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CHAPTER XI.

S Mansfield was on the point of leaving the room after his fruitless interview with Alice, detailed in the last chapter

but one, a well-known and somewhat impatient knock was heard at the street-door, and Mansfield, happening to look round at the moment, observed that Alice startled at the sound, and reddened slightly. His quick eye did not fail to observe her attitude. She was evidently listening, with ill-concealed impatience, for the entrance of the new comer. Mansfield hesitated a moment, as if pausing for reflection, and then, appearing suddenly to recollect himself, closed the door, and darted swiftly but noiselessly down-stairs. He was just in time to meet Tom (for it was he) face to face, as the footman was about to show him into the dining-room. Hastily acknowledging the artist's salutation, Mansfield passed on, and then, with a change so rapid as to be almost imperceptible, the friendly smile vanished, and his features

assumed a dark and lowering scowl.

sideways at Tom's retreating figure.

He glanced

Every line

and feature of his face darted malice and hatred strangely mingled with the anticipated pleasure of revenge, as he thought how easily Tom could be swept away, and how he would crush and sting him for his presumption.

"I shall have her in spite of this upstart," he hissed, through his clenched teeth. "He shall suffer for this." So saying, he walked away, seeking among the resources of his mind for some way in which he might punish Tom with the most refined and polished cruelty.

Mansfield's importunity had aroused in Alice all the fire of her love for Tom. Her imagination had pictured him standing by her side, and holding his arm over her for protection. She had clung eagerly to the fond delusion, and in fancy had flung her arms around his neck. Tom's spirit seemed to have stood between her and Mansfield, and all Mansfield's looks and words had fallen powerless. But now that she was to see Tom in reality, maiden modesty, chaste, and bloodless, coldly suggested the danger and impropriety of such an interview in her present wearied and excited condition, and warned her that the veil with which woman in her purity conceals the glow of

her affection, might not be thick enough to hide her love, and that it would be immodest and unchaste to let Tom see the ardour of her heart. But then love, on the other hand, whispered persuasively how that it would lie quite still in her bosom, and not offend against propriety, how that Tom, perhaps, brought news about the invalid, and how unkind it would be not to see him; and love finally proved the stronger, and Alice determined to admit him.

His

Tom was accordingly ushered up, and as he put aside his hat, Alice quickly noticed a wide piece of black crape round it. She glanced at it, and then looked anxiously to him for explanation. features were unusually sharp and haggard. had not slept, but had watched and thought through the whole night by the dead woman's bed-side. With a trembling voice Alice inquired after the invalid.

"She is dead," replied Tom, dejectedly; breathed her last yesterday afternoon."

He

"she

Alice appeared shocked. "I thought her better the last time I saw her," she remarked, "certainly no worse."

"Nor was she," replied Tom; "when I left her yesterday she was as usual; but when I returned, in the afternoon, some strange occurrence had hap

pened, she had lost the power of speech, and died in convulsions."

"Strange occurrence," repeated Alice, inquiringly.

"Yes," said Tom, "it appears that about an hour before my return from town, some unknown person came to my cottage. By the nurse's description it must be a man who has several times met me of late on the London road, and watched me in a manner which aroused my suspicions." "Do you know nothing of him?" asked Alice. "Nothing," replied Tom, "I never saw him

before.

He was determined, he said, to see my mother alone, and turned the nurse out of the room. He appears to have made some communication to her which brought on a fit of convulsions."

"Was she quite unable to speak?" asked Alice. "Something she said," answered he, " but nothing intelligible. It was evident she had something important on her mind, but wanted the strength to utter it. I heard her say my name, and a few other words, but nothing whatever from which I could collect any meaning. Oh, it was a fearful sight!" the recollection arose vividly before him, and he turned aside as if to avoid seeing it. "How her eyes started and glared, and her poor body shook!"

"She was not always kind to me," continued he, after a pause, during which he had suppressed the agitation of his feelings. "She was not always kind to me; but I loved her, if only for old association's sake. I have supported her so many, many years, that I shall miss her sadly now she is gone."

"Have you no relations?" asked Alice.

"I have never heard of any," replied he; “I often questioned my mother on the subject, but she was always either silent, or appeared to know as little about it as I. But why should I trouble you with my wretched and meagre history; I and mine have been burden enough to you already, and I know not what claim I have to your kindness."

"Oh yes, pray go on," urged Alice, "it interests me, I like to hear it.".

Tom had risen, and was arranging his easel. "But you will not continue the portrait to-day, will you?" she asked.

"No, if you do not wish it," replied he.

"Oh, I shall be very pleased; but I thought you wished to be at home."

"My presence is not necessary," sighed Tom, " and 'tis so lonely there now."

A long silence ensued. Alice sat playing uneasily with a tassel of her chair. So long as the

M

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