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BELGRAVIA

SEPTEMBER, 1891.

Interference. .

By B. M. CROKER,
Author of " PROPER PRIDE," “PRETTY Miss Neville,"

“DIANA BARRINGTON," "Two MASTERS," &c.

CHAPTER XXV.

A NEW LIFE.

The Holroyds arrived at Mangobad, with unexpected punctuality, and Belle was in raptures with her new home-her own house-a spacious, well-situated bungalow, replete with every comfort. There was a German piano, a pony and cart, a cheval glass, a sewing machine, new jail carpets and matting, pretty curtains and furniture, and ornaments, a verandah filled with plants and birds, and a tribe of respectable black-whiskered servants, with unimpeachable "chits” awaiting her good pleasure.

Truly nothing had been forgotten ; this bungalow had undoubtedly been fitted up by a lover.

Belle danced about, and clapped her hands, gesticulated, and ran from room to room like a child of six. Little did she guess that all these delightful, thoughtful preparations—had been made for another person.

For several days after her arrival, she was excessively busy, unpacking and shaking out her dresses and beautifying the drawing-room, with rapid and tasteful fingers. A palm in this corner, a screen in that, a graceful drapery here, a bow of ribbon there, photographs, fans and cushions abounded-in a

short time the room was transformed as if by magic, but its mistress's zeal was evanescent. Once a thing was done there was an end of it; the palms might wither, the draperies gather dust, for all she noted. She detested sustained effort. However, everything was in its pristine freshness, when her visitors began to make their appearance.

Captain La Touche was naturally the first to call upon his friend's bride. He drove up in his dog-cart, dressed in his most recent Europe suit, and brimming over with curiosity and bonhommic.

Mem Sahib gave “salaam" and he was shewn into the drawing-room, and there waited for a considerable time, whilst he heard sounds of someone skirmishing with drawers and wardrobe doors in the next apartment.

He was full of pleasant anticipations of a girl of nineteen, tall and slim, with beautiful, Irish grey eyes, even in her cheap, blurred photograph, she had a sweet face!

But who was this ? that pulled back the purdah and came tripping into the room. A pretty little brunette, with a Frenchified dress and an artificial smile. He rose and bowed, waiting expectantly for another figure—that was surely yet to come.

"I know you so very well by name," said Belle, offering a pair of tiny (somewhat bony) hands. “My husband is always talking of Captain La Touche.”

Then this was the bride; he was in the presence of Mrs. Holroyd! At first he was so utterly confounded, that he could only sit down and stare into the crown of his hat. Belle attributed his evident embarrassment to the dazzling effect of her own charms, and immediately set to work to converse in her gayest strain, in order to put him at his ease. She was the first person who had ever thought it necessary to attempt this feat with Captain La Touche ! As she chatted with her usual fluency, he listened and looked. Truly, this is no shy girl of nineteen, but a woman ten years older, with a knowledge of the world, and a pleasant confidence in her own powers. He noted the elaborate elegance of her dress, the vivid beauty of her dark, animated face; but, despite their long lashes, her eyes had a hard expression, and her thin red lips spoke of cruelty, and temper.

However, he dissembled his feelings (like the immortal stage

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ruffian), and talked and flattered and laughed, in his most irresistible company manner.

Belle, on her side, was agreeably impressed by her suave and good-looking visitor. She remembered that he had given them a handsome wedding present, and was inclined to be more cordial than brides usually are, towards their husbands' bachelor friends. He discoursed of the station, she of her passage out. He asked how she liked her house, and she enquired if there were any balls coming off, and if the ladies of Mangobad were young and pretty !

“ You must judge for yourself,” he returned diplomatically “you have brought us out one young lady, Miss Gay-Miss Rose Gay."

“ Yes, and she ought to be called Miss Nosegay,” returned Belle smartly. “You never saw such a feature out of Punch."

“ Is she, then, not pretty ?” he enquired with arched brows.

“Pretty, poor girl!” throwing up her hands, “ her face is so hideous that I am sure it must hurt her!” and she laughed, and cvidently expected her visitor to do the same, but he merely smiled and said, “ At any rate she is very clever.”

Of course she is, like all ugly people; she is said to be very clever and good-natured; for my part, I loathe good-natured girls."

Mrs. Holroyd was outspoken, and not very amiable: this sharp tongue might prove a dangerous element in a small station. Presently he rose and took his leave. As he was quitting the room, his eye fell on a large photograph of Betty. Belle noticed his glance, and hastening to take it up, said:

Oh, you are looking at my cousin-my dearest friend ; she is a darling, not a beauty, as you may observe, but quite charming I wish you could see her. I wish she was here.” Captain La Touche sincerely echoed the wish, as he bowed himself out, and walked down the hall. He had never been so completely mystified in all his life. His friend had distinctly told him that he was going to marry Betty — and who was Betty's substitute ?"

On the steps of the porch, he met George, who had just ridden home from the ranges.

“I see you have been making your salaams," said he with wellaffected nonchalance.

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Yes," acquiesced his comrade. But for the life of him he could not utter another word. He looked hard at his friend, his friend looked hard at him, and from what he read in Holroyd's cyes, he dared not ask the question that was burning on his tongue, so he got into his dog-cart in silence, and drove himself away.

Mrs. Holroyd's next visitor was the Collector, her namesake, Mr. Redmond. She knew that he was a rich, eccentric widower, just the sort of person that would repay a little cultivation, just the sort of person to invite her out to camp, and to give her diamonds and ponies, for was he not Betty's uncle? She intended to make great capital out of her cousin, stand in her place and stroke his grey hair, and smooth his withered cheek, and call him “Uncle Bernard,” but all these pretty little schemes were projected before she had seen Mr. Redmond.

He was one of the relatives with whom old Brian had quarrelled most rancorously, and his offer to provide for his brother's orphan had been rudely scorned. In those days Mrs. Redmond was alive, and as she was not very enthusiastic about her husband's niece, the matter had dropped. But now Mr. Redmond paid an early visit to the bride, not so much to do her honour, as to enquire about Betty. Bernard Redmond Esq., C.S., was a tall, squareshouldered man, with grizzled, sandy hair, a somewhat saturnine expression, and a masterful individuality. He was intellectual and deeply read, open-handed, hospitable and eccentric, was well aware that he was considered“ peculiar," and took an unaffected delight in acting up to his reputation. In spite of his so-called odd opinions, he was extremely popular, for he gave a good dinner, and unimpeachable wine, played quite a first-class rubber, and was a sound authority on horsefesh. Mr. Redmond brooked no contradiction, was autocratic, and extraordinarily outspoken-traits that grew upon him year by year, and were fostered and nourished at Mangobad, where he ruled not only the district, but the station, and was to all intents and purposes its “uncrowned king."

Belle's pretty smiles and speeches, her graceful attitudes, and waving hands, were absolutely wasted on this cynical person with the cold grey eyes. He listened patiently to her chatter, and her views of life, mentally exclaiming, “Good Lord! What a fool this woman is !” for the tone of her conversation jarred

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