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I can hope for, for years to come. Those are your advantages, and you may make the most of them; but I don't think that they will count for much. You may have her father's favor, but I feel certain that I shall have her's. You will make elderly wooer, Heron, and not an effective one, I am afraid. Girls don't marry at the bidding of their fathers nowadays, and ‘Auld Robin Gray' is completely out of date."
Thorne spoke with increasing bitterness, and his tone, as he finished, was brutally contemptuous.
Heron, however, scarcely seemed to hear him, so quietly did he stand, hands deep thrust in his pockets. He had ceased his restless walk to and fro, when Thorne began to speak, and now that he had finished, he still stood gazing sombrely, mournfully almost, at the younger man.
Thorne opened the door, then turned again. "Heron," he said, roughly, "I feel almost crazy, and-and I've spoken like a brute, but I can't give up my hope of the girl I love. Good-bye." And he was gone.
Heron stood listening to the retreating footsteps. A door banged, the footsteps sounded on the pavement of the court, there was the clash of a gate, and then silence. Heron sat down at his writing-table, drew some paper towards him, and commenced a letter, tore it up, and commenced another; tore that up also, then sat for a while, frowning slightly and drumming abstractedly with his fingers on the edge of the table. "I'll go," he said, at length, and half aloud. He rose from his chair, and began to arrange his books and papers, from time to time pausing to jot down something on a sheet of foolscap headed "Directions for Packing." Soon, every chair was burdened with a gaping deed-box, into one or other of which he kept continually tossing papers, singly, or in
“And this,” said Mr. Forster, cheery-looking, elderly gentleman, "and this is what brought you down here two days before we expected you. I wondered, when I saw you come walking up the avenue last night. Delighted, though, that you were able to get away from Edinburgh sooner than you expected. Ah!"
He smoked reflectively for a few moments in silence. David Heron and Mr. Forster were seated on a bench in front of the latter's house, a creeperclad, dark stone building on the outskirts of Alnwick.
"Honestly, David," resumed Mr. Forster, leaning back, and half closing his eyes against the strong morning sunlight, "I had scarcely realized that those two motherless girls of mine were no longer children, least of all Bess, strapping lass though she be. Also, friend David, I never expected to find you contemplating matrimony; but I suppose this new professorship alters many things, although that's no business of mine. But as regards Bess, I could not wish a better husband even for my Bess, than yourself; but-and this is very important, David-you must fight your own battle. If the girl will have you, and I hope she will, well and good. Now, I have to go into the town, and there's Bess sitting over there, reading. Perhaps you had better go and get it over."
And the old gentleman, whistling up two dogs, who had been basking luxuriously in the sunshine, strolled away, with a rather disturbed expression on his usually good-humored face.
There had been no need to inform Heron, “the Professor," his friends the Forsters already more or less accurately styled him, of the presence of Miss Forster. In point of fact, he had been watching her from under the shade of his hat-brim for the last twenty minutes. Now, he saunts ered across the garden towards where she sat, under the shade of a large tree. As he approached, she looked up, with a frank, ready smile. It was a pretty face, although with the wholesome beauty of health and good temper, rather than with that born of excellence of feature. Still, without one really good feature to her face, saving her friendly brown eyes, she would have been singled out of a crowd as being emphatically a pretty girl; better still, as being a likable girl.
"Well,” she said gaily, “what are you going to do this glorious morning?"
"Talk to you, in the first place,” he said soberly, as he sat down beside her.
"What's this?" taking up her book. “ 'The Princess Aline.' Ah, I have read that myself. It's pretty, is it not? And then it is true, you know." He laid the book down again.
“True? Do you mean that there was really a Princess Aline?"
"My dear young lady, there is always a Princess Aline."
"I don't think I quite understand you, Professor."
“Ah, well! fortunately it doesn't very much matter, and I will explain it all to you-some day." He was silent for a moment. “Do you know," he resumed, “I have been finding out quite a lot of things, lately."
Miss Forster resigned herself goodnaturedly to the exposition of
new 'fad.' "Things about myself," be went on; and she became more interested. “When I was a boy, left early in charge of an uncle who was not specially pleased, and there was little reason why he should be, at having the charge of an orphan added to his already numerous family responsibilities, I was a studious kind of fellow with few friends, and all a studious boy's narrow contempt for anything outside his own particular pursuits. The only intimate friends I had were your father and Geoffrey Thorne, the father of young Geoffrey who now is, and, as you may imagine, it was scarcely possible for any very real intimacy to exist between two who were already men, and one who was still a bos. However, they were very kind to me, when I met with little kindness elsewhere.
