warned him as to something I had heard

Beatrice, passing swiftly, hardly gave the matter a thought, but sped rapidly along under the deep shadows of the trees, and along the white dusty lane, between the wilted hedges, dry with summer heat. A quarter of a mile brought her to a side path, and down this she went calmly, congratulating herself that she had met neither tramp, nor neighbour on the road. The path wound deviously through ancient trees, and at length emerged into a rather large glade in the centre of which was a pond, green with duckweed. Over this spread the branches of the Witches' Oak, an old old tree, which must have been growing in the time of the Druids, and which had probably played its part in their mystic rites. A fitful moonlight gleamed occasionally on this, as the planet showed her haggard face, and under the tree Beatrice saw a tall figure waiting patiently. She crossed the glade in the moonlight, but the clouds swept over the face of the orb, as Beatrice paused under the oak. Then again came a growl of distant thunder, as if in warning.

"I knew you would come," said Paslow, stepping forward, and for the moment it seemed as though he would take her in his arms.

In the darkness the cheeks of the girl flushed, and she stepped lightly aside, evading his clasp. Her heart told her to throw herself into those strong arms and be protected for ever from the coming storms of life, but a sense of modesty prevented such speedy surrender. When she spoke, her voice was steady and cool. There was no time to be lost, and she began hurriedly in the middle of things.

"Yes, I have come," she said quickly; "because I want to know the meaning of the words you used to my father to-day."

"I don't know what they mean," confessed Paslow calmly.

"Then why did you use them?"

"I received a hint to do so."

"From whom?"

"I can't tell you that. Miss Hedge--Beatrice--I asked you to meet me here, so that no one should interrupt our conversation. If you came to the Grange, Dinah would have prevented my speaking; and now that Mr. Alpenny is angry with me, I cannot come to The Camp. You must forgive me for having asked you to meet me here at this hour, and in so ill-omened a spot, but I have something to say to you which must be said at once."

"What is it?" Her heart beat rapidly as she spoke, for although she could not see his face in the darkness, she guessed from the tones of his voice that he was about to say all which she desired to hear.

"Can't you guess?" He came a step nearer and spoke softly.

Beatrice, feeling strange, as was natural considering the circumstance, laughed in an embarrassed manner. "How can I guess?"

"Because you must have seen what I meant in my eyes, Beatrice. I want you to be my wife."

Her heart beat loudly as though it would give Vivian its answer without speech.

"I don't understand," she said abruptly.

"Surely you must have seen----"

"Oh yes, I saw," she interrupted rapidly, "I saw that you loved me. I also saw that you held back from asking me to marry you."

"I had a reason," he said, after a pause; "that reason is now removed, and I can ask you, as I do with all my heart and soul, to be my wife. Dearest, I love you."

"Can I believe that?"

"I swear it!" he breathed passionately.

"But the reason?"

Paslow hesitated. "It was connected with money," he confessed at last. "Your father--or, rather, your stepfather--had a mortgage on nearly the whole of my property. I have lately inherited a small sum of money, and went to-day to ask Mr. Alpenny to arrange about paying off part of the mortgage. He accused me of wishing to rob him."

"But why, when you desired to pay off the mortgage?"

"I can't say. I think"--Vivian hesitated--"I think that he wishes to get possession of the Grange."

"And his reason?"

"I can't tell you that. But the moment I offered to pay the money he burst out into a rage and said that I wanted to rob him. Then I against him in London."