And now, the purpose of his life being so far achieved, Gilbert Fenton rode back to Winchester next day, restored his horse to its proprietor, and went on to London by an evening train.
MISS CARLEY’S ADMIRERS.
There were times in which Marian Holbrook’s life would have been utterly lonely but for the companionship of Ellen Carley. This warm-hearted outspoken country girl had taken a fancy to Mr. Holbrook’s beautiful wife from the hour of her arrival at the Grange, one cheerless March evening, and had attached herself to Marian from that moment with unalterable affection and fidelity. The girl’s own life at the Grange had been lonely enough, except during the brief summer months, when the roomy old house was now and then enlivened a little by the advent of a lodger,—some stray angler in search of a secluded trout stream, or an invalid who wanted quiet and fresh air. But in none of these strangers had Ellen ever taken much interest. They had come and gone, and made very little impression upon her mind, though she had helped to make their sojourn pleasant in her own brisk cheery way.
She was twenty-one years of age, very bright-looking, if not absolutely pretty, with dark expressive eyes, a rosy brunette complexion, and very white teeth. The nose belonged to the inferior order of pug or snub; the forehead was low and broad, with dark-brown hair rippling over it—hair which seemed always wanting to escape from its neat arrangement into a multitude of mutinous curls. She was altogether a young person whom the admirers of the soubrette style of beauty might have found very charming; and, secluded as her life at the Grange had been, she had already more than one admirer.
She used to relate her love affairs to Marian Holbrook in the quiet summer evenings, as the two sat under an old cedar in the meadow nearest the house—a meadow which had been a lawn in the days when the Grange was in the occupation of great folks; and was divided from a broad terrace-walk at the back of the house by a dry grass-grown moat, with steep sloping banks, upon which there was a wealth of primroses and violets in the early spring. Ellen Carley told Mrs. Holbrook of her admirers, and received sage advice from that experienced young matron, who by-and-by confessed to her humble companion the error of her own girlhood, and how she had jilted the most devoted and generous lover that ever a woman could boast of.
For some months—for the bright honeymoon period of her wedded life—Marian had been completely happy in that out-of-the-world region. It is not to be supposed that she had done so great a wrong to Gilbert Fenton except under the influence of a great love, or the dominion of a nature powerful enough to subjugate her own. Both these influences had been at work. Too late she had discovered that she had never really loved Gilbert Fenton; that