CUPID IN ARCADY

In her then state of mind it needed but the assurance of Jarner that
Dan loved Meg to change Miss Linisfarne’s passive dislike of the girl
into active hatred. She had long been aware that Meg was her rival,
but this confirmation by a third party showed her how easily she might
lose her prize. At the same time, she was sufficiently clever to see
that Meg was quite unconscious of Dan’s devotion, and hoped, by taking
advantage of this fact, to draw him away from one presumably
indifferent to his regard. It was a difficult and delicate task, but
Miss Linisfarne deemed herself capable of carrying it through. Come
what may, she was resolved that Meg should not triumph.

To forward her schemes, it was necessary that she should have an
interview with Dan, and therefore sent a note to the dell requesting
him to call. The young man duly received the invitation, and, though
reluctant to visit a lady with whom his name was connected by gossip,
could not find sufficient grounds for refusal, and so sent back to say
that he would call at noon as desired. Had he known of Jarner’s
interview, he might have been placed on his guard, and so refused a
meeting which could only end in disaster; but Jarner was away on
parochial business, and Dan was quite ignorant of his danger.

Much as he distrusted Miss Linisfarne–for by her own acts she had
caused the gossip which had connected their names,–he did not think
she was so passionately in love with him as to overstep all bounds of
womanly modesty. He had laughed to scorn the notion of marriage put
forward by Tim and Dr. Merle, deeming it beyond all probability that a
gentlewoman would be so rash as to desire to link her fortunes with
those of a nameless vagrant. Although Tinker Tim and the vicar knew
his name, he was well assured that Miss Linisfarne was ignorant of it,
and so could see no reason to believe the rumour of marriage. Dan was
a cautious and astute young man, but in this case he had to measure
his wits against a woman. As a natural consequence, he failed. The
cleverest man is but a fool in some matters, when compared with even a
silly woman. Yet Dan came through the ordeal more creditably than he
might have expected.

Miss Linisfarne was by no means silly, and had all her plans prepared
for the subjugation of Dan. She intended to tell him that Meg’s
indifference was caused by the fact of her having another lover whom
she wished to marry. There not being a representative of this mythical
lover in the parish of Farbis, Miss Linisfarne decided to locate him
at a safe distance, where he could not be easily found. All this was
very clever, but she quite forgot that Dan’s insight into human nature
was as keen as her own, and that he would find it difficult to believe
that a mere child like Meg could keep secret so important a factor in
her life as a future marriage. Dan was honest and straightforward,
and, notwithstanding Miss Linisfarne’s fine-spun webs of sophistry,
contrived in the end to break through them, though not without
difficulty and pain. He failed in one respect, as his antagonist was a
woman and unscrupulous; but he was successful in the end, as his
strong love for Meg proved his safeguard against the wiles of this
enchantress.

Miss Linisfarne received him in her own particular corner of the
drawing-room. Knowing her ill health, Dan quite expected to find her
stretched languidly on the couch, but was astonished, as Jarner had
been, to find himself welcomed by a bright-eyed lady, alert and merry.
She presided over the tea-table and invited him to be seated. Nothing
loth–for his walk had given him an appetite–Dan drank tea and
devoured cakes, while Miss Linisfarne chatted to him on unimportant
subjects. She was too clever to introduce Meg’s name into the
conversation, lest his suspicions might be aroused, and left him to
make the first mention of the girl. This he did while talking of Mr.
Jarner, and discussing matters incidental to his sojourn at Farbis.

“I have enjoyed my stay here very very much, thank you, Miss
Linisfarne,” said Dan, in answer to a question. “You can judge of that
by the months I have been encamped in the dell.”

“And what have you most delighted in?” asked Miss Linisfarne, hoping
by this artful remark to lead him to talk of Meg.

“In Mr. Jarner. I have never met a character like him before.”

“No; a sporting parson is rather rare nowadays.”

“It’s not exactly his love of sport, but his whole character I admire.
He is a cross between Dr. Johnson and Squire Western. A bluff, honest,
hearty old man, who would put to shame many of our mincing, scented
clergy. I can well understand him doing what he told me he did the
other day.”

“What is that?”

