AT the railway station again. The train rolls in, and once more the strong right hands of the brothers are joined. They have so much to say that they prefer to walk to the Ferns, and arm-in-arm they stroll along, Bertram for the most part doing the talking, and Conway the listening. Bertram had got over his repugnance for politics, but he had conceived a sturdy dislike for the party

  ― 22 ―
to which his father had introduced him, and for their principles, and he was on the eve of casting his lot with the enemy. A general election was looming in the near future, and he had great hopes of securing a seat in the House. Conway entered into his brother's hopes and fears, and listened to a great number of experiences and adventures with profound interest. In return he had nothing interesting to relate, unless he spoke of Una. But that was a confidence he preferred to postpone for a time, especially in view of the distressing uncertainty that prevailed regarding his relations with that young lady.

On the following morning, however, Conway, remembering his promise to Una, proposed a visit to the parsonage.

“Una Helden is an awfully jolly girl,” he affirmed, “and a capital tennis-player. I think I mentioned her in one of my letters,” he added, with a mendacity very foreign to his nature.

“Did you? I don't remember,” replied Bertram, unsuspiciously.

Una was at home, of course. She expected them, and her cunningly simple toilet was more studiously simple and more becoming than usual, although Conway, being short-sighted in such matters, did not remark it. Bertram had met many beauties in the season that had just passed,

  ― 23 ―
but he had seen no such original loveliness as Una's. She made even a stronger impression upon him than she had upon Conway when he had first seen her.

Una exerted herself to please that afternoon; but it was not for Conway's benefit, and the young man saw it. He knew Una pretty well now, and, although his passion was by no means dead, he more than suspected her sincerity, and was inclined to form but a moderate estimate of her moral calibre.

“She's the sweetest girl I ever met,” declared Bertram, enthusiastically, as they walked home, “and by far the most beautiful. It's a marvel to me, Con, that you haven't fallen head-over-heels in love with her.”

“Perhaps I'm not very impressionable,” was Conway's evasive answer. Evasion with his brother! Una, you had even then much to answer for!

Unconsciously Bertram felt relieved. If Conway had not fallen in love with Una, nothing stood in the way of his doing so, and something told him that that was not an improbable contingency.

“I don't think that Una would be a very safe girl to fall in love with,” continued Conway, with affected lightness. His loyalty urged him to warn his brother, while his sensitiveness restrained him

  ― 24 ―
from saying too much, lest he should afterwards appear in the unpleasant position of the fox in the fable.

“Why so?” asked Bertram, quickly.

“Because I fancy there's—what shall I say? A want of depth and solidity in her character. She strikes me as being naturally something of a coquette.”

“Nonsense, old boy. You're no judge of women. The child is artlessness idealised.”

A mental ‘Humph!’—a painful, anxious one—and Conway said no more.

What need to linger here in this veracious history? The story is a sadly old and tatter-torn one: the story of a fair, false woman, with an exterior to love and a soul to hate; a canker-worm hid in a blush-rose. Una fascinated Bertram Osborne at first sight, and she knew it. From that moment Conway was numbered among the numerous fleeting flirtations, and she made up her mind to marry the elder brother.

Conway saw it, and suffered alone. With his love for his brother and his love for Una, it was a hard case with him. In a few days he saw that Bertram's whole soul was bound up in the girl; and then he went out alone, sought a lonely place in the woods, and fought with himself. It was a great battle—the hardest by far he had ever fought,

  ― 25 ―
the longest and most fierce. But he came out a victor. No school bully ever received such a thorough and complete thrashing as Conway that day gave himself.