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truth, and was an evidence of her genuine nature. Looking at it as she did, it is not wonderful that she regarded it as a barrier to marriage; and possessed as she was of the gushing fountains of affection and emotion, it was natural that this conviction should be accompanied with deep, poignant regret, sufficient to cause the melancholy expression on her countenance which we formerly poticed.
We have seen how thoroughly the idea was impregnated with her very being, and how nobly it received a practical enforcement in her refusing to hecome the wife of Henry Smith, though she loved him with a fundness she herself had hardly dreamed of.
LIGHT OUT OF DARKNESS.
On a dim, starlight night, two forms might have been faintly seen walking along by the side of a plantation in Netherton Park, The individuals were at some little distance from each other; but every moment that distance was lessening, for the man in the rear was walking fast, evidently with the intention of overtaking the other, who was a woman. He advanced rapidly, yet with a noiseless motion, over the thick grass, and the female knew not that any one was behind her till her follower was only a few paces distant. Then, catching the muffled sound of his footfall, she turned sud. denly round, and uttered a low, terrified scream.
"Hush! do not be afraid, Mrs Oakham," said a deep voice. “I thought you would feel lonely going home by yourself, and have come to escort you."
"I am obliged to you, Mr Frank,” replied Elizabeth, in a tone of displeasure mingled with fear; “but your company is quite unnecessary and unfitting. Pray, sir, return to the Hall, and leave me to go by myself."
“ Nonsense!” said Frank, coming close up to her. « How foolish you are! In what way is my company unfitting for you?”
" Because you have neither honour nor manhood," retorted the other, boldly.
"Pshaw! To hear you talk, one would think I had done mortal injury. What great offence have I committed, after all?".
" Leave me, sir. I insist upon you leaving me," said Elizabeth, indignantly. “ You well know that you have insulted me ere now, as grossly as man can insult woman; and your presence here at this moment is but a repetition of the injury. It is cowardly as well as wicked to persecute a helpless woman as you have done me.".
“You give my attentions a very hard name,” rejoined Frank, deprecatingly. “You know I have only your good at heart."
* Ay; and to prove it, you would rob me of virtue," said Elizabeth, bitterly. “Your sophistry is wasted in vain upon me. Let me tell you again, as I have told you before, that I loath you, and would die rather than listen to your proposals. Let me pass; there is pollution in your very presence.”
“Stay," he cried, standing immediately in her path, “there can be no harm in speaking to me. A woman may surely speak to a man without
“ I am a wife, sir; and this of itself is sufficient to make your attentions insulting." "A wife!” cried Frank. “But your husband is not a fit mate
Such a gentle being was never nieant to call such a man as he is, husband. You were intended for a better fate than to be the slave of such a rude, passionate, boorish
« Peace, sir!” interrupted Mrs Oakham. 66 Whatever he is, he is my husband. I swore at the altar to love, honour, and obey him as such, and no one shall tempt me to be false to him. But were I even free, and had it in my power to choose between you and bim, know that I would prefer him a thousand times to you."
“What! you scorn me?” cried Frank, seizing her by the arm as she attempted to dash past.
I have been civil and forbearing hitherto, in the hope that you would come to reason; but if you taunt and defy me thus, I shall be more unscrupulous. For your own sake, I would advise you to be more tractable. You know how far you are in my power.”
“ Innocence can never be truly in the power of villany," was the reply. “ You may, indeed, utter falsehoods against me--for this you are mean enough to do—but in due time my bonour shall be vindicated.”
“ Don't trust to that," sneered Frank. “ A jealous husband is a dangerous thing, especially such a husband as you are blessed with." “He knows me better than to believe such a lie; but do your
I put my trust in Heaven, and do not fear the result. Unhand me, and let me go, or I shall tell Ned what I have endured at your hand. Had I done so sooner, my wrongs had been fearfully avenged."
• Nay, then, since you defy me, I shall entreat no longer," said Frank, with desperate passion, and endeavoured to throw his arm round her; but she sprang to one side, and avoided him. Something rustled on the other side of the hedge, and a human head rose above it, from which glared two fierce eyes. Neither Frank nor Elizabeth heard the sound or saw the figure; but the latter scaught a glimpse of some one coming across the park towards them, and gaining contidence, she suppressed the scream wbich rose to her
66 Take care.
lips, and when the abandoned youth would have again seized her, she said, in a calm, firm voice,
“Dare to come another step farther, and I cry for assistance.”
" And where will you get it, my pretty fair one?” asked Frank, with a mocking laugh. * You are entirely in my power. Perhaps you think Ned is about, and will hear you; but you are mistaken. I sent him to the other wood on purpose. Now, you see the folly and hopelessness of resistance. Thus, then, 1-Confusion! whom have we here?”
He had darted forward in another attempt to seize her; but at the moment he too caught a glimpse of the stranger, and felt that he was foiled.
" If you do not instantly leave me, I will call out for help,” said Elizabeth, very determinedly.
Frank saw that there was not a moment to lose, for the indi. vidual was not many yards distant.
With a muttered curse he turned away, and, springing over the herge, plunged into the depths of the plantation; while the other, thankful for her escape, darted off in a homeward direction.
As Frank cleared the ditch, a click was heard, and a gun was pointed at him from a clump of shrubbery. Another moment, and the bullet would have been in his heart; but Ned Oakham-for he it was who held the gun-restrained his first fiery impulse, and, taking the instrument from his shoulder, he let the doghead fall slowly on the nipple, while he hissed through his clenched teeth,
“ No; that were too swift a vengeance. I will have a sweeter draught.
