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66 Yes; I


“I need hardly ask how you like my poetess ;” said Mrs. Blackmore that night ; 6 but I want to know if yor:r magic rod has pointed out the couple in whose welfare I feel so lively an interest ?" “My dear, I felt it point towards the poetess herself,

also towards Mr. Blackmore's learned brotherat-law,"

“ Mr. Ruth ? well it pointed rightly then. I guessed you would soon find out for yourself. Well, while we toast our toes and brush our hair, let me state the case to you clearly. Mr. Ruth, you must know, was some time ago the reputed suitor of Alice Clisson, and she,


“ Hah! that is something Letty,” and I rubbed my bands, and drew my chair nearer to hers. look on match-making as a part of woman's mission on this earth, when properly conducted, bien-entendu."

" And Mr. Thackeray says that every woman worth a pin is a match-maker at heart. Hugh and I laughed when he was reading out for me one evening, and we came to that we thought of you, you know. Hugh says you have made me as great a practitioner as yourself, and Hugh is seldom wrong in what he says. I am sure neither he nor I have cause to regret your tendency in that way. Well, well ; I do my best to follow in your footsteps, but, somehow, I don't get on as I should wish. Now, in particular, my Minerva must aid me."

“Then let me hear all about it, Letty ?”

Letty laughed, and prudently deprived me of the poker, with which, in my professional energy, I was smashing some lumps of coal, and with every blow, mentally demolishing an obstacle.

“I must disappoint you awhile,” she said, shaking her head. “I want you to make the acquaintance of the parties first. To-night I will tell you.”

6. Then they are here ?"

“Not at this moment—but they have come to Christmas with us—both of them. Is that a good stroke?”

“ Capital ! But couldn't you tell me now, Letty ?'

"No, no, no, Miss Crosby ; I want to see if you will find it out for yourself—as I have no doubt you will."

“Well- I suppose“I must wait," I said with rather a bad grace,

I must confess. 66 What visiters have you here, Letty ?”

“ Not mavy. There are Mrs. Westrop, and her devoted admirer Sir Henry Coson ; Mr. Forsyth, the artist, whom you met here before, and his sister Lucy; Mr. Winslow the traveller, whom you also know ; Hugh's sworn friend, Mr. Puth the barrister ;-and-a pet of yours—the lion, or rather the lioness of my party. You know this, I think ?" and she held up a volume of poems which lay on the table, by one of our most gifted modern writers.

“Dear me! do you really mean to say that Alice Clisson is here-in this house ?"

“ Not this moment, Madam, for all my guests have gone out on a walking party. But she is here, yes. She is an admirable woman, but of that you must judge for yourself. No questions now, you must use your own dear old eyes ; I'm sure they are sharp enough. Now if you are thawed, will you come and pay a visit to the nursery? You have to renew your acquaintance with your godson, and to be presented to baby. She will be awake now, so you can see her lovely eyes. Both children have Hugh's eyes ;-50 dear, and gentle, and serious.”

“Goodness me! I remember when a certain young damsel was wont to stigmatise Mr. Blackmore's eyes as sharp, disagreeable, agly grey eyes!” So do I !” laughed Letty ; “but I can tell you

she has changed her mind, or rather, she never in her heart thought them otberwise than beautiful.”

strative woman, did not dislike the attentions of her learned lover. Hugh and I used to say they were made for each other; they used to talk together by the hour of books, and pictures, and metaphysics, and botany, and poetry, and music, and, in fact, everything refined and interesting to two such minds.

Miss Clisson was one of the managing committee of the society for the employment of women, and Mr. Ruth used to become quite Demosthenic when he spoke on that subject. In fact, my dear, they are made for each other, that's all about it ; but who ever did or ever will hear of the course of true love flowing on unruffled ? But, of all persons in the world, Hugh it was who raised the winds that ruffled it. It unluckily came into his head one day, though I'm sure the wonder is that no one thought of doing so before, to congratulate his friend on his fortunate wooing and prospective happiness. Would you believe it? Until that blessed moment this innocent Mr. Ruth--but those learned men are often such babies !-had never dreamt that anyone could remark his attentions to Miss Clisson, or consórue them into anything but respectful friendship, sincere admiration for talents, veneration for character and sterling worth, and so forth. Sensible, wasn't it? Hugh says he turned as white as a sheet, and trembled all over, when he put the thing to him in its proper ligbt, and then went on in the most ridiculous way about his remorse, and tortured feelings, and trying po:ition. Did you ever hear of such an affair ?”