“Why, he found his congregation was not large enough, and was in
danger of beginning the service, like Dean Swift, with ‘Dearly beloved
Roger,’ so he doffed his surplice and went out with his hunting crop
to thrash in a few listeners. Ay, and he succeeded too! He thrashed
the whole village. I can fancy how attentive that congregation must
have been.”

“He is very amusing,” said Miss Linisfarne, laughing at this anecdote;
“and has a good heart.”

“That he has,” assented Dan, heartily. “Look how kind he has been to
Meg. I do not know what she would have done without yourself and Mr.
Jarner.”

“Ob, I have done very little,” said Miss Linisfarne, carelessly. “It
was a great pleasure to me to help the poor child. I am afraid you
find her very rough and countrified?”

“Indeed, no. I think her perfection as she is. It would be a sin to
turn her into a fine London lady.”

“What do you know about London ladies?”

“What indeed!” said Dan, laughing to hide his confusion. “I am only a
vagabond.”

“I think we argued that question before, and disagreed upon it. You
are no vagabond, though it pleases you to pass as one. By the way, you
promised to tell me your name in a week or so. It is now two months
since then, and I am still ignorant of it.”

“I cannot tell you at present,” muttered Dan, awkwardly; “on some
future occasion I may.”

Miss Linisfarne was disappointed at this denial, but did not see her
way to press the matter. Nevertheless, she skilfully made use of the
opportunity to reintroduce the topic of Meg.

“It pleases you to be mysterious,” she said coldly, “and I trust your
motives are straightforward.”

“I think I can answer for them. With regard to whom?”

“Meg Merle! You are constantly with her, and I do not think that it is
right that you should be.”

“Why not?” asked Dan, with a frown. The significance of her tone
annoyed him.

“Well, for one thing, it is not right for the girl herself; for
another–her lover may take exception to your conduct.”

“Miss Linisfarne!”

He had leaped to his feet, and was looking at her with angry eyes. She
gazed at him with admiration, and thought she had never seen him look
so handsome; yet, undeterred by his wrath, persisted in her line of
conduct.

“Ah, you are astonished, I see. You did not know, then, that Meg was
engaged to be married?”

“I cannot believe it.”

“Nevertheless, it is true. That is why she is so indifferent to your
suit.”

“What do you mean?” said Dan, rather confused by the rapidity with
which she pressed the attack.

“Oh, I am not blind! I know you are in love with her. Your devotion is
quite useless, as you can see from her demeanour. She—-”

“That is innocence,” he interrupted roughly. “She does not know the
meaning of love. She has never thought of marriage. I do not–I cannot
believe that she is engaged. Her whole life gives the lie to such an
assertion.”

“You are discourteous.”

“I beg your pardon, I did not mean to be so,” he replied
apologetically; “but it is impossible. You must be mistaken.”

“Ask Mr. Byrne of Silkstone if I am mistaken. Meg may deny it, but
he—-”

“Why should she deny it? If she is engaged to be married to this
Silkstone man of whom you speak, there is no necessity to keep it
secret. But I tell you it cannot be. If it were so she would have told
me. She is an innocent child, who cannot keep a secret.”

“She kept this one, however.”

“Moreover, Mr. Jarner would have told me,” said Dan, not heeding the
taunt.

Miss Linisfarne lost her temper. She had counted on resistance, but
not on such a stubborn defence of Meg. Rising with flashing eyes, she
stepped up to Dan, and, throwing aside all restraint, burst out into
rapid speech. It was not wise for her to do so, but her love and
jealousy carried her away, and she spoke wildly, madly–as she never
would have spoken had she reflected for a moment.

“Are you blind, sir, that you so believe in this girl? I tell you, she
is engaged to be married. She does not love you–she will never love
you. Why should you lay your heart at her feet only to find it
spurned? Give it to me–I say, give it to me.”

“To you!” cried Dan, scarcely believing his ears.

“Yes. You now know my secret. I love you! I love you! I wish to
make you my husband. You are poor, but I am rich. Take me–take my
money–only leave that wretched girl and come to me, who truly loves
you.”

Dan stepped back a pace, and looked at her in amazement. Her face was
flushed, her eyes were unnaturally bright, and her whole body trembled
with emotion as she stretched out appealing hands to him. He was so
utterly astonished, that for the moment he did not know what to
say–what to do.

