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      This final decision was arrived at about ten days before the event, and for nine of those intervening days Isola's life went by as if she were always sitting in that imaginary boat drifting down a sunlit river; but on the day of the dance, after just half an hour's quiet walk with Lostwithiel on the towpath, she went back to the cottage pale as ashes; and sat down at her little davenport in the drawing-room, trembling, breathless, and on the verge of hysteria.


      CHAPTER XIX.


      They blushed and trembled with delight, never before having been thus familiarly addressed by a peer of the realm. He asked Isola for her programme, with well-simulated indifference, yet with that air of profound respect with which he talked to all women."You see," suggested Doctor Remy, "how easy it is to be misled by appearances, even with the best intentions. The faith, of which I used to dream, would never have fallen into that error."


      "Did you engage yourself to him?" asked Mr. Bergan, almost sternly, when her brief tale was told."Your neighbouryour good Mrs. Crowther's husbandtold me that his lawyer travelled with you from Paddingtonon the 31st of Decemberthe year before last. He got into conversation with youyou remember, perhaps?"

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      "Don't blame Gwendolen. I telegraphed to her, imploring her to stand by meto say that I was in London with her."The rain was overthe monotonous drip, drip, which had irritated Isola's nerves all that morning, had ceased at last. She left the modest little lunch untouched upon the table, and went out into the hall, where her hat and jacket hung handy for any impromptu ramble. No need to look at one's self in the glass before going out of doors, at twenty years of age, and in such a place as Trelasco. Isola took her stick from the stand, a green orange stick, bought in the sunny South, on her way to Venice with her husband last yeara leisurely trip, which had been to them as a second honeymoon after a few happy months of wedlock. Then had come the sadness of parting, and a swift and lonely journey for the young wifea lonely return to the Angler's Nest, Trelasco, that cosy cottage between Lostwithiel and Fowey, which Major Disney had bought and furnished before his marriage. He was a son of the soil, and he had chosen to pitch his tent in that remote spot for the sake of old associations, and from a fixed belief that there was no locality of equal merit for health, beauty, and all other virtues which a man should seek in his home.

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      "Let me see," said his aunt, kindly, as she gave him her hand, "to-morrow will be Sunday, will it not? Pray let us find you in our pew at church in the morning; and come home with us to an early dinner, before the evening service."

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      "For the best of reasons,he does not want to receive them. He prefers to be able to say that he hears nothing, and knows nothing. Therefore, you will readily understand that nothing is to be said, or even hinted, to him. He puts the matter in my hands, and you are responsible to me only."She went about her day's varied work as usualcurious to see the new acquaintanceyet in no wise excited. Vivid and animated, enthusiastic and energetic as she was in all her thoughts and ways, gushing sentimentality made no part of Miss Leland's character. Life at Trelasco flowed with such an even monotony, there was such a dearth of new interests, that it was only natural that a girl of vivacious temper should be curious about new-comers. At St. John's Wood every day had brought some new element into the lives of the students, and almost every day had brought a new pupil, drawn thither by the growing renown of the school, pupils from the uttermost ends of the earth sometimes, pupils of swart complexion speaking unknown tongues, pupils patrician and pupils plebeian, each and all conforming to the same stringent rules of art, spending patient months in the shading of a brace of plums or a bunch of grapes, from a plaster cast, and toiling slowly up the gradual ascent which leads to the Royal Academy and the gold medal. Many there were who sickened at the slow rate of progress and who fell away. Only the faithful remained. And this going[Pg 149] and coming, this strife between faith and unfaith, patience and impatience, had made a perpetual movement in the life of the great schoolto say nothing of such bodily activities as lawn tennis, for which the master had provided a courta court for his girl-pupils, be it noted, where they played among themselves, as if they had been so many collegians in the college of Tennyson's "Princess."


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