“My dear, I must know more of it before I can answer you.

Did he not really care for Miss Clisson, then ?"

“Care! why, he adored her, and does to this daythat's the strangest part of my story: nervous man, as you may have noticed, and he was so nervous and excited at the time of which I speak, that he was unable to keep his own counsel, inasmuch as bis love for Alice Clisson was concerned. But he assured Hugh that there were insuperable obstacles to such presumption on his part. That Alice Clisson could never marry him— never ! And that he could never have the courage to ask her. No, no, no! And if Hugh ever cared for him he would spare him the pain of further allusion to the subject. So, my good man being completely mystified and bewildered by all this mystery, gave him the required promise. And since

He is a very

then, Mr. Ruth's avoidance of Alice is as marked as his former attentions."

“ Then, that explains the stateliness of her manner to him. I saw there was something strained in it, But of course, any woman would resent such a flagrant desertion. It is an extraordinary story, and I must have time to think over it before I can see my way at all through such a labyrinth "

" Then, pull your considering cap down over your brow, and sleep in it. I give you up to this time on Christmas Eve to mature your wise plans; so, make the most of your opportunities,

“ Letty!" I called after her, as she was leaving me, She returned.

“My dear, I have been thinking—this Mr. Ruth can't be married already, can he ?"

“ The very idea th struck me--but a silly one it seems. Hugh and he have been like brothers since they were boys of fifteen, and unless he took on himself the cares of matrimony before that age, he couldn't possibly take such a step without Hugh's knowledge. So you must suggest something more probable next time. Remember ; I give you until this time on Christmas Eve !"

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Of all the guests assembled under Mrs. Blackmore's hospitable roof, I shall only introduce you to two-he two in whom the hostess felt so lively an interest.

Alice Clisson, the successful poetess, was the realization of my ideal of a woman of intellect. In age about twenty-eight, she was tall, and rather largely moulded, but with a grace and ease of carriage that precluded all idea of heaviness. Her face was thoughtful ; her featnres irregnlar, but pleasing; her eyes clear, grave, and penetrating; her head, with its coils of dark hair, classically beautiful in ouiline, She was an admirable woman-well-ordered and intellectual,

Mr. Ruth was a tall, slenderly-formed man, of thirty or thereabouts, with a noble head and delicate clearly cut features, His forehead was shaded with thin, shadowing-looking hair; his large eyes flashed and burned with the fire of genius; and, spite of the nervousnessat times painful—of his manner, there was an irresistible sweetness and winning grace about him, that made him an almost universal favourite,

Mr. Ruth had been very silent and thonghtful days past, but on Chri tunas-eve, when we all sat round the fire, the spirit of Christmas seemed to ave breathed upon bim, and he was as cheerful as any of the circle, He it was who proposed that we should put out the lights, keep the fire blazing, and spend our Christmas. eve telling stories. This was favourably received. We drew lots, and the fir-t fell on Alice Clisson, who, with her usual quiet ease and grace, proceeded to recount to us an adı enture that had befallen her at the house of friend some years previous. (No, Henry; you need not draw ap your chair so expectantly. I have no time just now to retail for you Miss Clisson's adventure. No, nor Mrs. Westrop's thrilling ghost story, por Mr. Blackmoru's curious professional anecdote, nor my true

Irish fairy tale, nor, in a word, any of the stories thea and there narrated save that told by the person on whom the last lot fell, who was no other than our friend, Mr. Ruth.)

Mr. Rath was sitting with his head resting on his hand, and for some moments after he was called on for his story, he retained bis position without speaking. Suddenly recollecting himself, he started, raised his head, and began in the following words :

“What I am going to tell you can hardly be called a story. It is merely a curious incident, which occurred within my own knowledge, and wbich is, I think, a singular one.