“I love you. Come to me,” she cried passionately. “You must see how I
am prepared to give up all for you.”

“But I–I am not–not worthy,” he stammered.

“You are in my eyes.”

“I am poor–nameless–unknown.”

“What is that to me? I am rich–take my money. I have a name–take it
as your own. With my name and my money you can make yourself known.
Only love me.”

It was an extremely awkward situation. Here was Dan, standing
helplessly before this impassionate woman, unable to move, almost
unable to speak. He faltered, stammered, hesitated, while she with
outstretched arms drew nearer. It was impossible to say how he would
have extricated himself from the dilemma, had not a memory of his
conversation with Merle flashed across his brain. He acted on the
impulse of the moment, and flung out a hand to keep her back.

“No. It is impossible. You are mad. Think of Mallard.”

“Mallard!”

“Of Richard Mallard, whom you deceived, and deserted, and ruined!”

Before the last words left his mouth, she had fallen fainting on the
floor. The name evidently recalled some painful memory, as Dan, on
remembering the anguish of Merle, guessed it would. He was sorry that
he had mentioned it, but, so awkwardly was he placed, that he saw no
way out of the position but to act in what he considered a brutal
fashion. It proved efficacious, for Miss Linisfarne lay at his feet in
a swoon, and he was free to go.

Ringing the bell hastily he committed the insensible woman to the care
of the astonished housekeeper, and rushed away with his brain on fire.

“She is mad! mad!” he said, as he ran down the avenue. “But what else
could I do? Mallard! Mallard and Merle! What does it all mean? Only
one person can solve the mystery of Miss Linisfarne, and that is
Tinker Tim.”

Miss Linisfarne recovered from her swoon to find that her machinations
had proved unsuccessful. She had lied in saying that Meg was engaged
to be married, and she had humiliated herself at the feet of a man who
scorned her. These things were sufficient in themselves to cause her
to repent of her folly, but, in place of learning a lesson from such
rebuffs, she became still more inflamed against the girl whom she
professed to love. Enraged by her failure and humiliation, she cast
about for some means whereby to punish Meg, whom she unjustly regarded
as the cause of her sufferings. No one was more prone than Miss
Linisfarne to lay the burden of her follies on others.

The reference by Dan to her lover of twenty years before, led her to
fancy that he knew more about her life than was actually the case. She
began to believe that this unknown man was well acquainted with the
shameful history which had led to her retirement, and had come down to
Farbis for the express purpose of recalling it to her mind. Ignorant
of the identity of Dr. Merle with Mallard, she could not conceive how
Dan had learned her secret, since she had confided it to no one in
Farbis. Yet it was known to him, as was apparent from his utterance of
the name, and he had used it in order to humiliate her to the dust.
Her mad love for him gave place to rage and resentment, and she longed
to find an opportunity to punish him for his disdain and knowledge.

On calm reflection, she saw that, by parting him from Meg, she could
render him miserable, and so resolved to see the girl, and, by lying
to her as she had to Dan, to effectually prevent their marriage. Well
aware that by her own acts she had prevented Meg from visiting at the
Court, she resolved to go in person to Dr. Merle’s house and see her
rival. Her plan of action was not clear in her mind, but all she
wanted was to achieve a lifelong separation between the pair. With
this amiable object she repaired that same afternoon, alone and on
foot, to the house of the doctor.

It had been Dan’s intention to speak personally to Meg; to demand from
her own lips a refutation of the lies uttered by Miss Linisfarne. But
on arriving at his camp he found a messenger from the vicar,
requesting him to come down to the village on that evening, and this
invitation Dan readily obeyed, as he was anxious to make a confidant
of the vicar, and to ask his advice with regard to the revelations
made by Tinker Tim, by Dr. Merle, and by Miss Linisfarne. He,
therefore, deemed it politic to postpone his visit to Meg until he had
seen the vicar, as in his future course he thought it would be wise to
be guided by the strong common sense of Jarner. Had he suspected Miss
Linisfarne’s intention of poisoning the mind of Meg, he might have
altered his plans; but, as it was, he was ignorant of her schemes and
quite unprepared to counteract her wiles. So far Fortune declared
itself in favour of the enemy.

