He saw the appealing look upon her face, and he knew that he had never seen so pitiful an expression before. Her fear was that he might judge her hastily and harshly. Ah, how could she have such an apprehension so far as he was concerned? He forgot while he looked into her face that there had ever been in his heart any thought of bitterness against her. It was impossible that he could even for a moment have entertained a thought except of sympathy in regard to her.

Did there exist in all the world a girl with so gentle—so sensitive—a nature as was hers? It would, he knew, have been impossible to make most people in the world in which they lived—the shallow, cynical, artificial world of fashion—understand how this girl should shrink from everything that young women in their world hoped to achieve. He knew that Elizabeth Linley was envied even by duchesses. There was no woman too exalted to be incapable of looking on her with envy. Dick Sheridan had heard from time to time the remarks which were made upon her by the grandes dames who frequented the Pump Room. The Duchess of Argyll, who twenty years before, had taken St. James’s by storm, when she was only the younger of the two Miss Gunnings—she had now become Mistress of the Robes and had been made a Peeress in her own right—he heard this great lady say that Miss Linley was the most beautiful young woman in England, and almost equal in this respect to what her own sister, the Countess of Coventry, had been at her age.

And the Duchess of Devonshire—he had heard her say that she was quite content to come to Bath to hear Miss Linley sing once only.

This was the verdict of the two greatest ladies in England, and he knew that what the duchesses thought one day all England thought the next. (The commendation which Miss Linley had received from the king himself when she had sung to his Majesty and the Queen at Buckingham House was not worth considering alongside that of the two great duchesses.)

Could any one believe that such a girl, envied as she was by all the rest of womankind, should shrink from the applause which greeted her every time that she sang—from the admiration which the most distinguished people in England offered to her? Could any one but himself understand the shrinking of that pure soul of hers from the fame that was hers—the adulation of the fastidious? Could any one believe that with all the world at her feet, her dearest wish—her most earnest longing—was for the seclusion of the green pastures, for the quiet that was to be found beside the still waters.

He looked at her, and felt a better man for looking at her. She was one of those rare women who carry with them the power of making their influence for good felt by all with whom they come in contact. No one could be in her presence and remain the same. She was a garden of roses. Dick Sheridan had come to her with his heart full of bitterness—he had been treasuring up hard words to say to her—treasuring up words of keen steel as though they were soft gold; and yet before he had even come into her presence—while he was still standing leaning up against the doorway, listening to her singing—every hard word, every harsh thought had vanished. And now he was standing before her wondering how he could ever have had a thought of her except of tenderness and unselfish devotion. In her presence he had ceased to think of himself. Her happiness—that was what he thought of. He was quite content to take no account of himself in the world in which her happiness was centred. And yet she suggested that there was a possibility of his judging her harshly.

“What you have suffered!” he cried. “Is it the decree of Heaven that those who are more than half divine should have more than double the human capacity for suffering? That is the price which such as you have to pay for a nature such as yours. And you ask me not to judge you too harshly. Ah, my Betsy, you are judging me too harshly if you fancy it possible that I could have any thought about you that was not one of tenderness and affection. Tell me how I can serve you, tell me how I can stand between you and the world—the world that can never understand such a nature as yours. The world is human, and you are half divine.”

“Ah, no!” she cried. “If mine were such a nature, I should be strong enough to endure the worst that could come to me. Alas! I am very human.”

“Show me some one who is very human, and I will show you some one who is very nearly divine,” said he. “What Bishop O’Beirne said about you long ago is the truth; you are more than half an angel. That is why people fail to understand you. I do not think that even I, who have known you so long, have quite understood all the sweet unselfishness of your nature until now. We are being divided now, dear Betsy. We are like ships that meet and then sail separate ways; but whatever may happen, I pray of you to think of me as one who understood you. I pray of you to call for me at any time that you may stand in need of some one to help you. You know that I will come from the farthest ends of the earth to help you.”

“I know it, Dick,” she cried,—“I know it. A day may come when I shall have only that thought to sustain me.”

There was a silence between them. It lasted for some time, each looking into the face of the other, and seeing there a very pale face—each holding the hand of the other, and finding it very cold.

Suddenly the silence was broken by the sound of voices downstairs—the voices and the laughter of children. Their feet sounded on the stairs.

In a quick impulse of the moment not to be resisted, the girl threw herself into his arms and kissed him on each cheek—rapidly—almost passionately. He held her close to him and kissed her on the lips. In another instant they had separated; the door of the room was flung wide, and the boys rushed in, followed scarcely less leisurely by Maria and Polly. They all talked together, giving some of the more striking details of the Dancing-Master’s Assembly.

Polly, who was burning to make Dick acquainted with the opportunities of the newest minuet, was unceremoniously elbowed aside by one of the boys, who had a good deal to say on the subject of the refreshments. The buns might certainly have been fresher, he asserted; and Dick freely admitted his right to speak as one of the cognoscenti on the subject of the bun. But the critic was in turn pulled aside by little Maria, who had been presented with a cup of ice for the first time in her life, and was (paradoxically) burning to record her impressions on the subject of ice as a comestible. She admitted being startled at first, but she indignantly denied the impeachment of one of her frank brothers to the effect that she had been too frightened to swallow the first spoonful, but had, without a voice, borrowed a hasty handkerchief—— No, she had swallowed it, she declared, with a vehemence that carried suspicion to all hearers—she had swallowed it, and if she had not taken a second it was not because she was afraid, but because she was not greedy, like—she was in no doubt as to the identity of the greedy one of the party—the one who had eaten three slices of plum cake, and had not refused, as would have been polite, the fourth tumbler of lemonade. It was Master Oziah who accused himself by excusing himself in respect of this transaction.

