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world to deal with respecting parish business. I dare say, he is one of the low-church puritanical methodists who infest the country, and turn the heads of fair ladies : for I hear that he is an eloquent preacher. Holcombe is quite good enough and learned enough for me, and does not set the people's minds wool-gathering, but preaches good old-fashioned sermons, over which they may go to sleep as much as they like.”
His pretty auditors looked grave. They had been brought up in a different school; but they did not feel sufficiently self-possessed to argue with their host. Laura thought that she should like to hear the young divine preach in the little chapel on the hill, better than to listen to such soporific discourses; but she did not venture to say so, and Sir Frederick drove past very rapidly.
He had taken his fair companions a pleasant round among the hills. It was the first time Laura had consented to go out anywhere, and he had promised to choose the least frequented route. Excepting Roger Pemberton and his dame, and the transient glimpse of Lewis, they had not seen any one above the rank of the occupants of the pretty hamlets through which the winding lanes conducted them.
In general, Sir Frederick Derwent had something to say to every person he encountered. Though he had not resided many years in the county, he was perfectly well known on the roads for miles around his mansion. Everybody, save the Pembertons, showed some mark of respect, civility, or cordiality; and the humblest foot-traveller, by the roadside, received notice from the goodnatured Baronet.
He very often stopped, when he was alone, to give a lift to some poor weary tramp, making his servant raise up the basket or bundle he carried, not heeding if it were of the clumsiest and least sightly description. To these people he would talk goodhumouredly all the way, conferring as much pleasure by his easy, kindhearted manner, as by the real benefit he bestowed in lightening their burdened and toilsome journey.
In the same spirit, he could not pass the urchins playing at cricket, (which was the fashion of the place,) in the large field at the entrance of the village, without drawing up for a moment to see how the game sped. Clarice was greatly amused at the airs the lads gave themselves, shouldering their bats, and bowling in imitation, Sir Frederick said, of the great players who came to the ground near his house. The whole population of Maydwell was mad after cricket.
Their progress was very slow up the street. Sir Frederick had something to say to the old people at their doors, to the children who ran across the road right under the horses' feet, and to their mothers for not taking care of them. · At length he came to a full stop, opposite to the pretty Parsonage-house and garden.
Mrs. Holcombe was attending to her flowers, watering and tying up the geraniums which filled the beds on the grass, and removing the few dead leaves faded since the morning. Sir Frederick had known, by experience, that he should see her there; and had never, since his friend occupied the living, passed her without stopping to talk to her.
Mr. Holcombe sauntered out of the diningroom, when he heard the carriage stop at the gate. His wife hesitated, and looked at the mourning dresses of the ladies, which reminded her of Sir Frederick's announcement of their intention of spending some time in perfect seclusion. As he was calling out to her to come to him, however, there could be no doubt that he had relaxed in the severity of his determination.
" It is of no use ! I can't pass without stopping to speak to you, Mrs. Holcombe ! Old habits, with a bachelor like me, cannot be infringed:” Sir Frederick said, as he shook hands with her. “Laura, let me introduce you to my best friends. We must make an excep
tion in favour of Mr. and Mrs. Holcombe, and ask them to come and see you at once. Miss Le Sage, let me make you known to our excellent Rector. I cannot see the shadow of a reason, Holcombe, why you and your wife should not dine with us to-morrow.”
Migs Derwent looked extremely grave. Perhaps she thought that a formal call from the Rector's wife would have been. less inappropriate than this unceremonious mode of forming the acquaintance. Meanwhile, the tall, handsome couple received Sir Frederick’s advances very graciously, and welcomed the newcomers to Maydwell; declining, however, the invitation to intrude upon them so soon after their arrival, and when, probably, Miss Derwent was too much fatigued with her long journey to wish to entertain visitors.
Sir Frederick was bending down to listen to a whispered communication from Mr. Holcombe, in which the words, “Thursday fortnight,”—“cricket,"---and " throw the ground