When Miss Linisfarne was announced as waiting for an interview, Meg
was in the dark room with her father. She was astonished at the visit,
as she could not think what reason her benefactress could have for
calling on her. Dr. Merle was also surprised and very much alarmed, as
he thought that this unexpected appearance of the woman he loved was
due to a use made of his indiscreet revelations to Dan. With much
agitation he implored Meg not to let Miss Linisfarne see him, though,
with characteristic feebleness, he assigned merely selfish reasons for
this strange request.

“I am ill–very ill; she will only disturb me,” he reiterated
peevishly. “Why does she come here?”

“It is impossible to say, father,” said Meg, reflectively. “Perhaps
she is sorry she has treated me so ill, and wants me to return to the
Court.”

“Go, if she asks you, Meg; consent to anything, but do not let her see
me.”

“Don’t trouble yourself, father! I shall not let her enter this room.”

“She may force her way in,” replied Merle, in a terrified whisper;
“keep her away. Go and stop her.”

Meg departed as desired, not without some wonderment at the anxiety
displayed by her father. She put it down to his retiring disposition;
for, strange as it may appear, she knew nothing of Merle’s indulgence
in laudanum-drinking. He was ashamed to exhibit this vice before his
only child, and always locked himself in his room when indulging in a
debauch. Meg only knew these frequent retirements as caused by a
mysterious illness, and never for a moment suspected that they were
due to his own vices. Indeed, had she been told she would have been
none the wiser, as she was unacquainted with even the name of
laudanum. Merle’s refusal to see Miss Linisfarne was quite in keeping
with his usual habits; so, after a momentary wonder at his agitation,
Meg dismissed the subject from her mind, and went into the next room
to see her visitor.

Miss Linisfarne, arrayed in black, and thickly veiled, arose to meet
her, but did not come forward with any greeting. On the contrary, she
stood still as any statue, and looked steadily at the splendid beauty
of the young girl. It was so undeniable that she recognized the
inferiority of her faded charms at once, and sank back in her chair
with a sigh. This Meg interpreted as a sign of sorrow that they had
been parted, and with great tenderness took the hand of–as she deemed
her to be–her friend. The situation was not without a suspicion of
irony.

“I am so glad to see you, Miss Linisfarne,” she said, kissing the
elder woman. “I was afraid you were angry with me, and so kept away
from the Court.”

“It was for your own good, Meg, that I was angry.”

“For my own good!” repeated Meg, rather astounded at this assertion.
“What do you mean, Miss Linisfarne? Did I disobey you in anyway, that
you banished me from Farbis Court? Was my conduct distasteful to you,
that you so reproved me? What do you mean by saying your anger was for
my own good?”

Miss Linisfarne smiled under her veil at the indignation of the girl,
and uttered only one word in reply. It had not the effect she
anticipated.

“Dan!” she said, with much significance.

“What about Dan?” demanded Meg, in a puzzled tone.

“It was on his account I wished you to keep away from the Court.”

“I don’t understand!”

“No, poor child!” said Miss Linisfarne, in a pitying tone. “How can
you, with your youth and innocence and provincial education, be
expected to understand the baseness of man?”

“If you mean that Dan is base,” replied Meg, bluntly, “I don’t believe
it. He is as good a man as Mr. Jarner.”

“I am afraid not, Meg.”

“You need not be afraid, Miss Linisfarne. I have seen Dan daily for
the last three months, and every day I have grown to like him better.”

“Are you in love with him?” sneered Miss Linisfarne.

Meg laughed heartily. Such an idea had never entered her mind, and she
thought Miss Linisfarne was joking.

“Of course I am not in love with him,” she said, smiling; “why, we are
like brother and sister.”

“You think so, but he does not. I tell you, Meg, he is a dishonourable
man.”

“And I tell you he is not!”

“He has a brave defender, I see! But what do you say of a man who
professes to love two women at the same time?”

“I should call him a scoundrel. But such a thing is impossible. No one
can love two women at once.”

“Dan can,” retorted Miss Linisfarne, in a taunting manner; “he loves
you, and professes to love me.”

“Stop, stop!” cried Meg, with a bewildered expression of countenance.
“What do you say? Dan loves me?”

