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In spite of her brave resolutions, Dinah, however, did feel very nervous, as she suffered Stephen to lead her up the steps, at the top of which a waiter was standing to receive them.
“Show us to Mr. Burton's room if you please,” said Stephen, drawing Dinah's trembling arm still closer within his own.
Certainly, sir. There's a carriage just arrived, with four posters, and the company it brought are with Mr. Barton just now—an old gentleman, and a little girl, sir," said the waiter, as he skipped up stairs with profesional activity.
“ The deuce there has !" whispered Stephen to his companion ; “ who, in the name of goodness, can they be, Dinah ?” “ We shall see in a moment; but he doesn't say
whether Walter has come or not,” said Dinah, nervously.”
“ All our doubts will be resolved in a moment,” said Stephen. • Here we are—" and the waiter at that moment threw
open the door.
A mist at that instant came across Dinah's eyes, and she felt as if she could sink to the floor, had not a pair of loving arms carried her manfully forward, to the group that clustered round the fire.
CHAPTER XLVIII., AND LAST. When she had recovered sufficiently to look up again—and this was not until Walter had hugged her to his heart I dare not say how many times—she perceived that a stranger was collected amongst the group; and, with a heightened colour, she suffered her lover to take her hand, and lead her towards this unknown being, whose mild benignity of countenance, heightened, as it was, by a touching, yet placid sorrow, that brooded over the worn and wasted features, at once attracted her love and sympathy.
“Dear father," said Walter, respectfully; “ this is the gentle being who has plighted her troth with mine, and whom your blessing will make my wife. Dinah, my father," said Walter, proudly.
My dear daughter," murmured the elder Mordaunt, kissing her on both cheeks; “ Walter described you to me with all the ardour of a young man's first passion, but I see that he has not overrated you."
Why, Di, won't thou give me a kiss, my lass,” cried Dick, thrusting in his great. broad, jovial face; "thou looks as frightened as a poor startled hare; I'll lay thou'st had a rare adventure, now;" and he snatched a kiss, that echoed throughout the
Pray don't ask about anything to-night, Dick,” interposed Lucy, who, with all her gentleness, managed her great, burley, rough-spoken husband to admiration already. “ Mr. Mordaunt and Dinah both look very tired, and we will hear, and tell all in the morning.”
“ Well, well, wife, thou must allays hev' thee own way, thou knows,” said Dick, good-humouredly; “but we can all eat a bit o' supper, I fancy-shall ee ring the bell, company?”.
“ Dick ! how vulgar, said Lucy, angrily; "ring the bell, and do have done with those nasty words.”
Dick's only answer was a smack, that made the blood tingle in mistress Lucy's cheeks—and the waiter came up.
“Waiter, let us ha' sapper immediately," cried Dick; “round o' beef and potatoes for huz, and something light for the ladies —d'ye hear, man, and let us have it soon. Lass! cannot thee take off that bonnet and cloak, eh?"
" Come with me up stairs, Dinah," said Lucy, taking up a candle, and they left the room together.
When they reached the room Dinah was to occupy, Lucy opened the door very gently, and with a smothered hush ! motioned Dinah to enter very quietly, and shading the candle with her hand, crept up, on tiptoe, to the bed.
“Who is it?" whispered Dinah; and then, as the light fell full upon the bed, she exclaimed, “Oh! what a lovely child — oh! Lucy, who is it ?”
“ Your future sister, whispered Lucy, smiling. “When in India, Mr. Mordaunt adopted a poor, fatherless little girl, whose mother, as I understand, died in his arms,-Has she not a lovely smile?”
“ And what splendid hair !" whispered Dinah, lifting up a heavy mass of the deepest black, that lay all down the white pillow; “ her complexion quite reminds me of alabaster, it is so pure and transparent.”
“Walter says she lay in his arms nearly all the journey down, said Lucy, in her hushed tone. He describes her as having a most endearing disposition, and to be very diverting.”
"I shall grow quite jealous," rejoined Dinah, with a consciously-happy smile ;—" But she is Walter's sister."
“And will be your's, Dinah,” retorted Lucy, archly, as they crept out of the room.
When they returned down stairs again, the supper was ready waiting for them, and Dick at once summoned them to place themselves round the table, observing, as he helped Mr. Mordaunt to the breast of a chicken, that eating was a panacea for every evil under the sun, and that folks must be bad indeed that couldn't take their meat kindly.
“That miserable wretch, Pestlepolge,” said Walter, addressing the whole company in a grave voice, when they were once
more gathered round the fire, “finished his career of guilt, last night, by taking poison in his cell; what a fearful account he will have to render !”
“ Has he left any confession ?” inquired Stephen, in the solemn silence that ensued.
“He has !” said Mr. Mordaunt, gravely; "the governor of the jail, before I left, permitted me to peruse it, and for once in his lifetime the miserable wretch seems to have forgotten his habitual hypocrisy; the crime that has at length brought him to punishment, was not his only one, but the mind sickens over the black catalogue of guilt, and I would gladly change the theme.”
“ And his scarcely less miserable daughter," said Walter, taking up the conversation, "seems to have imitated him in crime; but enough—when do you intend to return, Dick ?”
“At ouce," said the jovial miller; “Lon'on may be all very fine for your town-bred dandies, but give me the fresh bracing morning air, and the crow of the merry cock, in preference, Lor', man, there's something quite intoxicating in the air one sniffs up, in a place uncontaminated by smoke and dust, that a body reared in this nasty, foggy place, would scarcely credit; and then the blithe tally-ho of the hounds, on a fine frosty morning, and the whoop! whoop! of the whipper-in!”
