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(Copyright.) THE FOLLY OF ALISON. BY FLORENCE MARRYAT, Inthor of "Love's Conflict," "My Own Child," "My Sister the Actress," "Her Lord and Master," "A Passing Madness," &c. CHAPTER XI. THE LITTLE MAID HAKES HER FATHER nAPPY. But the buoyancy of youth, combined with a pure and healthy constitution, told in Alison's favour, and in a week's time her feverish and unfavourable symptoms had disappeared, and she was on the sofa downstairs, waited on hand and foot by her devoted father and Mrs. Panton, who loved her as if she had been her own child. The couutry was in its full glory by this time, and Ladysmead was a little Paradise of fruit and Bowers. From the windows of the morning room in which the sick girl lay, might be seen the broad terraces, cut one above another, and connected by flights of stone steps, which led down into the flower-garden, the rich green lawn of which was gemmed with beds of every coloured blos.-»oic. On one side of it was Alison's rosary, and on the other a plantation of American and other flowering thrubs. Beyond lay the park of Ladysmead, where the fallow and Scotch der lay in the shadow of enormous oak and elm trees, and the little fawns nestled amongst the ferns to hide them from the noonday heat. The high French windows were open to the ground, and through them was borne the warm scents of roses and jessamine and clematis, which* embowered the verandah outside. Alison was decidedly better, though very weak and languid. Her hands were cool and her complexion had somewhat regained fts peachy tint. But her eyes were still sad and thoughtful, and she seemed indisposed to talk either of the past or future. At this juncture, Mr. Hayes thought that the society of her old friends, Mr. and Mrs. Revel, might do her good, or the company of their children but the look of distaste which overspread her features as soon as he proposed to invite them to Ladys- mead, shewed him that he was mistaken, though he was scrtly puzzled to conceivd why it should be so. "Mrs. Revel is so anxious to see you, darling," he said. They have been so concerned at your illness and sent up every day to inquire how you were getting on. Lon't you think that if Mrs. Revel came by herself and had a quiet little talk with you it might cheer you up. You muat be quite behindhand in Revelthurst news. "No, no," replied Alison, wilh unusual fracti- ousness, for one of her amiable temp-rament, "I canno see her! I don't want to hear her news! 1 am not well enough. I want only you." "Very well, my dearest child, I will not worry yon. You shall see no visitors until you feel inclined to do .so." But when a fortnight had elapsed and she had driven round the park in her little pony carriage, and expressed a desire to accompany her father in his morning rides, Mr. Hayes thought she owed more to her life-long friends than she seemed dis- posed to give. "I shall be only too delighted to see you on horseback again, he replied, but I really think you should pay a visit to the vicarage first, Alison. Mrs. Revel appears quite distressed at not having been allowed to see you, and, considering the close connection which will exist between you by-and-bye, I really think you are treating her rather badly "But if I don't wish to see them why should 1 ? persisted his daughter, peevishly. "0 father, I shall never be married to Lucian. I feel sure of it. Why cannot I live you at Ladysmead for ever ? "Now you are becoming childish, my dear girl. It is only your anxiety on our dear Lucian's account that puts such a foolish idea into your head. Why should you never be married to him ? What makes you think so ? It would be a great trouble to me if I believed anything of the sort. I have set my heart, as you well know, on your marriage with him, and I hope you will never ask me to consent to your marrying any other man. There is no other man, Alison, is there ? said Mr. Hayes wistfully. "No, no there is no other. But I would not give you up, dad, for all the men in the world." "You need never do that unless you choose, dear," he answered. "That is the happiest part of your engagement, to my mind—that we need not separate, but all live in Revelshurst, the happiest family in the world." "Yes," acquiesced Alison, in an indifferent voice. The meeting with the vicarage family was inevitable, but each member of it observed how altered Alison Hayes had become, how ill and languid she appeared, and how little interest she evinced in anything they had seen and done during her absence from home. Mrs. Revel, who from the time that the girl had lost her mother, had been accustomed to give Mr. Hayes the benefit of her experience with regard to her various little ailments, now had a confidential consultation with him over the change in her demeanour, and they mutually came to the conclu- sion that it must be due to