by his smile drew out all that was brilliant in her nature. She felt that this evening she appeared to advantage, and, as Robert was a spectator, the consciousness contented her; had he been called away, collapse would at once have succeeded stimulus.

But her enjoyment was not long to shine full-orbed: a cloud soon crossed it.

Hortense, who for some time had been on the move ordering supper, and was now clearing the little table of some books, etc., to make room for the tray, called Robert’s attention to the glass of flowers, the carmine, and snow, and gold of whose petals looked radiant indeed by candlelight.

‘They came from Fieldhead,’ she said, ‘intended as a gift to you, no doubt; we know who is the favourite there—not I, I’m sure.’

It was a wonder to hear Hortense jest; a sign that her spirits were at high-water mark indeed.

‘We are to understand, then, that Robert is the favourite?’ observed Louis.

‘Mon cher.’ replied Hortense, ‘Robert—c’est tout ce qu’il y a de plus précieux au monde: à côté de lui, le reste du genre humain n’est que du rebut. N’ai-je pas raison, mon enfant?’ she added, appealing to Caroline.

Caroline was obliged to reply, ‘Yes,’ and her beacon was quenched: her star withdrew as she spoke.

‘Et toi, Robert?’ inquired Louis.

‘When you shall have an opportunity, ask herself,’ was the quiet answer. Whether he reddened or paled Caroline did not examine; she discovered it was late, and she must go home. Home she would go: not even Robert could detain her now.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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