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THROUGH A NEEDLE'S EYE.
She carried a light in her hand, and it CHAPTER VII.-IN DIANA'S PARLOUR.
shone fully upon her face, which was someIN N another quarter of an hour Justin was what too worn and thin for her age.
bidding the watch-dog be quiet, in a threat- a noticeable face, with its finely-cut features ening voice that cowed the fierce animal; and low broad forehead. Her complexion though he followed sniffing at the heels of was a clear cream-colour, with no tinge of the untimely visitor, and uttering a low growl red except in her lips, while her eyes and hair as if ready to spring upon him at any moment. were dark as night. Mrs. Fosse, the wife of The front door of Rillage Grange had not old Jeremy Fosse, at Herford, a woman of been opened for years, and tall, strong few words, but of poetic instincts, said Miss plants of hemlock and mallow had grown in Diana Lynn always made her think of the the chinks of the stone steps before it. But moon-light. An expression of care and sadJustin was at no loss to find an entrance, ness had grown habitual to her; but as she without going through the large old kitchen, looked at Justin sleeping in her chair, a which had become the usual way of admis- smile, mischievous yet shy, stole across her sion. There was a small side door sacred face. Her girlhood had passed, though a to Diana, which had always been open to melancholy girlhood, for she was already him as long as he could remember, when he four-and-twenty; and the reserve and statehad brought messages as a boy from his step- liness of a somewhat self-contained, reticent father to Squire Lynn. It was not locked, womanhood was growing manifest in her. and he entered by it as one quite at home in But just now, with her dark eyes glittering, the household. A long, dark passage, with and her lips melting into smiles, the dignity a feeble oil-lamp burning dimly at one end, had given way to a very pleasant mirthfullay before him, and he marched along it ness. If she laughed, her laughter would be rapidly.
low and sweet; but very few persons had He knocked at the door of a room half- ever heard Diana laugh. way along the passage, but there was no She had scarcely paused there a minute answer, and he went in after a moment's when Justin became conscious of her prepause. It was an old-fashioned parlour, sence, and started to his feet. Diana hastened with a low carved ceiling, and wainscoted forward to meet him, and offered her hand walls. The rooms in Herford Court were not frankly, as to an old and intimate friend. unlike it; but here the furniture was still He clasped it between both of his, and held more faded and antique, and there was an it as he spoke quickly, though in a quiet air of poverty and of painful care-taking voice. creeping over it. Yet it abounded in flowers "Diana, my father is dead!” he said. and ferns, and these gave a brightness of “I have heard of it,” she replied, with a colour to the shabby room, which caught his grave look up into his face; we heard of it eye pleasantly; though he hardly knew what this morning." pleased him, except that he was in Diana “And half an hour ago," continued Justin Lynn's parlour.
impulsively, “I was saying, would to God There was a fire burning cheerily on the Diana was my wife !" hearth, and a lamp lit, though it was turned She withdrew her hand from his grasp, low, and shed only a very soft, subdued and sank down on the chair, from which he light through the place. Justin threw him- had just risen. Her heart was beating self down into a large old chair, that was tumultuously. Justin's well-known face bore drawn up to the hearth, and felt all at once the traces of violent agitation; and as she how worn-out and weary he was with the glanced up at him, keenly yet shyly, she excitement of the last night and day. He could see how tremulous his lips were, and closed his eyes, with a delicious sense of what trouble was in his eyes. He hardly repose in the warmth and comfort of the looked as if he had come over the bleak fire-side after his toilsome walk; and he did cliffs that lay between them simply to declare not hear Diana return to her room some his love for her. few minutes later, and after a momentary “Forgive me!” he said, standing before start of surprise, stand looking at him with a her, and speakingly appealingly. "I hardly quiet smile.
meant to say that to-night; certainly I never VII. N.S.
meant to say it so abruptly. But I do love had brought him to her, had given him you, Diana, with all my heart; I want you. a weather-beaten aspect, while his want of Now I have said it, against my better judg- sleep and profound conflict with difficulties, ment, and almost against my will, what will known only to himself, had already marked you say to me?"
his face with a worn and anxious expression. Why is it against your better judgment, She lifted up her dark eyes to him, with a and against your will ?'” she asked.
strange, soft light beaming in them, and her ** Because," he said regretfully, “if you lips melted again into a tender smile. will not be my wife, you will probably cease “I do not wish to forget it,” she said to be my friend. Don't I know I am almost, very quietly. "I have always loved you, if not quite, your only friend? Your chief Justin." friend I have been. I comfort you and help “I cannot believe it," cried Justin on his you by coming here, to your miserable home. knees beside her, and holding her hands in In one sense I protect you. And now if my his, that he might see her face, and read there hasty words raise a barrier between us, you whether she was mocking him or not; "tell will lose the full comfort of my friendship; me again, Diana. Did you say you had and I shall lose you.”
always loved me?" There was complete silence when he "Why !" she said in a pleasant whisper, finished speaking. Diana had leaned her “who else was there ? Ever since I was a face on her hands; and he could see only little girl I've loved nobody else. You were the low, broad forehead, and the dark hair always so good to me, Justin ; and so good smoothly braided away from it, and gathered to every one. You are the best man I know; into a thick knot at the back of her small the best in the whole world to me. There shapely head. He broke the silence after a has never been any other to me.” pause full of pain to him.
