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25 > Page 25 of Barren honour : a novel / by the author of "Guy Livingston," "The sword and gown," &c., &c., &c.

BARREN HONOUR. remarkable points of beauty, except very brilliant dark eyes, looking larger and brighter from the balf-circles un- der them, and a mouth which was simply perfect. You could not glance at him, however, without being remin- ded of all those stories of unfortunate patricians, foiled in their endeavours to escape because they could not look like the coal-heaver, or rag-mer- chant, or clerk, whose clothes the- wore. If the whim had possessed Sir Alan Wyvern to array himself, for the nonce, in the loudest and worst-assorted colors that ever lent additional vulgari- ty to the person of a Manchester "tiger," it is probable that the travestie would have been too palpable to be amusing; he would still have looked precisely as he did now and ever-from the crown of his small head to the sole of his slen- der foot-" thoroughbred all through." The intelligreuce which seemed to have involved the Squire in doubt and disquietude was just this. Five minutes ago lie had looked upon Wyverne only as his favourite nephew; he had scarce- ly had time to get accustomed to him in the new light of a possible son-in- law; for the substance of Alan's brief confession was, that in the course of their afternoon's ride he had wooed and (provisionally) won his fair cousin Helen. Now, when the head of a family has five or six marriageable females to dis- pose of, forming a beautiful sliding-scale, from ' thirty offt downwards, his feel- ings, on hearing that one is to be taken off his hands, are generally those of unmixed exhilaration. Under such cir- cumstances, the most prudent of " par- ents" is apt to look rather hopefully than captiously into the chances of the future menage: he is fain to cry out, like the "heavy father," "i take her, you rascal, and make her happy!" and in- deed acts up to every part of the stage direction, with the trifling exception of omitting the hand over the bulky note- case, or the " property" purse of gold. But it is rather a different affair when the damsel in question is an only daughter, fair to look upon, and just in her nineteenth summer. Then it will be seen, how a man of average intellect can approve himself at need, keenly calculating in foresight, unassailable in arguments, and grandiloquent on the duties of paternity. His stern sagacity tramples on the roses with which our romance would surround Love in a Cottage. It is no use trying to put castles in Spain into settlements, -hen even Irish estates are narrowly scrutin- ized. Perhaps we never were very sanguine about our expectancies, but till this instant we never regarded them with such utter depression and humility of spirit. Our cheery host of yester- night-he who was So convivially de- termined on that " other bottle before we join the ladies"-has vanished sud- denly. In his stead there sits one filling his arm-chair as though it were a judgment seat, and freezing our guilty hearts with his awful eye. Our hopes are blighted so rapidly, that before the hour is out not one poor leaf is left of the garland that late bloomed so freshly. We have only one aim and object in life now-to flee from that dread pres- ence as quickly as we may, albeit in worse plight than that of Sceva's sons. How sorry we are that we spoke! But Hubert Vavasour's voice was not angry nor even cold. If there was the faintest accent of reproach there, it surely was unintentional; but in its gravity was something of sadness. " Alan, would it not have been better to have spoken first to me" His own conscience, more than that simple question or the tone in which it was uttered, made Wyverne's cheek flush as he answered it. "D ear Uncle Hubert, I own it was a grave fault. I am so sorry for not having told you the secret first, that I hardly know how to ask even you to forgive me. But will you believe that there was no malice propemne I swear that when I went out this afternoon, I had no more idea of betraying myself to Helen than I had of proposing to any Princess-Royal. I am sure I have no more right to aspire to one than the other. But we were riding fast and carelessly through Holme Wood; a ,'branch caught Telen's sombrero, and 25