"Your father married, and settled down here; Geoffrey Thorne went out to India, and he also married shortly afterwards. Our intimacy, howerer, continued, and on more equal terms, as I grew up into manhood. From assó ciating, through correspondence or actual fellowship, with two men so much older than myself, I had grown to feel older than my years, and when I was called to the Bar, I found myself out of sympathy with the men of my own standing, while my elders ignored me as a raw, and rather priggish young. ster. So I was let alone, and lived alone, a poor, briefless advocate, strug. gling and for a long time unsuccessfully, to gain a footing in literature.
“Then young Geoffrey was sent home from India, like all Anglir Indian children, separated from his mother while little more than a baby. and I played Uncle David to him, look ing after him in a general kind of way, and later, when, within the space of a few weeks, he lost both father and mother, becoming
his guardian. Firmly set in my bachelor ways, ani
fatherly, protecting sort of way, as he spoke. He had ceased his jog-trot narrative tones, and now spoke nervously and rapidly. Hitherto, he had kept his eyes rigorously turned away from her face, but now he looked down at her. “Now, now!” he said, in gentle reproof, as though to a child. "For heaven's sake, don't cry, Bess!
1-l'll go away! I'll--". But, being a healthilyconstituted young lady, she did nothing of the kind. Only, her lip trembled somewhat, as she said, rather steadily, “You will go away?” And she smiled delightfully, an April-wise smile, with a tear glistening on her lashes.
with Geoffrey to care for, I felt really and truly an old man. And then-then I discovered that all along I had been making a huge mistake. You would think that I might have discovered it sooner, but there is nothing, it appears to me, to which people are commonly so blind as the realities of their own lives. But I am boring you?" He broke off inquiringly.
“Not at all,” she said gently. This was the Professor in a new light.
“Well, er-," he hesitated. “I found out the mistake I had been makingthat, after all, there was truth in the stuff in novels. And I found out my mistake, when I met you at your aunt's in Edinburgh, no longer the little girl I remembered, but a young woman. And-although I am not quite such an old man as I had fancied, I am not very young, and I am afraid I am not very good-looking; but do you think," he said, gravely anxious, "do you think that you could come to care for me a little?” The girl had risen to her feet, and from kindly interest she had passed to blank astonishment. He rose quickly, and took her hand. “Will you by my wife?" he said, briefly and quietly. “Bess?"
"Mr. Heron-my father-oh, let me go away!" she cried, striving to free her hands.
"Bess," he said, anxiously, "I have startled you; but I don't want your answer right at once. I asked your father's permission to speak to you of this, and he wished me success; but you were to decide for yourself, and-and you will consider what I have said, and let me have an
soon?" he pleaded; “I have been dreaming of this ever since I saw you in Edinburgh; I'it is only a little while that I have been in a position to speak to you, and now
But I will go away this evening, and you will write, won't you?" He still held her hand, but she no longer resisted, and he was patting it in a
Professor Heron had settled down in his new rôle of accepted suitor, although it was decided that, for the present, the engagement should not be made public. It suited the quiet humor of both Heron and Bess, and indeed of the remaining members of the household, Mr. Forster, and Kate, the elder sister of Bess, that they should be spared the increased attention and general gossip inevitable on an announcement of their new relationship. Mr. Forster beamed delightedly on the love ers and bright-eyed, somewhat sharpspoken Kate smiled a good deal, and sighed a little privately, as she hustled about more energetically than ever. For Heron himself, it was a blissful time. All his vacation schemes had been abandoned, and his ideas travelled no further than the morrow. For the most part he was content to stroll through the fields in hour-long conversations with Bess; he stood towards all created things in quite a new relationship, and there seemed to be all the world to be talked about as something strange and new. After his solitary, bookish existence in Thistle Court, there was some. thing unreal in his present happiness,
and he used sometimes to wonder sist, and all were anxious to hear her. whether this girl fitting about him When the eventful evening arrived was really Elizabeth Forster, and that Heron discovered that some university it was true she had promised to marry correspondence would detain him somehim? Or had he only imagined a vain what later in his departure than the thing, and was really sitting before his rest of the family; so, after seeing study-fire in Edinburgh, dreaming them set out in the dog-cart, Mr. Foraway the dull hours of a Sunday after- ster and the stable-boy in front, and noon in winter? At times he remem- the two girls, their heads enveloped in bered Geoffrey Thorne and his taunt white wraps, on the back seat, he re
"Make the most of your advan- turned to his letters, and a little later tages
they won't count for was striding blithely along the road to much an elderly wooer
the town, pleasurably intent on seeing *Auld Robin Gray.'" The recollec- Bess again in all the bravery of her tion troubled him, and he strove best party frock, and anxious, also, to to forget it; but it would not be miss as little as possible of the simple forgotten. Sometimes he felt that he pleasures of the evening. ought to write to Thorne, but always Arrived at the hall in which the conhe hesitated; in a resentful mood, he cert was taking place, he found the steeled himself to indifference; in passage-ways blocked with listeners un. friendlier spirit, he shrank from the able to obtain seats, and rather than possibility of a final and definite rup- jostle and be jostled, in the effort to ture. But still, from time to time he reach the Forsters, he was content to felt anxious. Was the girl really stand on some steps leading to a galhappy? Or did she already regret her lery, and from whence he had an unimdecision? Had she merely been dazzled peded view of the hall. There was a with the glamour and importance of an pause, and people were standing up engagement? Or was she only anxious and chatting. He could see the For. to do what she knew full well would sters, Bess, the white flower in her hair, be pleasing to her father. These things the tall man standing talking to her. troubled the Professor, and yet he To Heron, there seemed to be somedared confide in nobody. He would thing familiar in the man's figure. watch her gravely, intent on finding, Presently he turned, so that Heron got in her expression, proof or refutation of a view of his face. It was Geoffrey his suspicions. An impatient look would Thorne. But the great lady from Lon. awaken all his anxieties, a kind one don now appeared on the platform, would drive them away. But al. there was a burst of applause, and ways there remained an uncertainty, those who had been standing up sat and although he manfully strove to dis- down. Thorne, Heron noted, sat down miss his fears as foolish and unworthy, beside Bess. there yet remained a shadow, slight at The singer advanced to the edge of first, over even his brightest moments, the platform, and stood glancing idly and the shadow was growing.