He could scarcely catch the last words, “I have done you no injury, Diana," he though her lips were so close to his ear. But said, in a broken voice, “but I wish I could as she uttered them a noisy and peremptory call back those hasty words. If I tell you ring resounded through the silent house, this once that I love you, I will never trouble which till that moment had seemed empty; you so again. I never loved a woman as I and immediately afterwards a man's loud love you. I was little more than a boy when voice shouted impatiently along the echoing I married Pansy's mother; and you were passages, only a child then. It is a man's deep faith “Di! come here, Di! This moment!” ful love I feel now for you; and God knows “It's my father," she exclaimed, springing you are dearer to me than anything else in up hastily, “I must go at once. You will the world; ay! almost dearer than Pansy not see him to-night, Justin? No; go home herself, and she is more precious to me than and rest. Good-bye, my dear." words can tell. And oh! Diana, my love Her voice lingered a little over her farefor her would never clash with my love for well; but she was gone before he could you.”
answer, and he heard her swift, light step “Why did you never tell me before ?" she speeding along the passage, in obedience to asked in a whisper.
her father's boisterous summons. He had Why do I tell you now?” he returned. often heard both the call and the obedient “Because I fel like a leaf tossed to and fro; footstep before, but he had never felt chafed becau e all my life is being uprooted. I to the degree he did to-night. For a moment spoke in sp'te of myself; I had no intention or two he stood irresolute whether to follow of speaking of it. I only meant to come in her into Squire Lynn's unwelcome presence, and ook at you, and hold your hand in or obey her parting injunction to go home, mine for a moment, and listen to your sweet, and seek the rest which was becoming imquiet voice. I should have gone back again peratively necessary. He opened the door, to my duty, feeling I had both gained and and caught the sound of rude laughter and given strength. And now, like a fool, I've loud voices issuing from the dining-room at cut down my own poor little gourd. Diana, the other end of an intersecting passage. It you will never forget this."
would be mere folly and exasperation to "No, I can never forget it,” she mur- himself to face the riotous merriment of the mured.
half-drunken man ; so, quietly letting himself He was still standing before her, looking out by the side-door through which he had miserable and dejected. His long, dark entered, he passed again into the darkness tramp over the rough and wet paths, that of the night.
she had left Justin less than three minutes ago. CHAPTER VIII.—DIANA'S DECISION.
She lingered at the closed door shamefaced DIANA opened the dining-room door, after and irresolute; and when she opened it, and hurrying away from Justin, to obey her saw at a glance from under her drooping father's call. He was still sitting at the eyelids, that he was gone, she felt a momendinner-table, with two visitors from Low- tary sense of relief, quickly followed by a borough, who had dropped in since Diana chill of disappointment. Yet she was happy; had left her father alone after dinner. Squire happier than she could ever have imagined. Lynn's habits were well known, and it was She sat down in her old chair, and gazed seldom that he was without some chance steadily though absently into the fire. Was companions to wile away the tedious hours it real that Justin had 'stood before ler not until after midnight. It was his boast that ten minutes ago, telling her he loved her, he could drink as much as any man in the and saying, “Would to God she was his county if he might choose his own time for wife”?' She had been very miserable this it, and begin only after having fortified him- morning, speechlessly miserable ; for how self with a good dinner, and there were few could she put her sorrow into words that drinking men in that, or the neighbouring would not shock herself? She had almost counties, who had not tried their powers been tempted to doubt God's love for her ; with him.
and she had thought her lot was harder than He was still a handsome, fine-looking man the lot of any woman whom she knew. Yet under sixty, with the same clear-cut features all the while He had held this priceless gift as his daughter. Till the last few years in store for her. there had been a marked likeness between Diana hid her face in her hands, and them, to the very poise of the shapely head, sobbed thankfully. The very thought of and the erectness of the supple and slender being chosen and loved by Justin made her figure. But squire Lynn's head was less feel humble, and unworthy of so much gladerect, and his shoulders were more bent than ness. Her lot had been very different from they had been. His face had taken an un- that of other girls, different even from the healthy hue, and his eyes, which had been lives of her own brothers and sisters, who had as clear and deep as Diana's, had grown each broken away from their father and their blood-shot. At this moment he was at that dreary home, and taken their own course in stage of intoxication when the most trivial the world. Diana had never found it in her or the most solemn incident alike provokes heart to do this. “He is my father," she an uproarious laugh. As Diana opened the had often said to herself, “and there is nodoor hastily, and paused for an instant in body to care for him but me." There had some surprise at the sight of the two guests been a stanch loyalty in her soul towards of whose arrival she had been unaware, he the man to whom she stood in the relationbroke into that boisterous guffaw which had ship of daughter. Probably she did not driven Justin out of the house. "Di !” he know all his misdeeds as the world outside exclaimed, after his companions had risen did ; but she knew that all respectable men and bowed obsequiously to the stately girl, and women stood aloof from him, and from but without venturing upon any other salu- her as belonging to him. Her father had tion, “I've some news for you, my little numbers of boon companions ; but she had lass. Fleming here has brought it from only one friend. And that friend was the Lowborough, and it's too good to be kept till best man in all her little world; and he had morning. Guess what old Herford's done. just said that he loved her. What had she Cut off his own son with a shilling, and left done that such a man should love her? every penny to the parson!”
After a while she sat down to her little " To Justin ?” was Diana's startled excla- writing-table, where she was used to write mation.
painful, pitiful letters to those brothers and " Ay! to Justin!” repeated her father, sisters of hers whq had strayed away into the mimicking her tone, and breaking into wide world, and who had fallen mostly into another shout of merriment, “to our friend trouble. They had quitted their post in Justin, you know. Herford Court, and disgust, and had fallen into other troubles. £1,500 a year! Not a bad turn of fortune Diana was the only one who had been for a poor parson with less than £200. strong enough to resist evil. She could hear That's all, my girl. Off with you."
her father's drunken laughter, and the shouts Diana readily obeyed. But she stepped of his visitors echoing through the quiet back slowly and timidly to her parlour, where house; and she paused to listen, with the