So this is what Bess meant when she told me that he was a blackguard? And he sent me away on purpose, did he? Ah! well, thank Heaven I can hang him; and by Heaven I will, though I should go over the seas myself.”
Thus vowing, the enraged husband strode through a gap in the hedge, and leisurely proceeded in the same direction in which his
wife had gone.
Elizabeth slackened not her speed till she reached the cottage, which she entered, breathless and in great agitation. Hitherto she had kept silent on the subject of the frequent insults she had received from Frank Everly; for, knowing Ned's passionate disposition, she dreaded the consequences. Such silence she felt she could nó longer maintain. It had induced a boldness in the young man's actions, which must be put a stop to at all hazards; and the events of that night proved how hopeless it was to expect that a feeling of honour or generosity should gain the ascendancy in his bosom. She must, then, appeal to her natural protector, and plead with him to gain an exemption from such indignities without resorting to violence; for so gentle and timid was ber nature, that she wished not to baru even that man who had so cruelly.sought to wrong her.
She bad carefully bolted the door, and, without lighting the lamp, sat down on a low stool before the fire, to thiuk the matter over as well as her trembling nerves would allow, when a footstep was heard approaching the house-a step which she knew was not Ned's. It came nearer and nearer, then stopped, and a knock was beard at the door,
The poor wife almost fainted with terror, for she doubted not that Frank had followed her; and understanding, from what he had stated a little ago, that her husband bad been sent to a distance, she bitterly felt how lovely and unprotected she was. Her only hope lay in the resistance which the bolted door would make to his entrance, and in profound silence; but with a beating heart she waited the issue.
A second knock was heard, louder than the first, but not particularly bold; and then, after another period of silence, a strange voice exclaimed,
" Any body within ?”
Elizabeth's heart bounded quickly. It was another voice than Frank’sma mild, pleasant, gentlemanly voice. Still she hesitated; for strangers were not in the habit of calling at the house at avg time, far less at such a late hour in the ev
evening. “Any body within ?” repeated the visitant, tapping again at the door. “ I will venture,” said Mrs Oakham to herself, rising, and
proceeding cautiously across the kitchen. • Who is there?" she asked, in as firm a voice as she could command.
« Is this the residence of one Edward Oakhamn?” was the rejoinder.
** Yes; but my husband is not in,” answered Elizabeth, fraining from unbolting the door.
"Ab! you are Mrs Oakham, are you?” resumed the voice. “Then, pray be kind enough to admit me. My business is with you as well as your husband.”
There was something in the tones of the speaker so mild and pleasant, as to banish all fear from Mrs Oakham's mind; so, running back for a light, she immediately returned and opened the door, before it stood a little, stout, elderly gentleman, well muffled up, who, the moment Elizabeth appeared, fixed his eyes on her very earnestly.
« Pray step in, sir," said the latter, who felt rather uncomfortable under the fixed gaze, though the eyes themselves were neither fierce nor rude in their stare.
“ Thank you,” returned the man, stepping over the threshold, and Elizabeth led the way to the kitchen.
You will excuse me taking you here, sir," she said, by way. of apology. “There is no fire in our room to-night, and it is cold."
""O, pray do not trouble yourself on my account," answered the guest.
“Our business will not likely occupy very long, and can be transacted here as well as elsewhere."
" He luid aside his hat, and removed the mufflings from his throat, revealing a bald-headed, pleasant-featured, well-dressed gentleman. Then he deliberately drew a chair to one side of the table, and sat down, pointing to Mrs Oakham to occupy another on the opposite side, which she mechanically did, wondering at the same time what might be the business which the stranger alluded to. A few words from the latter boon caused the pallor of fear to spread over her countenance.
“I understand, Mrs Oakham, that you and your husband are witnesses to the will of the late Mr Everly.”
So ghastly pale did she become, that the gentleman, thinking she had been seized with a fit, sprang up to support her.
“Gond Heaven! madam, are you ill?” he cried, in great concern.
“No, no," faltered Elizabeth, striving to be calm and collected, for she remembered what was at stake.
"Perhaps I have frightened you by my sudden and unexpected presence," he continued. “Let me, however, explain. My name is Strickland. I am an Edinburgh lawyer, and have been requested to examine into the particulars of Mr Everly's death, on the part of his son, who, of course, feels that his father has wronged him, by leaving his inheritance to his cousin. The will, it seems, was executed on the night of his death, and on this ground we hope to be able to set it aside."
"O, I trust you will succeed, sir!” cried Elizabeth, impulsively.
“ Ali! then you likewise think Mr Richard Everly has been wronged ?"
“I-I_yes—that is—though of course I have no right to say anything-I think Master Richard has been vilely defrauded-no, I
"Quite right-defrauded is the proper word. Morally, Mr Richard Everly is the owner of Netherton; and I hope we shall also be able to establish his legal right. I am glad you view the case in so just a light. Now, as you and your husband are most important witnesses in the case, you will perhaps favour me with accurate answers to a few questions which I have to put, as you may thereby materially serve Mr Richard.”
“I will do my utmost to serve him, sir," said Elizabeth, warmly; for she began to cherish the hope that the fraud would be put an end to, without the furgery being discovered,
"In the first place, then,” said Mr Strickland, "are you of opinion that Mr Everly was quite sane at the time that he dictated the will ?"
"I think he was, sir. He was filled with rage and passion, and