“Yes!”

“That is impossible! He has never, in any way, hinted at such a
thing.”

“No! Because he was afraid of my anger.”

“Of your anger!”

“Yes! He came to Farbis Court yesterday and declared that he loved
me–that he wished to make me his wife.”

“Oh, I cannot believe it,” said Meg, jealously.

“Nevertheless, it is true! He proposed to marry me; but I refused his
offer with scorn.”

“Why did you do that?”

Miss Linisfarne raised her veil, and showed a face inflamed with
anger. Having once committed herself, she did not measure her words,
and raged on without considering the harm she was doing. The belief
Meg had in Dan enraged her, and she was determined to blacken his
character in the girl’s eyes, so that any tenderness Meg might have
towards him should be crushed in its infancy.

“Why did I do that?” she cried, with rapid speech. “Because his offer
was an insult. He said that he loved you; in every action he has shown
that he loved you. Fool that you are, do you think a man would stay in
this place for weeks and weeks had he not been influenced by your
presence? He was in love with me also–the base, dishonourable
villain!”

“If so, why did he ask you to be his wife?” said Meg, calmly, though
her heart was beating wildly.

“Because he is a base and dishonourable man. He loved you for your
looks, child, but he wished to marry me for my money.”

“No, no!”

“I tell you it is true,” resumed Miss Linisfarne, vehemently. “Why
should I, who have been a mother to you, tell a falsehood? This man
has insulted us both. Now that I have repelled him he will come to you
with loving words, and you–what will you say?”

“If he has done what you say, I shall treat him with scorn.”

“Do you not believe me?”

“No, Miss Linisfarne, I do not,” replied Meg, facing round with great
indignation. “I do not believe your story. If Dan proposed to you he
does not love me. If he loves me as you say, he did not propose to
you. I shall know the truth from his own lips.”

“Will you ask him?” demanded Miss Linisfarne, rather alarmed at the
turn affairs had taken.

“Of course I shall ask him. And, what is more, I shall believe his
answer.”

“You love him, girl–you love him!”

“I do. Until you spoke I only felt like a sister to him, but now you
have put his conduct in a new light, and I feel what I never felt
before. I do love him, and on his answer shall depend the happiness or
the misery of my life.”

Thus Miss Linisfarne, by her jealousy, had brought about the very
catastrophe she desired to avoid. She recognized that her wiles were
worse than useless before the honest character of the girl, and
silently admitted that she was again beaten. She had failed with Dan,
now she failed with Meg. Only retreat remained.

“You fool!” she said cruelly. “Ask him, and believe his lies. Your
misery dates from that moment.”

She swept from the room with a haughty carriage, and left Meg
bewildered and afraid.

When Dan explained to Jarner the equivocal position in which he was
placed by the folly of Miss Linisfarne, the vicar urged him to end all
mysteries by declaring his name and rank. Also to ask Meg to be his
wife, and thus ascertain, beyond all question, the state of her
feelings. Miss Linisfarne’s story of an engagement to Byrne of
Silkstone was scouted by Jarner with much wrath.

“What can the woman be thinking of?” he said. “The whole story is
false–there is not even a man in Silkstone called Byrne. She must
have known that you would tell me this, and that I would be able to
deny it.”

“No doubt she thought that, in the revulsion of feeling caused by her
false word, I would ask her to marry me.”

“Very probably. I do not so much blame as pity her. The poor woman
suffers from hysteria. When she comes to her senses she will be sorry
enough for her behaviour.”

“I don’t know so much about that, sir. Remember, she is a woman with a
past. A woman with a past is capable of anything in the present.”

“Ay, but we know nothing of her past. She may be more sinned against
than sinning.”

“Merle–or, to use his real name, Mallard–does not seem to think so.”

“A poor creature that, my lord. A man who would sink, as he has done,
because a woman chose to jilt him, is a miserable specimen of
humanity. I should like to know his story.”

“So should I, and the story of Miss Linisfarne and of Tinker Tim.”

“The last-named person can gratify your curiosity,” said Jarner. “Take
my advice, and declare yourself. Then ask Meg to be your wife, and,
when all is accomplished, Tim will tell his story. I agree with you
that there is a mystery, but Tim holds the key thereto.”