“And the click-clack of the mill-wheel,” chimed in Lucy, with her gentle smile, as Dick paused for sheer want of breath, “and the round full moon rising up so calm and beautiful over Haughton Woods—and the salmon-leaps, where the water falls down, like a sheet of glass, and the beautiful lake with the swans sailing over it, so stately-oh! Dick, let us go back tomorrow.'
“That thou shall, my pet,” cried the miller, patting her neck; "and if Mister Mordaunt there, doesn't just feel quite strong enow to stand a second journey so soon, why, him and Wat, and Miss Indiana must just follow as soon as they can.”
“The best arrangement that can be," cried all the rest, in a breath; and so it was arranged.
The next day, then, Dick and Lucy, with Stephen and Dinah, set off in a chaise and pair, for Hereford, Walter and his newly found relatives pledging themselves to join them at Abbey Holme in the course of a week. Dinah did not ask why her father never sent, nor came to inquire after her, and it was not until they were all settled down peaceably at home again, that the dreadful news was broke to her; they had pity upon her, however, after all, for they told her, it was supposed he had died in a fit, and so the poor girl never knew the dreadful end her father had come to.
Mrs. Harding received her with tender embraces, the good
old lady weeping most plenteously over the return of her long lost lamb. She still seemed, to Dinah's loving eyes, as gentle and as beautiful in her old age, as ever, but her step had grown more feeble, and her voice had lost the blithe merry tone it had once possessed- My pen lingers sadly and mournfully over this mention of one of the gentlest and sweetest of created beings, for my heart misgives me that e're long, she that is their desire will be taken from them, and they shall see her mortal face no
Walter, with Mr. Mordaunt, arrived before the expiration of the time they had mentioned, and in the quaint little church, whose sanctity was so desecrated, at a former period, by the celebration of the nuptials of Doctor Yellowchops and the charming Penelope, Dinah and himself were united in the presence of none but their own immediate relatives, the recent death of Joseph Linton being a sufficient excuse for not making a splendid wedding.
It is Christmas eve. The old hall at the Abbey Holme, with the black oak rafters peeping through the forest of holly that festoons them, rings to the merry laughter of the happy beings that revel beneath. The tables, that could hold a good fourscore-they hold half as many more at this particular time, but that, dear reader, is between ourselves—groan under the weight of all the brave cheer piled upon them. There is a noble boar's head with a sprig of holly in the jaws, flanked by a turkey and a magnificent brawn, Lucy's own manufacture, placed at the head, and all down the sides, are put hot and cold game, hares and geese, with here and there a cold round of beef, that did the eye good to look upon. Then there was spiced ale, in great silver flagons, and mulled wine for the ladies, who, however, had no objection to taste the October
Stephen takes his seat at the head of the table, amidst a great deal of hurraing, and with his mother on one hand, and Mr. Mordaunt on the other, says grace very audibly and reverentially; and then begins such a din, and clatter, and rattling of knives, and clinking of glasses, as a good six score of folks never made before, since Christmas was invented. There is a great deal of fun, and a great deal of laughing on all sides, and so the supper goes on to its close most jovially.
Then the tables are cleared away, and the village bandJanuary, 1849.-VOL. LIV.-No. CCXIII.
three fiddles and a clarionet-step in, and dancing commences. Dinah is led out at once by Stephen, to open the ball, and most gracefully she dances—I give you my word for it-and Walter stands behind his partner, watching her little feet . tripping it in and out the steps, as she sails down the terrific line, and thinks she never looked so handsome, or so be- ja witching, as she does at that moment; which I really believe to be the fact.
And then, although she is a married woman, and all that, yet the little monkey has the pick of all the beaux, as long as ever she chooses to stand up; but then she looks so winning in and so bonny, and that smile of hers is so bewitching, that the very gravest and staidest of them can't withstand it, but rush madly in, and engage her for the next dozenth set or so, for that is the very earliest she can pledge herself to them for. doi At twelve o'clock, she is dancing with her husband a good old country dance, and just at the first stroke, Walter, as every one else does with his partner, snatches a kiss from his wife's I lips-wicked Walter !
Lucy doesn't dance, but sits amongst the matrons, with her feet on a stool. Dick, however, dances most lustily, and I notice him just at this moment piloting Miss Noggles through Sir Roger de Coverley most triumphantly. Our humble heroine is quite as great a toast amongst the humbler guests, as Dinah is amongst the higher ones, and has already had two offerş, since the ball began. Her head is all in a flutter, although she smiles so demurely to Dick; but for all that, she is the one weighing in her mind the relative dignity of marrying a baronet's steward, or becoming the spouse of the village dominic.
And now they all gather in an immense circle round the fire, and whilst Stephen orders another yule log to be thrown on the roaring mass of flame, some one produces a trencher, and proposes a game of forfeits. The man that has gone out for the yule log, comes in again as white as a sheet, and says that the snow is nigh a foot deep in the farm-yard, and that the roads will be blocked up before morning. Everybody seems to think this only welcome news; for what is Christmas, every one asks, without a good storm? One young lady, more adventurous than the rest, whispers that she would like to be 1 rolled in it, and another ventures to wish they had a båttle with snowballs.
“Come, ladies and gentlemen,” cried Stephen, "let us drink a bumper to old Father Christmas !” Some one carols forth a lusty stave, when they have done, in which they all join, with a most tremendous chorus.
And with this cheering picture, dear reader, I bid thee farewell !