their departure, and at ten o'clock Sir Guy marshalled his guests to Winestead Church ; and a goodly company they looked as they walked across the park.
In bis stiff ruff and a suit of clothes-the fashion of which had raised a smile among the gallants of Charles's court when in York -walked Sir Guy Hildyard, leading, with most punctilious politeness, the stately Lady Wharton along the snowy paths. Behind them came his own handsome dame, in a ruff of the same date, like her husband despising, or (perhaps unconscious of, criticism; but all who knew and loved the worthy pair would have declared that nothing could be more becoming than their formal style of dress. On one side of his hostess walked Sir Clifford Wharton, more genial and hearty than his wife, if not less vain of his pedigree; and on the other side was Colonel Lister, on whose arm the lady chose to lean, while she spoke with all sincerity in praise of his little Alice. The Colonel was greatly favoured by Lady Hildyard, who was gratified to have him for her guest. She admired, as all women did, his splendid person ; but she also knew his worth, and hououred him for his high principles and soldierly frankness.
"I have long wanted to see your daughter,” sho said. “I marvelled whether the unusual beauty of Alice Gordon had been in. herited by her child. Ralph told me that she bore a strong likeness to you both, and he said true.”
"She greatly resembles her mother, Lady Hildyard. I need not say that she is the very light of my eyes," replied the Colonel.
“She is a comely maiden, and seems to have a pleasant temper, which is worth more than good looks,” added Sir Clifford cordially, thinking, perbaps, of his own fair Johanna, whose temper was very easily ruffled.
Following the older folks came the youths and lasses, not in pairs, but in a group, talking together cheerfully; the young men with graceful cloaks of fine cloth, hiding their velvet embroidered suits and fine lace collars. Lawrence Wharton was especially gay, for he rather affected the airs of a Frenchman. The girls were hooded and cloaked, Kate in bright red, and Alice and Johanna-with equal regard to their complexions-in royal blue, with their skirts neatly tucked up, displaying very high-heeled shoes, adorned with large silver buckles and rosettes.
Tue church at Winestead was very pretty that morning, with its
ivy-mantled walls outside sprinkled with snow, and its low Norman pillars and carved pulpit within wreathed with evergreens. Very sweet and calm it seemed to Alice, after the unusual bustle and excitement of the last few days. The prayers she joined in fervently, but soon ceased to listen to the drowsy tones of the preacher, who appeared to feel very little interest himself in the subject of his sermon. Her thoughts wandered away for a short time to Andrew, whom she had not forgotten when the “bells rung out,” and that reminded her of a beautiful hymu, “ To the Name of Jesus,” which she had learnt from her friend's lips. It had lately been written by a promising young poet at Cambridge, whose gift Andrew was ready to acknowledge, while modestly undervaluing his own poetic power. She heard again bis rich voice repeating
“Come, lovely Name! life of our hope !
Lo, how the thirsty lands
Lo! how the labouring earth,
That hopes to be
All heaven by Thee,
Leaps at Thy birth!” The hymn lifted her above earthly dreams until the sermon ended; but, had she possessed the gift of second sight, she would have seen Marvel sitting beside Master Wakefield's sick bed, with pen in hand, and a folemn, even sorrowful, shadow in his large brown eyes ; had she been privileged to glance over his shoulder, her own eyes would have moistened as she saw him inditing the first lines of his wellknown “ Coronet”:
“ When with the thoros with which I long, too long,
With many a piercing wound,
My Saviour's head have crown'd,
Through every garden, every mead,
I gather flowers-_" “I am glad the Sunday part of the day is over,” said Johanna, as they came out of church. “ What a wearisome time it has been !”
“ To say truth, Mistress Johanna,” replied Kate, "you are spoiled for such humble little village churches, after your lovely Minster at Beverley, and its fine music. I have had a pleasant time enough, though I care pot one groat for our parson's homily. I never think of listening."
“ You will make Mistress Alice cry shame on you, if you talk so," exclaimed Ralph.
Kate turned quickly, and looked searchingly into Alice's face, while Lawrence Wharton rejoined, “Eh day, is the fair Alice one of the straight folks that delight in long and painful sermons ?”