“Here she comes, Mr. Headstone! Let us go forward and meet her.”

As they advanced, she saw them coming, and seemed rather troubled. But she greeted her brother with the usual warmth, and touched the extended hand of Bradley.

“Why, where are you going, Charley, dear?” she asked him then.

“Nowhere. We came on purpose to meet you.”

“To meet me, Charley?”

“Yes. We are going to walk with you. But don’t let us take the great leading streets where every one walks, and we can’t hear ourselves speak. Let us go by the quiet backways. Here’s a large paved court by this church, and quiet, too. Let us go up here.”

“But it’s not in the way, Charley.”

“Yet it is,” said the boy, petulantly. “It’s in my way, and my way is yours.”

She had not released his hand, and, still holding it, looked at him with a kind of appeal. He avoided her eyes, under pretence of saying, “Come along, Mr. Headstone.” Bradley walked at his side — not at hers — and the brother and sister walked hand in hand. The court brought them to a churchyard; a paved square court, with a raised bank of earth about breast high, in the middle, enclosed by iron rails. Here, conveniently and healthfully elevated above the level of the living, were the dead, and the tombstones; some of the latter droopingly inclined from the perpendicular, as if they were ashamed of the lies they told.

They paced the whole of this place once, in a constrained and uncomfortable manner, when the boy stopped and said:

“Lizzie, Mr. Headstone has something to say to you. I don’t wish to be an interruption either to him or to you, and so I’ll go and take a little stroll and come back. I know in a general way what Mr. Headstone intends to say, and I very highly approve of it, as I hope — and indeed I do not doubt — you will. I needn’t tell you, Lizzie, that I am under great obligations to Mr. Headstone, and that I am very anxious for Mr. Headstone to succeed in all he undertakes. As I hope — and as, indeed, I don’t doubt — you must be.”

“Charley,” returned his sister, detaining his hand as he withdrew it, “I think you had better stay. I think Mr. Headstone had better not say what he thinks of saying.”

“Why, how do you know what it is?” returned the boy.

“Perhaps I don’t, but —”

“Perhaps you don’t? No, Liz, I should think not. If you knew what it was, you would give me a very different answer. There; let go; be sensible. I wonder you don’t remember that Mr. Headstone is looking on.”

She allowed him to separate himself from her, and he, after saying, “Now, Liz, be a rational girl and a good sister,” walked away. She remained standing alone with Bradley Headstone, and it was not until she raised her eyes, that he spoke.

“I said,” he began, “when I saw you last, that there was something unexplained, which might perhaps influence you. I have come this evening to explain it. I hope you will not judge of me by my hesitating manner when I speak to you. You see me at my greatest disadvantage. It is most unfortunate for me that I wish you to see me at my best, and that I know you see me at my worst.”

She moved slowly on when he paused, and he moved slowly on beside her.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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