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parison;" and, as she said this, tears stood in her soft eyes. It was a long speech for Mrs. Meredith. Oswald had come back to the drawingroom in a loose jacket, with some lingering odour of his cigar about him, to bid his mother good-night. She was standing by the mantelpiece with her candle in her hand, while he stood close by, looking down into the fire, caressing the down, scarcely developed into a moustache, on his upper lip, and thus hiding a conscious smile.

"So you think my choice a good one, mother?" he said, with a laugh. Mrs. Meredith did not think him serious enough for such a serious moment; but then how useless it is to go on contending with people because they will not feel as you think proper in every emergency! After all, every one must act according to his nature; the easy man cannot be made restless, nor the light-hearted solemn. This was Mrs. Meredith's philosophy. But she gave a little sigh, as she had often done, to the frivolity of her elder son. It was late, and the fire was very low upon the hearth-one of the lamps had burned out the room was dimmer than usual; in a corner Edward sat reading or pretending to read, rather glum, silent, and sad. Oswald, who had come in, in a very pleasant disposition, as indeed he generally was, smoothed his young



moustache with great complacency. He saw at once that it was Cara of whom his mother was thinking, and it was not at all disagreeable to him that she should think so. He was quite willing to be taken for Cara's lover. There was no harm in a little mystification, and the thought on the whole pleased him.

"Ah, Oswald, I wish you were a little more serious, especially at such a moment," said his mother; "there are so many things to think of. I wish you would try to realise that it is a very, very important moment in your life."

"It is a very pleasant one, at least," he said, smiling at her—with a smile which from the time of his baby naughtiness had always subdued his mother-and he lighted her candle, and stooped with filial grace to kiss her cheek. "Good-night, mother, and don't trouble about me. I am very happy," he said, with a half-laugh at his own cleverness in carrying on this delusion. Oswald thought a great deal of his own cleverness. It was a pleasant subject to him. He stood for some time after his mother was gone, looking down into the waning fire and smiling to himself. He enjoyed the idea reflected from their minds that he was an accepted lover, a happy man betrothed and enjoying the first sweetness of love. He had not said so; he had done nothing, so far as he was aware, to originate such a notion; but it rather amused and flattered him now that they had of themselves quite gratuitously started it. As for Cara herself being displeased or annoyed by it, that did not occur to him. She was only just a girl, not a person of dignity, and there could be no injury to her in such a report. Besides, it was not his doing; he was noway to blame. Poor dear little Cara! if it did come to that, a man was not much to be pitied who had Cara to fall back upon at the last.

Thus he stood musing, with that conscious smile on his face, now and then casting a glance at himself in the mirror over the mantelpiece. He was not thinking of his brother, who sat behind with the same book in his hands that he had been pretending to read all the evening. Edward rose when his mother was gone, and came up to the fire. He was no master of words befitting the occasion; he wanted to say something, and he did not know what to say. His elder brother, the most popular of the twohe who was always a little in advance of Edward in everything, admired and beloved and thought of as Edward had never been-how was the younger, less brilliant, less considered brother to say anything to him that bore the character of advice? And yet Edward's heart ached to do so; to tell the truth his heart ached for more than this. It had seemed to him that Cara confided in himself, believed in his affectionate sympathy more than she did in Oswald's: and to see Oswald in the triumphant position of avowed lover as they all thought him to be, was gall and bitterness to the poor young fellow, in whose heart for all these years a warm recollection of Cara had been smouldering. He was the poor man whose ewelamb his rich brother had taken, and the pang of surprised distress in his soul was all the bitterer for that consciousness which never quite left his

mind, that Oswald was always the one preferred. But Edward, though he felt this, was not of an envious nature, and was rather sad for himself than resentful of his brother's happiness. He went up to him, dragged by his tender heart much against the resistance of his will, feeling that he too must say something. He laid his hand, which quivered a little with suppressed agitation, on Oswald's shoulder.

"I don't know what to say to you, old fellow," he said, with an attempt at an easy tone. "I needn't wish you happiness, for you've got it

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In spite of himself Oswald laughed. He had a schoolboy's delight in mystification, and somehow a sense of Edward's disappointment came in, and gave him a still greater perception of the joke. Not that he wished to hurt Edward, but to most men who know nothing of love, there is so much of the ridiculous involved, even in a disappointment, that the one who is heart-whole may be deliberately cruel without any evil intention. "Oh, yes, I am happy enough," he said, looking round at his brother, who, for his part, could not meet his eyes.

"I hope you won't mind what I am going to say to you?" said Edward. "I am not so light-hearted a fellow as you are, and that makes me, perhaps, notice others. Oswald, look here she is not so lighthearted as you are, either. She wants taking care of. She is very sensitive, and feels many things that perhaps you would not feel. Don't be vexed. I thought I would just say this once for all-and there is no good thing I don't wish you," cried Edward, concluding abruptly, to cover the little break in his voice.

"You needn't look so glum about it, Ned," said his brother. "I don't mean to be turned off to-morrow. We shall have time to mingle our tears on various occasions before then. Mamma and you have a way of jumping at conclusions. As for her

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"I don't like slang on such a subject," said Edward, hotly. "Never mind; there are some things we should never agree upon if we talked till doomsday. Good-night."


Good-night, old man, and I wish you a better temper—unless you'll come and have another cigar first," said Oswald, with cheerful assurance. "My mind is too full for sleep."

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Her, of course," said Oswald, with a laugh; and he went downstairs whistling the air of Fortunio's song

Je sais mourir pour ma mie,

Sans la nommer.

He was delighted with the mistake which mystified everybody and awakened envies, and regrets, and congratulations, which were all in their different ways tributes to his importance. And no doubt the mistake might be turned into reality at any moment should he decide that this would be desirable. He had only to ask Cara, he felt, and she would be

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