Lucian's prolonged absence and her anxiety respecting him. "She used to be so very open in everything regarding him," remarked Mr. Hayes, "but now the never mentions his name, unless I forcibly introduce it into our conversation." "That is just a proof of what I say, dear Mr. Hayes," replied his companion. "Alison is two years older than when our dear boy left us, and as girls grow into women they get more reticent about their feelings. I feel sure that she is secretly fretting over Lucian's absence and exposure to danger, and she will be quite herself again when he has returned to us." "I hope it may be so," said Mr. Hayes, "for I am beginning to feel anxious about her. How rejoiced we shall all be to see Lucian back. If he only comes as soon as he thinks probable, we shall have the wedding over before slimmer yet." "Have you told dear Alison of the possibility of his immediate return ? "No, I thought it better not, in case of a dis- appointment. She is still far from strong, and the excitement might do her harm. The surprise will be all the more joyful when it occurs." "Buf you must break it to her gently, Mr. Hsyes, and not let our dear boy rush in upon her unawares, as hili is bound to do." "No, he mustn't do that. Tell him she is not well, and keep him at the vicarage until I have prepared her to sea him. In consequence when within a week, Mr. Hayes received a note from the' vicarage to say Lucian arrived early this morning. He is all impatience to see you both. Let us know as soon as ever he may present himself at Ladysmead," he walked into Alison's morning room, where she was amusing herself by trying over some new music at the piano with a broad smile on his face. Though her fingers were wandering idly over the keys Alison's mind was occupied with wondering what would happen to her when the contents of the letter she had written, at Granville Baird's instigation, to Lucian Revel, were revealed to her father and his family. She had despatched it in the middle of June, and this was the second week in August. It must have reached Lucian at the beginning of July. In a very short time she might expect to receive an answer to tt, and to hear what he thought of the tale she had written to him. And he would write at the same time to her father and his own parents, to say that she had jilted him for another man, and the whole village would rise up against her, and demand to know who it was that had superseded her first lover in her estimation. But she would not tell them they should never know. If Granville Baird had treated her badly that was no reason she should do the same by him. She had mistaken the feeling he had roused in her breast; it was not true love, but for the sake of what she had thought it to be she could not desecrate its ashes. Let them be covered up decently and buried out of sight. She was thinking so deeply that her father's entrance made her start, and when she caught his loving smile and joyous look. she smiled also. 'j "That's right," cried Mr. Hayes buoyantly; "smile away my darling. It does my heart good to see you and you'll smile still more when you hear what I have to tell you "Why, what is it, dad? Has the boarhound pupped safely, or has Addison succeeded in pro- ducing a blue rose ? "No, you witch, neither. But Revelshurst has succeeded in producing a hero, and he is all ready for you to do him homage." "A hero!" repeated Alison, knitting her brows. "What do you mean, father ? "It's oh! my true love, and oh! my ain love, and oh! my true love, that's coming back to-day 1" tung Mr. Hayes in a bad attempt at harmony. Alison suspected the truth and went deadly pale. "Here, here, my little maid! Don't faint!" exclaimed her father, al he rushed to her side and threw bia aim around her. "1 won't keep you io suspense another moment, but 1 thought so mucn good news might be too much for you without tome preparation." "Do yon mean-" she gasped. "That Lucian has come home P Yes, my darling, It is true. Your own love has returned to you, and we have nothing to do now but to be happy." "Oh, keep him away!" cried the girl, clinging to her father. "Don't let him come near me. I won't see him!" Mr. 11ayos was aghast. "Won't see him, Alison! Do you know what you are saying? It is Lucian, my dear, come back from India, and all impatience to hear you bid him welcome. He is only waiting my summons to be at your side. "No, no, you are mistaken. He does not wish to see me—he cannot! Keep him away, for Heaven's sake! I shall die if you let him enter the room! She became so agitated that Mr. Hayes rang the bell and requested that Mrs. Panton would come to her assistance. "I fear she is going to have a return of her fever," he whispered to her. "I merely told her that Captain Revel had returned home, and she threw herself into such a state of agitation as alarmed me. See what you can do with her, Mrs. Panton, and