down the hall, as she waited for the Some weeks after Heron's arrival at accompanist to play the introduction to the Forsters', a charity concert was to her song. It was the "Habanera” from take place in Alnwick, and everyone in Carmen-that strange, narcotic, pas. the district, more or less, had taken sion-stirring melody; caprice with a tickets, the Forsters among the rest. A heart-break in it. Heron stood lost in great singer, spending her holidays in thought. The music was in tune with the neighborhood, had promised to as- his mood; hall and audience had alike
faded away, and there was only Bess and Geoffrey, and the clear voice ringing in his ears. The song came to an end, and there was rapturous applause; the front seats were politely ecstatic, even the back benches were uncomprehendingly excited. The applause brought the great lady back again, smiling and bowing with careless, accustomed grace. The accompanist followed her on to the platform, and she turned and spoke with him for a moment. Heron, looking on from the stairway, scarcely noticed that she was going to sing again, the opening symphony and its attendant burst of applause passed equally unheeded. His mind was full of Geoffrey Thorne and Elizabeth Forster; his passing doubts and anxieties had suddenly grown into settled convictions. Somehow he seemed to feel no great resentment, but rather to have the bewildered feeling of one who has wakened out of a dream; he had made a mistake. The clear, bell-like voice of the singer struck upon his ear:
doorway; he was in no mood for conversation with anyone.
Bess and Thorne ascended the gallery stairs, and passing through another room stepped through an open window, out on to the flat, balustraded top of the porch. Silently, Heron sprang up the stairs to a fresh vantage-point of shadow, whence he could spy upon them unobserved. They stood looking down into the moonlit street, and he could see their faces as they turned momentarily towards each other in conversation although he could only faintly catch the sound of their voices, and utterly failing to distinguish what they said. From laughing chatter they appeared to drop swiftly into serious talk. Heron could distinguish the grave expression of Thorne's face; but of Bess he could only discern her tall, gleaming figure as she stood motionless and seemingly silent, with the conflicting rays of lamplight and moonshine striking upon her short opera-cloak and white skirt. A feeling of contempt for himself seized upon Heron. He would spy upon them no longer. He felt that he could trust implicitly to Bess remaining true to her promise, at whatever cost to herself; but he would set her free. He felt sure that he saw things now in their true light, and that, after all, he was really Auld Robin Gray-Thorne's "elderly wooer;" and Heron, without another look at the couple out on the porch-roof, stole softly downstairs, donned his overcoat, and left the hall. As he reached the street he heard the muffled sound of applause from the interior of the building. He glanced up at the top of the porch; there was nobody there. He strolled aimlessly through the town and out into the country, his brain in a perfect whirl. He had done wrong, he had made a mistake; but he would repair his error; somehow he would make things right for the young people.
“Young Jamie lo'ed me weel,
And he sought me for his bride."
Aye! "Auld Robin Gray."
The very words that Thorne had used, and here was Thorne himself, dropped unaccountably into their midst. In his excited state, the coincidence upset the last remnants of Heron's better judgment. Of course he recognized the coincidence merely as such; beyond this, he no longer reflected, but surrendered himself to every torture of an overanxious mind. And this wretched song, which struck home to him, could be no less potent in suggestion to them. But the song was over, and a general moving about of the audience disturbed him in his bitter fancies. Some people were coming towards the door in search of a fresher atmosphere. Bess and Thorne were among them, and Heron drew back into the shadow of a