“Perhaps Meg won’t accept me as her husband.”

“Try,” said the vicar, significantly, and pushed the young man out of
the room.

This action sounds inhospitable; but the hour was late and the vicar
weary, so he thus hinted strongly his wish to be alone. Dan, in nowise
offended, for he was used to the vicar’s blunt speech and blunt ways,
accepted the hint in its true spirit, and returned to his camp.

There was but little sleep for him that night. His thoughts were
principally taken up with the curious fulfilment of the prophecy of
Mother Jericho. Much as he despised superstition and ridiculed
palmistry, he could not but admit that the sibyl had forecast the
future with remarkable accuracy. She had predicted that he would meet
his fate at the Gates of Dawn, and there he had seen Meg, whom he now
designed to make his wife. The assertion that he would love one woman,
and be loved by another whom he would dislike, had been fulfilled to
the letter by the declaration of Miss Linisfarne. She had yellow hair
streaked with grey, and hence Mother Jericho’s warning to beware of
gold and silver. So far all had occurred exactly as she foretold; but
there was more to come. Miss Linisfarne was to seek to hurt him
through Meg, and there was fire and flame and brave deeds. Also a
false father, and a false mother. These yet unfulfilled events were a
source of great perplexity to him, and he determined to nullify at
least the first by at once declaring his passion to Meg. When they
understood one another, he hoped that Miss Linisfarne would be
powerless to harm him through his promised wife. But all this depended
on the acceptance or refusal of his suit by Meg.

After a restless night he walked down to the beach for a swim, and
left Simon and Peter to guard the dell. As he passed through the Gates
of Dawn, at the hour of sunrise, he beheld Meg coming up from the
seashore. Again the golden glory of the day burned behind her, but she
no longer sang, nor did she dance before the sun like Aurora. On the
contrary, her eyes were downcast, her face sorrowful, and she
attempted to pass Dan without a greeting. The omission vexed him, and
he blocked her path by standing before her. Courtesy forbade her to
force her way past him, so she paused irresolutely, and looked at him
reproachfully. Astonished at this unusual behaviour, and rightly
ascribing it to the influence of Miss Linisfarne, Dan was the first to
speak. He wasted no time in idle talk, but went straight to the point.

“Meg!” he said, looking at her anxiously, “what is the matter? Have I
offended you, that you would pass me by as a stranger?”

“I have nothing to say,” she murmured. “Let me pass, please.”

“Not till you tell me how I have been so unfortunate as to offend
you.”

“You have not offended me. I have no right to control your actions.”

“Then Miss Linisfarne has poisoned your mind against me.”

Meg lifted her eyes, and looked at him sorrowfully. Boldly as she had
defended him when absent, she could not help believing that there was
some truth in the assertions of Miss Linisfarne. Dan she had only
known for a few months, while Miss Linisfarne was the close friend of
years, therefore it was only natural she should attach more weight to
the assertions of the latter than to those of the former. Experience
only can instruct as to the proper estimate of a friendship.

“Miss Linisfarne told me all,” she said, with great dignity.

“All what?”

“Can you ask me?” replied Meg, reproachfully. “Does not your memory
recall your words and acts?”

“I really do not understand you,” said Dan, much bewildered by this
speech. “What have I said or done to you that you should thus reproach
me?”

“It is not what you said to me, Dan. I have no fault to find with you
in any way, as I told Miss Linisfarne. But she says you called at
Farbis Court, and—-”

“Go on,” said Dan, seeing she hesitated. “I admit I called at the
Court.”

“And there you asked Miss Linisfarne to be your wife.”

“I!”

It was all he could say, being dumbfounded by the accusation, which he
guessed was made by Miss Linisfarne.

With her face suffused with blushes, Meg continued to speak in a low,
nervous tone. Since she had discovered that she loved Dan, she felt
ill at ease in his presence, and the subject on which she was forced
to speak was uncongenial. The situation was most trying to a modest
girl like Meg; but her brave spirit did not falter in fulfilling what
she considered to be her duty. Therefore, much as she disliked the
task, she did not shrink from the performance. Dan guessed all this,
and admired her nerve.

