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174 > Page 174 of Barren honour : a novel / by the author of "Guy Livingston," "The sword and gown," &c., &c., &c.

BARREN HOXIOUR. ten years of his life to undo the wrong and make ample amends. And still, the voice that none of us can stifle for ever kept whispering, "Too late-too late ." He was musing thus in miserable an- ticipation of the next news, when the door opened slowly, and Wyverne en- tered, fully equipped for his depart- ure. What passed between these two will never be known. Beauclere, who stood outside within ear-shot, ready to inter- fere in case Alan's self-control should fail, heard absolutely nothing. At first, the Earl's harsh, rough voice, though subdued below its wont, sounded at in- tervals; but Wyverne's deep, sombre monotone seemed to bear it down, and even this eventually sank so low that not an accent was distinguishable. At last, the lock turned softly, and Wyverne came out. He just pressed Algy's hand in passing, and went straight to the hall-door, where his horses were waiting. Immediately afterwards the hoofs moved slowly away. It was five minutes or more before the carriage was ready. Beauclerc had put his wife in, and was standing in the hall, making his last preparations, when Clydesdale came up behind him, and took his arm unawares. The Earl's face was convulsed with grief; his eyes were heavy, and his cheeks seemed seamed with tears; and his voice was broken and low. " I hardly dare to ask you to stay to- night," he said; " but if you would Only consider the fearful weather, and your wife's health. If you knew how1 bitterly I repent! I only heard the truth ten minutes ago." Algy Beauclere could preach patience better than he could practise it. He shook off the detainino hand with a force that made Clydesdale reel, turning upon him the wrathful blaze of his honest eyes. "I hope you do repent," he said, hoarsely. " My wife is not strong, but she should lie out on the open moor sooner than sleep under that accursed roof of yours." If he had looked back as he went out he might have seen the Earl recoil help- lessly, covering a stricken face with shaking hands. Wyverne remained at the village inn, not a mile from the park gates, just long enough to rest his horses and men, and then rode back to the Abbey as fast as blood and bone of the best would carry him. His strained nerves and energies were not relaxed till he got fairly home. There was a sharp reaction, and he lay for some time in a state of half stupor; but he was never seriously ill. It was no wonder that mind and body should be utterly worn out: the dark ride through such wild weather was trying enough, and he had scarcely tasted food or drink for twenty hours. Twice within the week there came a special messenger from Clydesholme; it was to be presumed that the errand was one of peace; for, eight days after Helen's death, Alan Wyverrie stood in his place among the few friends and relations who travelled so far to see her laid in her grave. But it was noticed that neither at meeting nor parting did any word or salutation pass between him and the Earl. Alan arrived only just in time for the funeral, and left immediately afterwards, without setting his foot over the threshold of Clydesholme. No one saw anything of Wyverne for some weeks. When he reappeared in society he looked certainly older, but otherwise his manner and bearing and temper remained much the same as they had been for the last four years. That night left its mark on others be- sides him. It was long before Beauclerc recovered his genial careless elasticity of spirit; and for months his wife scarcely slept a night without starting and moan- ing in her dreams. Judging from out- ward appearance, Clydesdale was the person most strongly and permanently affected by the events just recorded. He was never the same man again: his temper was still often harsh and violent, but the arrogant superciliousness, and intense appreciation of himself and his position, had quite left him. The lesson, whatever it was, lasted him his life. Very few of the many who were pleased or profited by the alteration in the Earl's 174