assure her that she shall see no one until she wishes it for herself." For Alison was sobbing now so violently as to make her unequal to listening to any arguments, and her father walked sorrowfully over to the Vicarage, to welcome his young friend back to England, and tell him that for the moment his fiancee was too weak and upset to sea him. Captain Revel looked very grave at the intelli- gence. His mother had prepared him for Alison's illness, but he had imagined the mere knowledge that he had returned, safe and well, would have had a restoring effect upon her. He was a fine young fellow of twenty-four—straight and slim as an arrow, but powerfully built all the same. His thick chestnut hair was cropped, military fashion, close to his head, but his blue eyes looked out from beneath brows of a much darker hue. whilst his moustache was almost golden. He was tall and muscular, and Mr. Hayes, looking at him, th^ight how lucky his daughter was to have secured ich a noble-looking fellow for her husband. He grasped his hand warmly, inquiring with tender anxiety after his wound, which was now almost well, and exhibiting all the solicitude of a father for a well- beloved son. "Now that we have got you back we shall not easily let you go again, Lucian," he said. "I am sure that your father and mother would be glad if you left the army, and Alison will take you such a dowry on your wedding-day as will render you independent for the remainder of your life. What do you say to it ? "I do not know what to say, sir," returned the young man, laughing. "I must hear Alison's dictum first. She might not care to marry an idle man." We will take care that you are not idle, my lad. I will appoint you the manager and overseer of my estates, which will give you plenty of work to do, and me plenty of rest, which I begin, at sixty years of age, to feel that I require. Ah! Lucian, I cannot part with my only child and put fourteen thousand miles between us. If you want my Ali son you must consent to stay at home." "Well, sir, I do most decidedly want your Alison, and so I suppose I sl'all have to bow to the inevitable. But when can I go over to Ladysmead and see her ? Cannot you fancy my impatience after two years' exile ? "Bide a wee, my lad. She is nervous and ill this morning, I am sorry to say. That detestable visit to London has pulled her all to pieces. I sincerely wish now that I had left her under the charge of your people instead. But it is too late for regret, and I daresay she will be better this afternoon. Won't your mother do till then ? "I mustn't say no to that, or I shall get my hair pulled, replied Lucian, with a comical glance towards the spot where Mrs. Revel sat, silently worshipping her recovered treasure. But when the afternoon arrived, without bringing any message from Mr. Hayes, Lucian Revel decided to take the game into his own hands and go and see his little sweetheart without waiting for further permission. The long shadows were beginning to creep over the lawn as he walked up the avenue of limes which formed the approach to one side of the house at Ladysmead. Alison was lying on the sofa in her morning-room, the French windows of which were open to the ground. Her father, vexed and impatient at her reiterated refusal to receive her lover, had left her to smoke a pipe in his study, whilst he puzzled his brain to think what could have made this extraordinary change in his child, and Mrs. Panton was superintending some arrange- ments for the late dinner, so that the girl was com- paratively alone. Lucian walked silently over the close-mown grass and looked in at the window for a few moments without speaking. Alison certainly looked whiter and thinner than the romping girl he remembered; but oh, how much more beautiful! To hiin, who had associated with no Englishwomen for so long. and who had met with such sorry specimens of the genus at the seaport from which he had embarked for home, Alison Hayes seemed almost too lovely for a being of this lower earth. Her long fair hair was unbound and hung over the head of the couch on which she lay, her lithe form was clothed in a silken tea-gown or wrapper of a golden tint, and her white hands were idly crossed upon her lap. At her feet lay two httle Blenheim spaniels, and occasionally she gently stroked their heads, or pulled their silky ears through her fingers; otherwise she seemed quite listless and unemployed. Presently she heaved a deep sigh—so deep and bitter that her listening lover could not help expressing his sympathy with her. My poor darling! he exelaimed. Alison started into a sitting position and glanced around her. There, in the frame of the window, stood the handsomest man she had ever seen, so tall and upright and bright in appearance; but for the moment she did not recognise him. Some- one had spoken, but she had been unable to dis- tinguish the words that