Nature took sides against Love on that evening, and made Mrs. Damerel’s warning unnecessary, and all the anticipations of the young persons of no avail. Instead of the evening stroll about the darkling garden which Wodehouse at least had proposed to himself, the party were shut up in the drawing-room by the sudden outbreak of that expected thunderstorm on which Mrs. Wodehouse and Mrs. Damerel had discussed so earnestly. The ladies had both felt that it must come, and the young sailor, I suppose, ought to have been more clearly aware of what was impending; but there are, no doubt, states of the mind which make a man totally indifferent to, and unobservant of, the changes of the atmosphere. Anyhow, though he arrived in the sweet beginning of the twilight, when all was still, poor Edward had not only to stay in-doors, but to take a seat next to Mrs. Damerel in the drawing-room; while Rose, who was somewhat nervous about the thunder, retired into a dark corner to which he dared not follow her boldly under the very eyes of her father and her mother.

He did what he could, poor fellow: he tried very hard to persuade her to come to the other end of the room and watch the storm which was raging gloriously on the plain below, lighting up the whole landscape in sudden, brilliant gleams; for one of the windows had been left uncurtained and Mr. Damerel himself placed his chair within reach of it to enjoy the wonderful spectacle. Rose at one time longed so much to venture that her desire overmastered her fears; but the rector, who was somewhat fretful that evening, presumably on account of the storm, which affected his fine sensibilities, sent her away hurriedly. “No, no, Rose—what have you to do with storms?” he said; “go back to your mother.” When she obeyed, there was silence in the room; and though the elders did not care very much for it, I think the sharp disappointment of these two—a pang, perhaps, more keen and delicate than anything we can feel when the first freshness of youth is over—made itself spiritually felt somehow in the atmosphere of the place.

Edward answered something, he did not know what, while his opponent regarded him with amused observation. Now that the matter was tolerably safe in his own hands, Mr. Damerel was not without a certain enjoyment in the study of character thus afforded him. It was to him like what I suppose vivisection is to an enterprising physiologist. He had just enough realization of the pain he was inflicting to give interest to the throbbing nerves upon which he experimented. He was not old enough to have quite forgotten some few pangs of a similar kind which he had experienced in his day; but he was old enough to regard the recollection with some degree of amusement and a sense of the absolute folly of the whole which neutralized that sense of pain. He liked, rather, to hold the young man in talk about scientific facts, while he knew that the young man was longing to escape, and watching, with dismay and despair, every hope disappearing of another kind of conversation which seemed like the balance of life and death to the foolish youth. Mr. Damerel saw all these symptoms of torture, and his sense of humor was tickled. He was almost sorry when at length, the rain still continuing to fall in torrents and the storm roaring and groaning in the distance, young Wodehouse rose to go away. “I will not give you my blessing again,” he said, smiling, “as I was rash enough to do before; for I dare say we shall meet again, one way or another, before you go away.”

“Oh, I shall call when the last moment, the absolute good-by, comes!” said poor Edward, trying to smile.

Rose put out a timid little hand to him, rising from her chair when he came up to her. She had grown bewildered again, and disconcerted, and had fallen far from the light and illumination which had flashed over her in the afternoon. The storm had frightened her: something malign seemed in the air; and she was disappointed and mortified, she scarcely could have told why. Was this to be the end of the evening to which they had both looked forward? Alas! such clouds will drop over even the brightest skies could have wept with sheer misery, disappointment, and despite, when they realized that it was over, and could not now be mended, whatever might happen. He went home, and she stole up to her room, enveloped by the mists of a suppressed excitement which seemed to wrap them round and round, and afforded no way of escape.