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      "T?ake careshe might hear you."

      "O yes," replied Margaret. "I am perfectly well, butI have been a little frightened.""The first kite I saw in the air in Japan was so much like a large bird[Pg 265] that I mistook it for one, and the delusion was kept up by a smaller one that seemed to be getting away from the other. The large one imitated the movements of a hawk to perfection, and it was some minutes before I could understand that it was nothing but a combination of sticks and paper and cords, instead of a real live bird. It rose and fell, and every few moments it swept down and seemed to be trying to swallow the little one out of sight. I never should have supposed such an imitation possible, and was thoroughly convinced that the Japanese must be very fond of kite-flying if they give it the study necessary to bring it to such a state of perfection.

      Isabella was sitting in an apartment with the fair Joan of Kent, expatiating upon the insolence of the common people, and detailing a solitary instance of the evil that the family of a bondman might work to his lord, when the door was thrown open and Richard, with his beautiful countenance flushed with excitement, and followed by the archbishop of Canterbury, abruptly entered.The hand of benediction did not seem to be acting well, and Mr Silverdale took it down. He used it instead to cover his eyes. He was quite genuinely sorry for Alice, but at the back of his mind he could not help considering what a wonderful person he must be to inspire this passion without ever having meant to. There was a fascination about him....

      "It was like a great shed, and it had the solid ground for a floor. On this floor there were kettles, or pans, set in brickwork, and each one of them had a little furnace under it, in which there was a charcoal fire. There must have been two hundred of these pans, and the heat from them was so great that it almost took away my breath. I don't believe I could exist there a day, and yet there were people who had to spend the entire day[Pg 268] in the firing-room, and go there day after day besides. Many of them were women, and some of them had little children strapped to their backs, and there was a whole lot of children in a little room at one side of the shed, where a couple of women were looking after them. How I did pity the poor things! Fred and I just emptied our pockets of all the small change we could find in them for the benefit of the babies, and I wish we could have given them more. But there was hardly a cry from any of them, and they seemed as happy and contented as though their mothers were queens, instead of toiling over the firing-pan in that hot room for ten or fifteen cents a day.

      "Quite proper, Miss Effie," was the reply; "so good-bye: I must look after the tickets and the baggage."

      "Wot d'you think of Grandturzel, Mus' Backfield?" someone asked waggishly.




      "Isabella," said the baron, as she entered, "Calverley has ascertained the retreat of Stephen Holgrave." She had anticipated something of the kind; but the effect it produced was singular. An electrical thrill seemed to vibrate through her frame, and a sudden coldness chilled her brow; but ere it could have been said that her cheek was pale, the whole countenance was suffused with a deepened glow, and rallying her energies, she asked, with assumed composure, "where he was hidden?"Outwardly the days passed precisely as usual. They had made their appointment, and no further allusion or reminder was necessary. Each evening brought nearer the hour of azure in that hollow among the empty downs, and he desired neither to shorten nor to lengthen out the days that separated him from it. But to him everything, except that moment, regular but rarely recurring, when her eye sought his with need and love in it,{298} seemed dream-like and unsubstantial. Nothing had power either to vex or please him. He was, as always, busy all day, and transacted his own or municipal business with all his usual thoroughness and acute judgment. But it all went on outside him; the terra-cotta cupolas which his industry had reared in the market-place were as unreal as the new system of drainage in the lower part of the town, which he had exerted all his influence to get carried through the obdurate conservatism that pointed to the low-death rate of Bracebridge under the old conditions. He got his way; all his life he had been accustomed to dominate and command and organise. Then when his days work was done, and he returned home for dinner and the ensuing hours, which lately had been so intolerable, he found they irritated him no longer, and the fatuous drip of his wifes conversation was no more to him than some gutter that discharged not into his house but into the street outside. Simply he cared nothing for it, nor, when his failure to get elected to the County Club occurred to him, did he care: it appeared to have happened, but it must have happened to some stranger. Sometimes, before the pink clock announced that it was half-past ten, he would leave the drawing-room and go to his library, to see whether in his books there was to be found anything that stimulated his reactions {299}towards life. But they had no message: they were dumb or he was deaf. Even the catalogue showed no sign of life: it was Norahs work, of course, but it was not Norah.