had been said. All she thought of was that she was in dèshabille-not fitly dressed to receive a stranger. "This is not the front door," she said hurriedly. "You must go round to the left, please." "And don't yon really know me, Alison? said the supposed stranger as he advanced into the room. Then she recognised the low, mellow tones that had once been so familiar to her, and stared at her childhood's playmate as if he had been a ghost. Is it Lucian ? she exclaimed, uncertainly. "Why, of course, my Sweetheart. Who else should it be? Did you think I could keep away all this time ? replied Captain Revel as he drew still nearer and made as though he would clasp her in his arm3. But she turned from him quickly and buried her face in the cushions of the sofa. "No, no," she cried, "I do not want to see you! I do not want to hear what you have to say! But Lucian Revel was not going to be put off in that summary manner by a wilful young woman. He deliberately sat down by the sofa, and took forcible possession of one of her hands. "Dear Alison," he commenced in his low, rich voica, "I know that you are weak and ill and nervous. I was awfully sorry to hear it; but I will not worry you, dearest, I will not stay here one moment longer than you say I may. Only lift up your dear face and bid me welcome. Think how long I have been absent. It is no wonder if you have nearly forgotten me but I have never forgotten you, dear. Whether I have been at the front, or lying on my camp bed in my tent, or engaged in any of the duties of my profession, I have always had your sweet face before IllY mind's eye; and my dearest hope in returning home has been to claim the promise you made me when we parted. Are you not a little glad that I have come ? Alison turned her wonder-stricken face round by degrees and regarded him steadily. Yes, she had almost forgotten him, but all the past rushed back upon her memory now. This was Luctan, her childhood's friend, her companion when they reached youth together, her champion in all di putes, her protector and guardian always the boy who had spent all his pocket-money on her, the young man who had vowed eternal fidelity to her as soon as they both understood what the word meant. He was the same—and yet not the same. She could hardly recognise in this sunburnt warrior the fair lad who had left England two years before nor in this stalwart, manly form the slender stripling who had kissed her good-bye. But the sweet smile that curved his mouth was the same, she knew that at once; and notwithstanding all that had happened since they parted a rush of feeling made her conscious that she still preserved affection for her early playmate. "Lucian," she whispered, "yes, I am glad." Thank you, love, thank you a thousand times! exclaimed the young man, a he stooped and kissed the little white hand he held in his. "But why do you stare at me like that, Alison ? "I thought—I though" she stammered, "that you would be so angry with me." "Angry with you, you poor little sick thing! But why ? "About what happened "in London," said the girt in a low voice, and veiling her eyes from his straightforward gaze. "It was all my own folly, I know that now, and it is over—quite over; but I was afraid to meet you because of what you might say—or think." "Because you were a little silly, and over- fatigued yourself with balls and parties and theatres," said Lucian, smiling. "No, dear, I was sorry to hear it, but it could not make me angry, unless it were with your aunt, who took so little care of you." "But the letter," gasped Alison with open eyea. "You received the letter ? "Which letter? I left India the beginning of July, so I daresay I missed the last one you sent me." I mean the one that went the second week in June." "The second week in June," repeated Lucian, tnittine his evebrows-" let me see! That must have gone by the Serapis. 0 Alison, 1 am afraid 1 shall never get that letter 1 The Serapis foundered outside Aden, and all the mails were lost. We passed her on the way home." "She foundered," cried Alison, with a new light in her eyes, "and all the mails were lost? You mean that the letters will never be sent to the people they were addressed to ? "Well, hardly, dear, considering they are at the bottom of the sea. Did you not read the account of it in the papers? It was a sad affair, though, fortunately, few lives were lost. The Serapis, on her way out to India, came into collision with a Dutch vessel, and sank in half-an-hour. All the passengers were saved and most of the crew, but the mails are unaccounted for. Some of the survivors say they were put into a boat, but, if so, she never reached the shore. I came home in the Cumeria, and, as we left Aden, we passed the wreck of the Serapis—at least, we saw a portion of her funnel sticking out of the water. So you will have to write me another letter, you see, Miss Alison. But