“Yes. Miss Linisfarne told me how you wished to marry her for the sake
of her fortune. She said you were poor and nameless, and that you
wished to improve your condition by marriage. Oh, Dan, I never thought
you were so base!”

“Nor am I,” he replied, frankly. “It is quite untrue that I wish to
marry Miss Linisfarne. On the contrary—- But that is neither here
nor there. Though she has attempted to blacken my character in your
eyes, I shall say nothing against her. Do you believe this story,
Meg?”

“I told her I did not; but—-” She faltered, and looked away.

Angered at the opinion she held of him, which was so galling to his
proud nature, Dan caught her hands.

“Look me in the eyes, Meg, and say if you believe me to be so base.”

“I don’t think you are base; but you might be tempted—-”

“True; but not by Miss Linisfarne. You know better than that, Meg,
I’ll swear. Look me in the eyes, and tell me if you believe this
story.”

In the steady eyes which met hers, Meg read the truth. All the lies of
Miss Linisfarne faded from her memory. With the instinct of a true and
loving heart, she recognized that Dan spoke the truth.

“I believe you, Dan,” she said, frankly. “Miss Linisfarne made a
mistake.”

“Miss Linisfarne is—- Well, well! never mind her at present. No, you
need not try to get away, Meg. I have to ask you a question. Can you
not guess what it is?”

“No. I–that is—-”

“I see you can. Yes, Meg. Poor and friendless and nameless and
homeless as I am, I wish you to be my wife.”

“Your wife!”

“My loved and honoured wife. It is you that have kept me so long at
Farbis. I care nothing for Miss Linisfarne or her money, and a great
deal for you. Dearest, can you accept my love?”

“But I am poor, and—-”

“Well! Am I not poor also? I can only offer you a caravan! Come, Meg,
will you be a poor man’s wife? You do not speak. They say that silence
gives consent. Meg, dearest wife!”

He drew her unresistingly towards him, and with flushed cheeks and
bright eyes she lay passively in his arms. He bent down to whisper–

“Will you be my wife, Meg?”

She looked up into his face, but uttered no word. Nor was speech
needed, for he saw in her eyes the answer he desired. There, in the
lonely Gates of Dawn, where he had first met her, did he touch her
lips with his own. A great joy filled the hearts of both. Emotion
rendered them dumb, and they could only look silently into one
another’s eyes.

“Meg, my darling wife!”

“Dan!”

“Remember, I am a poor wanderer, and you will have a hard life!”

“Not if it is passed with you,” she whispered.

“I haven’t even a name!”

“Take mine. I love you, Dan! I did not know it till Miss Linisfarne
spoke. Then, when I thought you were to be hers, I felt angered. I
knew then that you were everything to me. In a single moment the whole
of my life seemed to change, and all because I love you.”

“My darling!”

He kissed her again. But why strive to describe the indescribable? To
relate a love episode is foolish. Words are too poor to tell all. It
were better to let the reader imagine the looks, and words, and joy of
these two. They felt in that moment the perfect happiness which comes
but once in a lifetime to man or woman. Earth was heaven, and they the
angels who dwelt therein. After a sacred silence, which lasted it
seemed ages, Dan was the first to speak. Having gained his end, he was
now ready to make confession.

“Meg, I have told you a falsehood.”

She drew away quickly with a startled look in her eyes, and faltered
out the first thought in her mind.

“Miss Linisfarne?”

“No, no; it has nothing to do with Miss Linisfarne. Do not look so
shocked. It is not a very dreadful story. Do you know who I am, Meg?”

“Yes; you are Dan.”

“No; I am not Dan. Nor am I poor; nor am I a vagrant. I wooed you as a
poor man because I wanted a wife who loved me for myself. You have
done so, my dearest, and now I can confess my deception. My name
is–can you not guess?”

“No. How strangely you speak! Tell me! Who are you?”

“Meg, Meg! whom do I resemble?”

“Sir Alurde,” said she, quickly. Then, with a sudden light breaking in
on her mind, “Then he was your ancestor?”

“Ah, you have guessed my secret. Yes, Meg, my real name is Francis
Breel.”

“Lord Ardleigh!”

“Precisely. And you, my dearest, who took poor Dan for his own worth,
will be Lady Ardleigh of Farbis Court.”

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