The boys rushed in

The door of the room was flung wide, and the boys rushed in.

[page 152 .

Only three of the group were talking together, their voices becoming somewhat shrill, when Tom entered, and in a moment silence dropped on all. Tom had, since his return, given them to understand, upon many occasions, that he would not overlook any boisterousness on their part. He talked of nerves, and the young ones had stared at him. They had never heard the word before, and at once jumped to the conclusion that it was some foreign malady—perhaps Italian, and not unlikely to be a variant on the plague or the black death—terrors which had now and again been used by a nurse as a deterrent to their boisterousness.

Silence followed the entrance of Tom—silence and a nudge or two passed faithfully round the group from rib to rib. Tom, on entering the room, had suggestively left the door open—quite wide enough to allow of the exit of all the youngsters in couples without inconveniencing themselves.

He glanced significantly at the opening, and the hint was not lost upon the children.

Only Polly remained in the room. Tom could, no doubt, have dispensed with the society even of Polly; but that young lady had no intention of being in any sense put out by her brother, though her father had hitherto taken his part in any domestic difference, on the plea that Tom was a genius.

She threw herself in a chair, displaying all her finery, and hoping Dick would notice at least some portion of it.

“Tom has been visiting Mrs. Abington these three hours,” said she, with a nod to Dick.

“She took quite a fancy to Tom last night,” said Dick. “But I had great trouble inducing Tom to let me present him to her. I think I showed some tact in excusing him by letting the lady know that he had buried his heart under the bridge of his fiddle.”

“You did not tell me that she is devoted to music—to the fiddle,” said Tom.

“’Tis the first I heard of it,” said Dick. “I have heard of some of her devotions, but the fiddle was not among the number.”

“You probably never took the trouble to find out, and she is not the sort of lady to obtrude her talents on an unwilling ear,” said Tom.

“Oh!” remarked Dick.

“She is not such a lady,” continued Tom. “But the truth is that she possesses a fine and elevated judgment on musical matters.”

“That means that she praised your playing up to the skies,” suggested Polly. “I have not lived in the house with musicians all these years to no purpose.”

Betsy and Dick laughed; but Tom ignored their laughter as well as Polly’s rudeness.

“I knew what a mind she had when she gave me her opinion on Handel last night,” said he. “‘Handel spent all his life building cathedrals,’ were her words.”

“And somebody else’s words, I daresay, before they descended to her,” remarked Polly. “But they are not true; at least, I never heard of Handel’s building any cathedral. Let us count all the cathedrals in England, and you’ll very soon see——”

Tom gave a contemptuous laugh.

“Of course, every one must know that she was alluding to the oratorios of Handel,” said he. “Has anything finer or more apt been said about the oratorios, Dick?”

“The phrase is very apt—indeed, it is striking,” acquiesced Dick.

This degree of praise by no means satisfied Tom. He gave an exclamation that sounded almost derisive.

“Apt—striking—almost striking!” he cried. “Cielo! have you no appreciation of perfection? I tell you that nothing finer—nothing more beautiful was ever said in the world.”

“Oh, she must have been impressed by your playing,” said Polly.

“Don’t be a goose, Polly,” said Betsy. Then she turned to her brother. “Yes, dear Tom, any one who knows anything of Handel’s methods will allow that to suggest a parallel between one of his great oratorios and a cathedral is—is—well, all that you say it is.”

“Only one who is devoted to music and who understands its mysteries could have so sublime a thought,” said Tom. “I felt it to be a great privilege to be permitted to play to such an audience this afternoon.”

“For three mortal hours,” whispered Polly.

“Three hours—immortal hours,” said Tom. “But the time was all too short.”

“I am afraid that I shall never be a musician,” said Polly, with a stage sigh.

“What did you play for Mrs. Abington, Tom?” asked Betsy.

“I took some rolls of music with me,” replied Tom; “but I found that there was no need to have gone to such trouble. She wished to have it explained to her how—how—never mind, ’twas a theory of mine—we talked together about it—she and I—last night in the Long Room. Mr. Walpole came up—Mr. Selwyn—Mr. Williams—they had fresh-made epigrams—pleasantries taken from the French. They wearied her, but she was too polite to yawn in their faces.”

“No; she would not yawn in their faces,” said Dick. “And what was the subject of your theory, Tom? And how did it come that you had no need for the rolls of music you took with you to her lodgings?”

“‘Love and its Interpretation by Music’—that was the point upon which she expressed the liveliest interest,” said Tom.

“Oh, this is no place for me; I am too young,” cried Polly demurely, as she rose from her chair and went to the door.

“Polly has become insufferable,” said Tom in a tone of irritation. “Of course, any one who has studied music knows that it is a science.”

“It is assuredly a science. Language is a science, I have often heard my father assert; and since music can interpret the language of love into phrases that can be easily understood, it must be granted a place among the sciences,” said Dick. “But is’t possible that Mrs. Abington would not listen to your demonstration of this science on your violin?”

Cielo! Why do you suggest that she would not listen?” cried Tom.

“Why, man, have you not just said that you had no need of the rolls of music which you carried with you?” said Dick.

“Oh, I had no need for the printed music. I improvised for her,” replied Tom.

“In the Italian fashion?” inquired Dick. “Well, I am certain that you had a most sympathetic listener to your phrases of interpretation. She is, as you say, devoted to—to—science.”

“She was more than sympathetic,” cried Tom. “Oh, it is a better instruction for one to play to such a listener than to receive a lesson from a Maestro.”

“Mrs. Abington is undoubtedly fully qualified to give lessons,” said Dick. “I am sure you will learn much from her, Tom, if you give her your attention.”

And then Mr. Linley entered the room.

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