what was in that one of so much importance ? Oh, nothing—nothing," replied the girl, to whom the news had come as an immense relief, "only I wondered if you had received it. And I can tell you what I think now. We shall not need to write letters." No, thank goodness," returned the young man, "for you are a mighty bad correspondent, Alison! There was I, sometimes, wa'ting with breathless anxiety for days to hear the mail was in, and then I received a scrubby little note of two or three lines, perhaps, only to say you had no time to write any more." "And always promising to send you a longer letter by the following mail," said Alison, who had unaccountably regained her spirits, "and never fulfilling my promises. Yes, I am afraid I have been very naughty; but it does not signify any more, does it ? "No, nothing signifies any more now that I am home again," exclaimed her lover rapturously. And then he added, with a wistful glance: Do you know that you have not kissed me, Alison ? But she would not consent to that. Another's kisses had been too lately on her lips, and another's vows too lately in her ears, for her to accept the same attentions from Lucian Revel, without feeling like a hypocrite and a deceiver. So she evaded the young man's request, and hid her face from him again but he was too happy at what had passed between them not to be patient under her renewed shyness. As for Mr. Rayes, he was so delighted when he found what had occurred, and that Lucian was going to stay to dinner at Ladysmead, that Alison felt amply repaid fur the force she had laid upon herself in order to be amiable to him. "Girls are queer creatures, full of sickly fancies and incomprehensible ideas, my dear Lucian," said Mr. Hayes, as he strolled about the grounds with the young man, whilst Alison dressed for dinner. "I have lived for sixty years, but I do not understand them yet; and if you attain my age, you will say the same. There was Alison all the- time of your absence as love-sick as possible after you—worrying people with her fears and conjectures and expectations and directly you come home she turns her back and will have nothing to say to you! But all such nonsense will be cured by marriage and the best thing you can do, my boy, is to marry her as soon as possible, and knock all such silly folly out of her." "I should be perfectly ready to do that to-morrow, sir," replied Lucian, but my advice is that we don't say anything about marriage to her just yet. She is evidently timid of me—a lover over in Bengal and a lover close at hand are two different things in a young girl's eyes and I feel sure that Alison will come round much sooner if left to herself. Let us have time to become acquainted withfach other over again. She has almost for- gotten me in the flesh. After a few rides in the country and tete-H-tetss in'the garden, I think we shall come to know each other better and resume the intimate terms on which we parted. You know I only say this for her sake, Mr. Hayes ? Yes, yes, I understand perfectly and it shall be as you wish." So during the evening that followed no allusion was made to the future prospects of the two young people but Lucian talked of the new country he had seen and the peculiarities of the hill tribes instead, and the girl was interested, and thought to herself how well he talked and how much he had improved during their separation, and voluntarily joined him and her father when they went for a walk through the park after dinner. The load which had been lifted from her mind by the news of the loss of the Serapis conduced greatly to her equanimity — even to her light- heartedness — whilst in the presence of her father and lover but as soon as she retired to rest she held a serious conference with herself on the path she should tread for the future. In one respect she was safe—neither her father, nor Lucian, nor his family would ever know of the terrible mis- take she had made with respect to Mr. Baird, nor of the disgrace which she might have heaped upon herself and, them had her night escapade ever come to light. So far, her mind was at rest, and she felt free. But how was she to act regarding her promise, still unrescinded, to Lucian Revel ? Must she tell him by word of mouth what the waves had merci- fully hidden from him, or could she, with honour, keep her promise to marry him, and her secret at one and the same time ? Alison knew how much her father's heart was set upon her marriage to her childhood's friend; she saw, too, that Lucian loved her as much as ever, and that the disappoint- ment, if she refused him now, would fall not only on him, but on his family and hers. What was she to do ? Had she still fancied that she loved Granville Baird, her heart, would not have hesitated to shew her the only honourable path that lay before her; but since she had discovered his real motives concerning her, and