“ Two days after the Christmas of twenty years ago, a master-sweep, with his two wretched half-starved apprentices, were summoned to exercise their calling at the country-house of a rich old lady, situated in one of the southein counties of Ireland. It was an old-fashioned place, with a multitude of chimneys; and evening was falling when the youngest of the children,-a boy of ten, a wretched child, all skin and bone-clambered up the last chimney, and though almost faipting after his hari day's work, prepared to clean it down.

Here, half-way up, on a ledge that ran to one side, and almost imbedded in soot, the boy laid his hand on some unusual object. He lifted it curiously ; it was a coarse but very heavy bag, and when he shook it something clinked within with a mellow, ringing sound. Full of childish eagerness and curiosity, the finder mounted up to the light, and with trembling fingers proceeded to examine the contents of the bag. Running in his sooty little hand, he brought it out filled with yellow pieces, -gold pieces, - which glanced and shone in the beams of the wintry sao, The boy, half stupified, sat there, with bis treasure in his hand, dreaming and wondering, until his master's rough voice from below, roused him, by demanding wbat he was about?

There was little time for thought; but the lessons of the dead mother seemed to ring in his childish ears, and he resolved, cost what it might, to give the prize into the owner's hands. If he could only conceal it from bis brutal, depraved master! Tremblingly, he placed the bag inside his ragged shirt, and finishing his task, slipped down to where his master and comrade stood.

“I dare say the child's face betrayed his anxiety and apprehension, for the ruffian locked sharply at him, and his eye fell at once on the clumsily-concealed object beneath the ragged sbirt. With an oath he sprang at the trembling litile creature, to se what this object

But the boy, with new-found courage, resisted with all his feeble strength, and screamed and called for help, and the servants rushed in time to rescue him from the clutch of the ruffian, still grasping the treasure. Sobbing and trembling, the boy clung to them, and implored them to bring him to the lady of the bonse. Eager and curious to discover the cause of his strange behaviour, they did so.

“ The child was led into the presence of the lady,


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Softly, breathe softly, O wind i' the wood,
Slumberous stream, be thy murmur subdued;
List ye awaken the birds with a warning,

And the sun should up-soar

Ere the full time be o'er,
And The Coming be come with an earlier morning.

0, ʼmid the dim still chamber,
Faint breaths that come and go,
Are ye dreamy sighs for an aching want,
Or for life, or for death being slow?
0, pale thin hand out-lying,
Dost thou seek for a touch not near,
Or faint with a silent despairing,
Or thrill with a yearning fear ?


and to her he told his story and delivered his precious bag. In it she found, wrapped in an old newspaper, three hundred sovereigns, and the old newspaper gave them a clue to the reading of the mystery. It.contained an account of a burglary committed in this very house fifteen years previous, and of rewards offered for the apprehension of the robbers, who were known to be three in number. But these had never been traced, and the affair was well nigh forgotten, when this unprecedented occurrence again brought the particulars before people's minds. The plate and valuables stolen had been estimated at nine hundred pounds, and as there had been three robbers, there was little doubt but that this was one man's share of the plunder. How it had been placed in the chimney no one could tell, but it had certainly been placed there within the last year, as only that period had elapsed since the chimneys had been swept down last.”

Here Mr. Rath ceased as abruptly as he had begun, and we all broke out into exclamations of wonder au interest. Almost with one accord we inquired as to the subsequent fate of the brave little hero of the story.

“My friends, that is speedily told. He was released fron his slavery by the kind and grateful old lady, who adopted him, and gave him the profession of his choice. Since then things have gone well with him ; he has prospered in his worldly career ; and but for a weak and morbid remembrance of the inferiority of his birth, and a foolish dread of its becoming known to others, would have been as happy as any of his fellows. But now, at this holy season, which brings to us all such lessons of humility and of charity, he has resolved to live no longer with this dread, cast from hin this unwortby weakness! Yes, my friends ; the story you have heard is a true one, and in me you see the man to whom the boy of whom I have told you was the father; I was that poor boy!"

