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Barbara Of The House Of Grebe
by [?]

Entering the long parlour, in which the dance had just been opened by Lady Grebe with a minuet–it being now seven o’clock, according to the tradition–he was received with a welcome befitting his rank, and looked round for Barbara. She was not dancing, and seemed to be preoccupied–almost, indeed, as though she had been waiting for him. Barbara at this time was a good and pretty girl, who never spoke ill of any one, and hated other pretty women the very least possible. She did not refuse him for the country-dance which followed, and soon after was his partner in a second.

The evening wore on, and the horns and clarionets tootled merrily. Barbara evinced towards her lover neither distinct preference nor aversion; but old eyes would have seen that she pondered something. However, after supper she pleaded a headache, and disappeared. To pass the time of her absence, Lord Uplandtowers went into a little room adjoining the long gallery, where some elderly ones were sitting by the fire–for he had a phlegmatic dislike of dancing for its own sake,–and, lifting the window-curtains, he looked out of the window into the park and wood, dark now as a cavern. Some of the guests appeared to be leaving even so soon as this, two lights showing themselves as turning away from the door and sinking to nothing in the distance.

His hostess put her head into the room to look for partners for the ladies, and Lord Uplandtowers came out. Lady Grebe informed him that Barbara had not returned to the ball-room: she had gone to bed in sheer necessity.

‘She has been so excited over the ball all day,’ her mother continued, ‘that I feared she would be worn out early . . . But sure, Lord Uplandtowers, you won’t be leaving yet?’

He said that it was near twelve o’clock, and that some had already left.

‘I protest nobody has gone yet,’ said Lady Grebe.

To humour her he stayed till midnight, and then set out. He had made no progress in his suit; but he had assured himself that Barbara gave no other guest the preference, and nearly everybody in the neighbourhood was there.

”Tis only a matter of time,’ said the calm young philosopher.

The next morning he lay till near ten o’clock, and he had only just come out upon the head of the staircase when he heard hoofs upon the gravel without; in a few moments the door had been opened, and Sir John Grebe met him in the hall, as he set foot on the lowest stair.

‘My lord–where’s Barbara–my daughter?’

Even the Earl of Uplandtowers could not repress amazement. ‘What’s the matter, my dear Sir John,’ says he.

The news was startling, indeed. From the Baronet’s disjointed explanation Lord Uplandtowers gathered that after his own and the other guests’ departure Sir John and Lady Grebe had gone to rest without seeing any more of Barbara; it being understood by them that she had retired to bed when she sent word to say that she could not join the dancers again. Before then she had told her maid that she would dispense with her services for this night; and there was evidence to show that the young lady had never lain down at all, the bed remaining unpressed. Circumstances seemed to prove that the deceitful girl had feigned indisposition to get an excuse for leaving the ball-room, and that she had left the house within ten minutes, presumably during the first dance after supper.

‘I saw her go,’ said Lord Uplandtowers.

‘The devil you did!’ says Sir John.

‘Yes.’ And he mentioned the retreating carriage-lights, and how he was assured by Lady Grebe that no guest had departed.

‘Surely that was it!’ said the father. ‘But she’s not gone alone, d’ye know!’

‘Ah–who is the young man?’

‘I can on’y guess. My worst fear is my most likely guess. I’ll say no more. I thought–yet I would not believe–it possible that you was the sinner. Would that you had been! But ’tis t’other, ’tis t’other, by G—! I must e’en up, and after ’em!’