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Chapter 31 THE BARRISTER'S FEE

  • Six months later, on a fine evening which came as the fitting close of _erfect May afternoon, Brereton got out of a London express at Norcaster an_ntered the little train which made its way by a branch line to the very hear_f the hills. He had never been back to these northern regions since th_ragedies of which he had been an unwilling witness, and when the little trai_ame to a point in its winding career amongst the fell-sides and valleys fro_hence Highmarket could be seen, with the tree-crowned Shawl above it, h_esolutely turned his face and looked in the opposite direction. He had n_ish to see the town again; he would have been glad to cut that chapter out o_is book of memories. Nevertheless, being so near to it, he could not avoi_he recollections which came crowding on him because of his knowledge tha_ighmarket's old gables and red roofs were there, within a mile or two, had h_ared to look at them in the glint of the westering sun. No—he would neve_illingly set foot in that town again!—there was nobody there now that he ha_ny desire to see. Bent, when the worst was over, and the strange and sordi_tory had come to its end, had sold his business, quietly married Lettie an_aken her away for a long residence abroad, before returning to settle down i_ondon. Brereton had seen them for an hour or two as they passed throug_ondon on their way to Paris and Italy, and had been more than ever struck b_oung Mrs. Bent's philosophical acceptance of facts. Her father, in Lettie'_pinion, had always been a deeply-wronged and much injured man, and it was hi_ate to have suffered by his life-long connexion with that very wicked person,
  • Mallalieu: he had unfortunately paid the penalty at last—and there was no mor_o be said about it. It might be well, thought Brereton, that Bent's wif_hould be so calm and equable of temperament, for Bent, on his return t_ngland, meant to go in for politics, and Lettie would doubtless make an idea_elp-meet for a public man. She would face situations with a cool head and _ell-balanced judgment—and so, in that respect, all was well. All the same,
  • Brereton had a strong notion that neither Mr. nor Mrs. Bent would ever revisi_ighmarket.
  • As for himself, his thoughts went beyond Highmarket—to the place amongst th_ills which he had never seen. After Harborough's due acquittal Brereton,
  • having discharged his task, had gone back to London. But ever since then h_ad kept up a regular correspondence with Avice, and he knew all the detail_f the new life which had opened up for her and her father with the coming o_r. Wraythwaite of Wraye. Her letters were full of vivid descriptions of Wray_tself, and of the steward's house in which she and Harborough—now appointe_teward and agent to his foster-brother's estate—had taken up their residence.
  • She had a gift of description, and Brereton had gained a good notion of Wray_rom her letters—an ancient and romantic place, set amongst the wild hills o_he Border, lonely amidst the moors, and commanding wide views of river an_ea. It was evidently the sort of place in which a lover of open spaces, suc_s he knew Avice to be, could live an ideal life. But Brereton had travelle_own from London on purpose to ask her to leave it.
  • He had come at last on a sudden impulse, unknown to any one, and therefor_nexpected. Leaving his bag at the little station in the valley at which h_eft the train just as the sun was setting behind the surrounding hills, h_alked quickly up a winding road between groves of fir and pine towards th_reat grey house which he knew must be the place into which the man fro_ustralia had so recently come under romantic circumstances. At the top of _ow hill he paused and looked about him, recognizing the scenes from th_escriptions which Avice had given him in her letters. There was Wray_tself—a big, old-world place, set amongst trees at the top of a long park-
  • like expanse of falling ground; hills at the back, the sea in the fa_istance. The ruins of an ancient tower stood near the house; still nearer t_rereton, in an old-fashioned flower garden, formed by cutting out a platea_n the hillside, stood a smaller house which he knew—also from previou_escription—to be the steward's. He looked long at this before he went neare_o it, hoping to catch the flutter of a gown amongst the rose-trees alread_right with bloom. And at last, passing through the rose-trees he went to th_tone porch and knocked—and was half-afraid lest Avice herself should open th_oor to him. Instead, came; a strapping, redcheeked North-country lass wh_tared at this evident traveller from far-off parts before she found he_ongue. No—Miss Avice wasn't in, she was down the garden, at the far end.
  • Brereton hastened down the garden; turned a corner; they met unexpectedly.
  • Equally unexpected, too, was the manner of their meeting. For these two ha_een in love with each other from an early stage of their acquaintance, and i_eemed only natural now that when at last they touched hands, hand should sta_n hand. And when two young people hold each other's hands, especially on _pringtide evening, and under the most romantic circumstances an_urroundings, lips are apt to say more than tongues—which is as much as to sa_hat without further preface these two expressed all they had to say in thei_irst kiss.
  • Nevertheless, Brereton found his tongue at last. For when he had taken a lon_nd searching look at the girl and had found in her eyes what he sought, h_urned and looked at wood, hill, sky, and sea.
  • "This is all as you described it" he said, with his arm round her, "and ye_he first real thing I have to say to you now that I am here is—to ask you t_eave it!"
  • She smiled at that and again put her hand in his.
  • "But—we shall come back to it now and then—together!" she said.
  • THE END