Mr. Ruch fronted us no v, and as he went on, his manner lost all its usual nervousness; he seemed to tower above us, and we all felt it, and looked up to him. We know what it must have cost him to mike this avowal, but we honoured him the more for making it. We crowded round him, we pressed his hand, we bade God bless him. And this was the gulf that had divided him from Alice Clisson, eh? Well, well, how little the best men understand us! As to Alice Clisson, now, I am certain I saw tears in her eyes, and her face looked perfectly radiant by the firelight. I think it encouraged Mr. Ruth wonderfully, for he walked over to her, and quietly took possession of the seat beside her. I sat near, and once, during a pause in the con. versation, I heard Mr. Ruth say

“ And so my Alice thinks no worse of me after all ?"

I did not hear the reply, but judging for the gentleman's face, I am inclined to think it was satisfactory.

Softly, breathe softly, 0 wind i' the wood,
Slu'nberous stream, be thy murmur subdued;
Lest ye awaken the birds with a warning,

And the sun should up-soar

Ere the full time be o'er,
And The Coming be come with an earlier morning.

The fire has long in ashes
Shrunk, crumbling through the bars,
And long the clouds have gathered
And blackened the brightest stars,
But the taper that burned so bravely
Has a paler and wannish glare
And all round the east horizon
The dark thins into blue air.


Softly, breathe softly, 0 wiad i' the wood,
Slumberous stream, be thy murmur subdued ;
Lest ye awaken the birds with a warning,

And the sun should up-soar

Ere the full time be o'er,
And The Coming be come with an earlier moroing.

Atar, beyond the horizon
Rides one with bitterest speel,
And more than one life shall tend death-ward
If be see thee not in thy need.
O lightest of all light sleepers !
I dare not to stir lest thou wake,
And with sudden turn of the brow, behold
Him not—and thy heart should break.





So Christmas Eve was come, and no need, you see, for my services as match-maker. And I trust you will all spend as pleasant a Christmas as we did at Mrs. Blackmore's last year.

Softly, breathe softly, O wind i' the wood,
Slumberous stream, be thy murmur subdued;
Lest ye awaken the birds with a warning ;

And sun sun should up-soar

Ere the full time be o'er, And The Coming be come with an earlier morning.

Alas, that I hold thy living
And death, within my

Alas, that not I, I only,
But a sound has thy heart in command !
O sleep! thu' the loneliness crush me,
And terrors rush in on my soul.
O slumber!-0 shield, sweet angels !
His life from the wakening dole.


more, I think it quite time for you to make haste it you intend it at all.”

“ Never said a truer thing in your life, and all you need do besides, is to whisper a word to your daughter Eileen, and I know she'll be obedient to you. I'ın sure she wouldn't vex her old father, and that one word frm you would be enough. That's all I've to say; she's not too young, you know yourself. Last Christmas she danced at the ungodly merriment made when ber cousin goi married ; and they were both of an age.”

"Ay, sure enough, but maybe she was too young. However, I would not do what you want me. I will not say a word that would force my poor Eily to act against her will, for the king upon his throne. And I think she entertains her own opinions about the sub




Softly, breathe softly, O wind i' the wood,
Slumberous stream, be thy murmur subdued ;
Lest ye, waken the birds with a warning,
And the sun should

up-soar Ere the full time be o'er, And The Coming be come with an earlier morning.

Harsh laughter from revellers passing,
O too loud ! wither and die
A sudden turn of the brow-a glance,
One glance-and a low, low sigh.
O fearful chamber of silence !
O stillness audibly great!
O hurrying feet at the doorway
Ye come, ye have come, too late !




“ WELCOME you are, Master 'Zekiel Black, to everything the house affords. 'Tis not I that will renounce the fine ould custom of open door and welcoming lintel to the stranger, but”

" If you've had wild Injun ways, Mr. O'Breen,” retorted 'Zekiel in a harsh voice, (he seemed to feel that praise of hospitality was a reflection on himself,) it you or your forbears had wild Injun ways, the sooner you get over them the better, and the less they're spoken about the better."

