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remarked Mrs. Holcombe, warmly. “My principal fear is, that you will make his home so pleasant that we shall see nothing of him at the Rectory, as Miss Derwent seems determined to be unsociable. In that case, we shall not be the gainers by her coming to Maydwell."
Clarice thought that she looked slightly offended, and proposed returning to the house. As they walked back, Mrs. Holcombe said
* Your name is not exactly an English one; though I have known Le Sages in the west. Perhaps you have connections in this part of the country, whom you are going to visit when you leave Maydwell ?”
It did not appear that Miss Le Sage had any relations to visit, or any definite plans that were likely to take her away from her friend.
Mrs. Holcombe looked rather dissatisfied.
“ Mr. Holcombe will quite' enjoy talking Italian with you,” she remarked. "He has travelled a great deal. In fact, he is rather thrown away in a place like this, where, of course, any display of information in the pulpit would be inappropriate. My accomplishments are only school-taught; and, in the country, it is strange how soon our early studies are forgotten, especially after marriage. I am sure you are musical. One of my crotchets is, that talents are always hereditary. Is your
mother -I think you said that she is still living-a proficient in the science ?"
Clarice's reply did not suit Mrs. Holcombe's theory.
“My mother does not sing," she said. “Her favourite amusement is drawing. She excels in taking slight but spirited likenesses and caricatures."
“How could she make up her mind to part with you ?” enquired Mrs. Holcombe, rather pathetically. “She has, perhaps, a numerous family? You have left a great many pretty sisters behind you, to supply your place ?”
Clarice could not help smiling at her companion's evident curiosity.
My mother is not lonely without me, though she has no other child,” she answered. “She is very fond of society. At present, Laura stands most in need of mine."
“An only daughter! I am half angry with you for coming away,” persisted Mrs Holcombe. “Depend upon it, she will not spare you long. Are you not sorry to leave Italy for this dull place ?"
“No !” said Clarice, decidedly. “It is my own choice.
There are circumstances which make a residence at home disagreeable to me. My mother acquiesces in the necessity for a temporary separation."
It was impossible for Mrs. Holcombe, without indelicacy, to press her enquiries farther; especially as Clarice's colour rose, and she quickened her steps back to the house.
As they entered the drawingroom together,
Mrs. Holcombe's shawl, perhaps accidentally, swept off a letter and a handkerchief from a small table near which Clarice had been sitting. She noticed, while stooping to replace them, that the handwriting was bold, careless, and flowing, and the date at the top of the open sheet of paper, not Italian, but apparently Polish or Hungarian. In laying it down, she turned it over on the other side, and the signature, consisting of a simple, foreignlooking, Christian name, "Fedor,” caught her eye.
There was nothing to tempt her to prolong her visit. Miss Derwent's manner was still very chilling ; but, before taking leave, Mrs. Holcombe paused to look at the music which was scattered upon the pianoforte, and learned from Laura that Clarice was, as she had guessed, a beautiful singer. The intelligence did not put her in a better humour, though she professed to be delighted at hearing Some of the pieces she was examining were extremely
difficult. One song was dedicated by the composer to Miss Le Sage.
6 Sir Frederick is passionately fond of music,” she remarked, looking up, rather suddenly, at Clarice. “I dare say you have found that out. Musical people always understand one another. I tell him he has, a fine voice, and ought to cultivate it. Perhaps, when he discovers what a proficient you are, he will ask you to give him lessons."
“We have had no time for singing,” said Clarice. “I thought it might amuse Laura, this evening, if she felt equal to it," she added, lowering her tone; “but she has not touched the pianoforte for nearly a year.
“I prophesy, that, when you once begin, you will not easily be allowed to leave off,” answered Mrs. Holcombe. " Sir Frederick makes me go through all my girlish song-books, whenever he spends an evening with us; but I know that he prefers Italian music, and a scientific style than mine.
He has gone up