can do in the time, dear,' returned the little lady, looking the least self-possessed of the three of us, as she went on to ask me in a trembling voice which day in the week was fixed upon.
I said something about its not being decided yet, and tried to force the conversation into other channels. But Lilian would talk about nothing but the wedding and the preparations to be made for it. Her forced gaiety might have deceived me, had I not known.
'You will not require to buy much, auntie; the gray moire and white lace shawl, which you only wore once at the Warmans' fête, will do beautifully with a new bonnet. But I of course must be new from head to foot—white and blue—I suppose. The best plan will be to write to Miss Jefferies and give her a carte blanche to send everything that is right; for we do not mind a little extra expense for such an occasion; do we, auntie?'
'No, dear, no; of course not. But you have not asked what Mary has chosen.'
'Oh, that will be white of course.—When is your dress coming down, Mary? I must see that it is becomingly made; you know you are so careless about such matters.'
I made some remark to the effect that wedding dresses and wedding paraphernalia in general did not sufficiently interest me to seem worth the time and trouble they cost.
But Lilian was not to be repressed, returning again and again to the one topic.
'And you must not forget that you promised to let auntie and me take the management of Hill Side during your absence, and see that all your plans are being properly carried out. Nancy is to go there at once, I suppose? Philip says that the oak furniture for the library will not be ready for a couple of months, on account of the firm having so many orders for the pattern you chose. And, recollect, Mary, I am to have the pleasure of choosing everything for your own little cosy; I know your taste so well that I am sure I shall please you, and you are not to see it until it is finished.'
All I could do was to try to give them the impression, without saying so much in words, that I was not so much interested in the question as might have been expected. I saw that it would not do to venture far, with Mrs Tipper's eyes turned so watchfully and anxiously upon me.
My hardest trial was the unexpected arrival of Philip soon after breakfast was over. Whether he had come down only to fetch the papers, or whether it was in consequence of what had passed between himself and Robert Wentworth, I know not, but he availed himself of the opportunity to tell Mrs Tipper that I had consented that our marriage should take place the following week.
At his first words I took the precaution of seating myself at the piano with my back towards them, running the fingers of my one hand over the notes, with a demonstration of trying the air of a new song which he had added to our collection. Then with my fingers on the keys, I stopped a moment—quite naturally, I flattered myself—to throw him a few words over my shoulder.
'The idea of your taking my words so literally as all that!'
'I not only took your words literally, but mean to make you keep them literally.'
Ah Philip, how surprised you were, as indeed you well might be, at my assumption of flightiness! How more than surprised you were afterwards, when I placed every obstacle I could think of in the way to prevent our being alone together; and how honestly you tried to act the part of a lover in the presence of Mrs Tipper and Lilian, insisting upon my keeping my word, and refusing to accept any excuses for delay, Lilian as honestly taking your side.
Fortunately, my maimed hand, which I kept in a sling and made the most of, sufficed to account for my altered appearance. But for that and my bearing towards Lilian, Philip might have suspected. Then he found me so entirely free from anything like pique or anger towards himself, that he could not imagine the change he observed to be occasioned by any fault of his own. I had indeed nothing to dissemble in the way of anger. In my moments of deepest misery, it was given me to see that there had been no intended disloyalty to me. Philip's love for Lilian and her love for him were simply the natural consequence of two so well fitted for each other being thrown together intimately as they had been. I am writing from a distance of time, and of course in a calmer frame of mind than I was in at the moment of the trial; but I know that my thoughts all tended to exonerate them from the first.
None knew better than did I how completely free Lilian was from anything in the way of trying to attract, even as much as girls may honestly do. Knowing what I did—reading both their hearts—it was very precious to me to see their truth and fealty to the right. I knew that if they once perceived my suffering, nothing would induce them to accept happiness that way. I must keep my nerves steady! As much as I was able to compass that first day was to puzzle them all; but even that was a little step—it was something that they could see the change without discovering the cause. Quite enough to begin with.
On Easter Monday last, when several thousands of persons were holiday-making in a public garden out north-westward of London, a loud bang startled the inmates of houses many miles from the spot in all directions—louder than any discharge of artillery, and comparable to a blowing-up on a tremendous scale. It proved on investigation to be due to the explosion of a cylinder no more than twenty-five inches in length by two inches in diameter, filled with one or other of those destructive compositions which chemistry has lately presented to us, and to which have been given the mysterious names of dynamite, lithofracteur, gun-cotton, nitro-glycerine, &c. How such a diabolical sausage got into such a place at such a time, and what the police authorities have had to say about it, we need not detail here; but the subject sets people thinking ugly thoughts about Torpedoes and Infernal Machines.
The French have had much to do with (so-called) infernal machines, which, under various forms, have been employed to assassinate successive sovereigns, but happily failed in the wicked attempt, though not without inflicting injuries on onlookers. In 1804, when Napoleon thought that he had England pretty nearly in his grasp, a catamaran expedition was fitted out by the English to act against him. This catamaran was an oblong water-proof box lined with lead; it contained fifteen hundred pounds of gunpowder, various inflammable substances, clockwork to produce an explosion at a given moment, and ballast to steady it. Being towed towards an enemy's ship and left for the tide to float it onward, it would cling to the ship by means of grappling-irons buoyed up with cork; and in a given number of minutes the clockwork acting on a trigger would explode the combustibles. Such at least was the theory; but the chances of failure were found to be too numerous and varied in practice. Some years after this, Colonel Colt, the inventor of the celebrated revolver, devoted a great deal of time to this subject of infernal machines, making many combinations which were useful as hints to later contrivers.
In 1809, when Lord Cochrane was engaged against the French in the Bay of Biscay, he employed a destroyer most formidable in character. He filled a number of empty puncheons with about fifty thousand pounds of powder; on the tops of these puncheons were placed three hundred and fifty explosive shells, with fuses, and upwards of two thousand hand grenades among and between them. The whole were bound and jammed together with cables, wedges, and sand, on board a small vessel called the Devastator. A fifteen minutes' time-fuse being ignited, the crew (Cochrane himself, a