“Everything ours is s veet, and everything theirs is sour,” answered O'Breen, sententiously, “but, at least, we let our friends say their say, and spoke when they were done. I was going to say, then, that I look upon you as a well-to-do man; your fathers were so before you, and what came from them has not lessened with yourself. You have kept the place well, and though an ollanda good name held it, and maybe, if everything happened right, should have held it, all that's a long time ago, in the times of wars and trouble. You have increased much in riches, I know, and I know, too, and I tell you plainly to your face—for no man can accuse Michael O'Breen of being afraid of saying to one's face what he'd siy behind his back~I know then, that the open door and ready board have not been your ways. No matter; every people to their customs, and I won't

But this I tell you, Master Black, that I think my daughter is too young to marry yet. And

66 You will not ?" “I will not.”

'Zekiel Black's sallow fac- got rigid with suppressed passion. A dark expression fell upon it, and from under bis heavy eyebrows shot a vicious look. The two men were seated before a blaziog fire in O'Breen's spacious kitchen, the principal apartment in most farmhouses of times past. Behind the old farmer's chair, to the right of the jutting hearth-jambs, and in the shadow of one of them, was the door opening into his daughter's apartment; on the other side lay his owu, and a ladder sloping across led to the loft, tenanted at night by the house servants. Behind the chair of Ezekiel Black, against the northern gable, the “dresser" stood, resplendent with rows of polished pewter plates and drinking vessels.

Few faces could be more different than those of the two sole inhabitants of this kitchen. O'Breen had evidently been a man of massive strength ; his face and blue eyes bore a kind, open expression; the white locks that fell upon his shoulders told that his youth bad gone ; but there was great strength of will in that broad brow and strongly-marked underface. Ezekiel Black, or Black Zeky, as he was popularly called, was rather a long-faced and broad-headed individual. His forehead was low, his complexion dark, his eye lastreless. The expression stamped upon bis flaccid visage was that of a man's who slowly cogitated his way. An idea a little out of the common, when uitered in his presence, met with no responsive, electric sympathy, no intuitive welcome. IC was either a puzzle which he succeeded in nearly unravelling after a time, to his great self-satisfaction, or he gave it up as signifying nothing in particular. As the deaf and dub are often found to be very suspicious of others, so ʼZekiel Black, dulled in his perceptive sense, un wittingly allowed the distrustfulness of his nature to shine through the quick, dullish looks, cast sidelong.

After revolving the answer he had received in his mind for about half a minute, and during that time his disappointed interest and wounded pride had raised a bitter, unbearable rage in his heart, he stood op suddenly.

“ Farmer Breen,” he said, threateningly, “my forebears have all been s:eadfast a'id true to the kings, and

blame you.


my word would go far, for or against, in favour or not, with respect to people who may be all very peaceable seeming and loval,"

O'Breen started to his feet passionately. 6. The house you're in, 'Zekiel Black," said be, “is mine, and, by my father's hand, 'tis well for you that 'tis here you utter them words and look that look. By the sun of heaven, if it were elsewhere, you'd get an answer that would suit you better than weak words. You, the cluse, griping, hard-hearted bodagh, to come into any honest mau's house to ask his daughter's hand, and abuse him if he don't get it ! you, the Cromwellian son of Cromwellian fathers, how dare you to come into the house of an Irishman, and boast and threaten with your loyalty to the king. Loyalty, inagh! 'tis much of that ye showed, 'tis much of that ye felt, when Charles was marched to the gallows. Out of my house this instant you Cronwellian, an' never darken the door again. My daughter's engaged, and if she weren't, 'tis not you woull be chosen. Shule out, I say.”

