Page images




"This above all,-to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

[ocr errors]


THE old red-brick house, which had been Theodora Baskervyle's only home since she could remember, was in very truth to her the dearest spot on earth. There was little of architectural beauty about it, perhaps, for it had been added to by various owners,-a bow-window thrown out here, a round tower there, without much reference to its original style; but the rooms were large and airy, the staircases broad and noble, while the windows of the ground-floor opened on to a terrace which was the envy of the surrounding gentry, so bright was it with flowers, even at this season when the first glory of its summer had passed.

The house had been built some sixty years before the commencement of my story, by George, Earl of Atherling, as a residence for his two unmarried daughters,


and here had been passed many peaceful years, during which the two old ladies had managed to fill the stately old drawing-rooms with chairs, sofas, and screens,—all the work of their own unwearying fingers. The present daughter of the house, the Theodora of whom I have spoken, was wont to laugh to scorn these works of art, declaring that she only allowed them standing-room in the house that they might prove a warning to the present generation. She could form no conception of the utter monotony of the life led by those great-aunts of hers,—a monotony which nothing broke save the occasional visits of their brother, Lord Atherling. He came to them once every year, bringing with him his fashionable wife and three handsome boys, of whom the youngest was my Theodora's father. Of the three Eustace, the second son, was his aunts' favorite, and to him they bequeathed the house and broad lands of "The Manor," as it was called.

People said that his advent would make a great change in the society of the county, which had been in a state of stagnation for a score of years; there was great tribulation, therefore, when, shortly after his aunts' death, he appeared, a melancholy, broken man, whose solitary life and stern demeanor gained for him a reputation for madness throughout the country-side.

But Eustace was not mad, unless it be madness to love too well where love is vain; perhaps it was madness to regret a woman who, for a year and more, had been his affianced wife, and when their love was at its sweetest and fullest had coldly dismissed him, vouchsafing no explanation. He had loved her loyally and well; had it been death that parted them he could have

« PreviousContinue »