The Beelzebub Colt

When Miss Thorne left the dining–room, Eleanor had formed no intention of revealing to her what had occurred; but when she was seated beside her hostess on the sofa the secret dropped from her almost unawares. Eleanor was but a bad hypocrite, and she found herself quite unable to continue talking about Mr Arabin, as though he was a stranger, while her heart was full of him. When Miss Thorne, pursuing her own scheme with discreet zeal, asked the young widow whether, in her opinion, it would not be a good thing for Mr Arabin to get married, she had nothing for it but to confess the truth. ‘I suppose it would,’ said Eleanor, rather sheepishly. Whereupon Miss Thorne amplified on the idea. ‘Oh, Miss Thorne,’ said Eleanor, ‘he is going to be married. I am engaged to him.’

Now Miss Thorne knew very well that there had been no such engagement when she had been walking with Mrs Bold in the morning. She had also heard enough to be tolerably sure that there had been no preliminaries to such an engagement. She was, therefore, as we have before described, taken a little by surprise. But, nevertheless, she embraced her guest, and cordially congratulated her.

Eleanor had no opportunity of speaking another word to Mr Arabin that evening, except such words as all the world might hear; and these, as may be supposed, were few enough. Miss Thorne did her best to leave them in privacy; but Mr Thorne, who knew nothing of what had occurred, and another guest, a friend of his, entirely interfered with her good intentions. So poor Eleanor had to go to bed without one sign of affection. Her state, nevertheless, was not to be pitied.

The next morning she was up early. It was probable, she thought, that by going down a little before the usual hour of breakfast, she might find Mr Arabin alone in the dining–room. Might it not be that she would calculate that an interview would thus be possible? Thus thinking, Eleanor was dressed a full hour before the time fixed at the Ullathorne household for morning prayers. She did not at once go down. She was afraid to seem to be too anxious to meet her lover; though, heaven knows, her anxiety was intense enough. She therefore sat herself down at her window, and repeatedly looking at her watch, nursed her child till she thought she might venture forth.

When she found herself at the dining–room door, she stood a moment, hesitating to turn the handle; but when she heard Mr Thorne’s voice inside she hesitated no longer. Her object was defeated, and she might now go in as soon as she liked without the slightest imputation on her delicacy. Mr Thorne and Mr Arabin were standing on the hearth–rug, discussing the merits of the Beelzebub colt; or rather, Mr Thorne was discussing, and Mr Arabin was listening. That interesting animal had rubbed the stump of his tail against the wall of his stable, and occasioned much uneasiness to the Ullathorne master of the horse. Had Eleanor but waited another minute, Mr Thorne would have been in the stable.

Mr Thorne, when he saw his lady guest, repressed his anxiety. The Beelzebub colt must do without him. And so the three stood, saying little or nothing to each other, till at last the master of the house, finding that he could no longer bear the present state of suspense respecting his favourite young steed, made an elaborate apology to Mrs Bold, and escaped. As he shut the door behind him, Eleanor almost wished that he had remained. It was not that she was afraid of Mr Arabin, but she hardly yet knew how to address him.

He, however, soon relieved her from her embarrassment. He came up to her, and taking bother her hands in his, he said, ‘So, Eleanor, you and I are to be man and wife. Is it so?’

She looked up into his face, and her lips formed themselves into a single syllable. She uttered no sound, but he could read the affirmative plainly in her face.

‘It is a great trust,’ said he, ‘a very great trust.’

‘It is—it is,’ said Eleanor, not exactly taking what he had said in the sense that he had meant. ‘It is a very great trust, and I will do my utmost to deserve it.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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