'Zekiel looked at hiin darkly and virulently a moment, and it seemed as if the thought was in his mind to oppose the farmer's angry expulsion, by force. But the wrathful expression of his countenance suddenly gave place to a more cool, but far more vindictive look, and, taking a stride to the door, he turned, with his hand on the latch, and answered in a passionless tone

“ You've mistaken my meaning, Farmer Breen, you've deceived yourself, in troih. What for should I come here to menace or threaten you or yours? It wasn't in my head; but sure all the world knows you're a hasty man, and sometimes you know, a basty person may get the wrong end of the story. Your daughter's engaged, you say; well, that's enough for me, aud if you had said it at first, I wouldn't have spokea twice. But it's not for nothing a mau takes a liking. However, I'll say no more about it. I never was put to the door before ; but you're a hasty man, and I'll forgive you, Farmer Breen."

There was little forgiveness in his eye or voice, but O’Breen's wrath went down as suddenly as it had arisen, and so made him overlook this, in bis desire to atone.

Well, now, Master Black, I've not acted like a Christian, have. I'm very sorry for my words ; by my hand, I could not be sorrier, for I would not offend any man willingly. You see it's a long engagement between her and young Donat O'Brien—"

“Donat O'Brien! Ay, well, good night, Farmer Breen, I'll forgive you.”

O'Breen stepped forward to shake han-Is, but ’Zekiel, darting a baleful glance at him, pretended not to perceive his intention, and disappeared, closing the door mildly after him.

The old farmer bolted it, and, re'urning to the chair he had vacated, sat for awhile in meditation. Would he or would he not tell his daughter and wile of what that evening had happened? A shake of the head gave intimation that he had decided against the idea. What use, indeed, was there in troubling their minds about the matter at all, he thought. Besides, Michael

O'Breen bad certain high notions touching the prerogatives of a husband. And if this matter were generally booked upon by the universal comity of women to pertain to them of right, and even if they, more than their male relatives, habitually occupied their minds, and seasoned their conversations with plans, hints, an 1 hopes matrimonial-might not this be usurpation ? Michael O'Breen allowed no metaphysical subtleties to interfere with his decision. He was a hasty man, as his self-elected son-in-law bad said, and in this matter he felt the “rights” of the question in a very short space. He laid vigorous hands on the tongs, lifting up a ruddy ember, and crushed upon it suddenly the dark head of a sagacious-looking dhudeen, (an expressive and altogether descriptive word for a short pipe, bein culottée, if we derive it from dhu, black, i e. “the little black one.") Michael took one or two “ draws," and finding it work well, was rejoiced intervally, both on account of the solace it gave him, and of the unknown triumph which he had ac'ieved over his good-patured spouse, on her own field. The turf embers flickered up eltishly in glee at bim, and he looked down pleasantly at their fl;ing dances; till they reminded that he should rake them, and that he had got nearly enough of the wes'ern herb, for it grew late. The cricket's clear, quaint chirp passed from one side of the fire to the othe", sounding through the wide old kitchen with an echo that seemed to stretch into the past, and unite the bygone with the present. But Michael O'Breen paid little heed to it, and the chirp grew stilled, as his tongs commenced to rattle over the hearth, arranging the fire for its night's repose.

Ah, Michael! Michael! why did you make so noisy a raking ? For, when you did so, you aided in your own overthrow. That stealthy sound of fee:-surely a hostile sound; you heard it not.

The flickerings went down, the kitchen was in darkness, and the crickets resumed their cheerful, weariless chant. But on the next day Michael's self-restrained, and, it must be avowed, somewhat consequential air before his wife, went for nought. He felt somewhat piqued at what he considered her dullness, and let drop a mysterious word or two, intending to lead her into a sly trap. But Mrs. O'Breen was quite amiable and innocent of curiosity that day. None, thank goodness, could accuse her of wishing to pry into her husband's affairs. She had business enough to do, and a willing heart to do it. So Michael, finding himself foiled, resolved to let out the secret gradually to her that evening. Poor Michael ! he had not the least idea that he, in this wrath, had spoken too loud, in answer to ’Zekiel Black the previous night ; nor did it enter his frank old heart to imagine that a wife, moved by a double affection, would be irresistibly impe'led to listen stu liously when events occur which seem to threaten her dear ones in any way.

and you


A couple of months passed away-last train-bearers of old winter's ermine robes—and ’Zekiel Black seemed t) have forgot en all about t'e unpleasant occurrence

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