that, in order to obtain her hand in marriage, and her money with it, he would have had no remorse in destroying her reputation, perhaps ruining her purity, she had detested the very thought of him, and only trusted that he might never cross her path again. Maud might have him and welcome, if she cared to take so fickle a creature but though Alison had no reason to love her 'cousin, she shuddered when she thought of her falling into the hands of so un- scrupulous and selfish a natur No, she had not one regret left concerning MV. Baird—only the Chock of disillusionment had been so great that she felt as if she could never trust a man again. But these unnatural thoughts vanished with the light of day; and as Alison said her morning prayers she thanked her Heavenly Father for having delivered her from the curse of an ill-placed affection. As Mr. Hayes and she turned out of the park gates for their morning ride, they were met by Lucian Revel, mounted on his mare Violante, and looking so perfect a horseman, and so fresh and bonny in the morning light, that Alison could not help acknowledging to herself that, whoever married him, he was a man to be proud of, and to look up to, as the guide and guardian of life. They had a good gallop together over "uie springy turf; and it did Mr. Hayes's heart good to hear his daughter's light laugh ringing out as of old, as she answered some joke of'her com- panion's. Having once obtained his re-admission to Ladysmead, Captain Revel did not attempt to miss his opportunities. He was there again at dinner; and for several weeks thereafter be made one of the family, both indoors and out. His mother was very anxious to ascertain when the marriage was to come off, but he always silenced her by saying that it would not be until Alison proposed it of her own accord, and that he liked her all the better for not shewing an nnmaidenly eagerness in the matter. At last, however, some two months after he had returned to Revelshurst, an incident occurred which seemed to license him to speak. An apoplectic fit carried off Lord Revel so suddenly that his brother had no time to see him alive and when his affairs were looked into it was found that he had died intestate, and that all his money and estate, as well as his title, descended to the Vicar, who was his only brother. In a few hours, therefore, the impoverished clergyman, who had been struggling for years to maintain his large family of boys and girls, without receiving the least assistance from hig wealthy brother, found himself in possession of the Castle and an ample fortune on which to keep it np. His first thought was, to thank the Hand which had thus provided for him and his; the next to remember, with a grateful sigh, how much more he would have to give away in charity to those who needed it. But his chief desire was to settle n income on his eldest son, so that he should not go empty-handed to the wife who awaited him and whose dowry would even now greatly exceed what her husband could bring her. And to thi. cause may be attributed, in a great measure, Lucian's apparent sluggishness in urging his suit— he had shrunk so much from receiving where he had nothing to give. But now he felt he had a right to speak, and that to hold his tongue would denote an indifference which he was very far from feeling. So, as he was riding alone with Alison some little time after, and relating the incidents of his uncle's death, and the disposition of his fortune, he added that his father, in the goodness of his heart, had forestalled his own patrimony, and settled sufficient on him to enable him to maintain a wife. "And so, Alison," he said, in conclusion, "may I speak to you more particularly than I have done hitherto, and ask you anew if you will marry me, and how soon it may be ? It was October now, and they were riding through the lovely woods together, under the trees, whoJe leaves were turning everv shade of red and brown and yellow, and over the bracken fronds, which shewed a russet hue. "When will you marry me, darling? he repeated, as he leant on his saddlebow towards her. Shall we have our honeymoon before Christmas ? "0 Lucian! said the girl, who had long made up her mind what a goose she had been ever to imagine that she did not love this man, "are you sure—quite sure—that I shall make you happy ? I am not good, you know. I have done so many silly and wicked things in my lifetime." "I am quite, quite sure that if you were the silliest and wickedest girl in the universe, you are the only one I want to have for my wife." She held out her gloved hand to him, with the smile of an angel on her face, and he drew her by it till their horses were neek to neck, and kissed her under the autumn leaves. And when Mr. Hayes heard of it he said his little maid had made him the happiest man in all the world—net excepting Luoian himself. ( ?b be continued. )