MISS TREFOIL'S DECISION
LORD RUFFORD'S letter reached Arabella at her cousin's house, in due course, and was handed to her in the morning as she came down to breakfast. The envelope bore his crest and coronet, and she was sure that more than one pair of eyes had already seen it. Her mother had been in the room some time before her, and would, of course, know that the letter was from Lord Rufford. An indiscreet word or two had been said in the hearing of Mrs. Connop Green,--as to which Arabella had already scolded her mother most vehemently, and Mrs. Connop Green, too, would probably have seen the letter, and would know that it had come from the lover of whom boasts had been made. The Connop Greens would be ready to worship Arabella down to the very soles of her feet if she were certainly,--without a vestige of doubt, --engaged to be the wife of Lord Rufford. But there had been so many previous mistakes! And they, too, had heard of Mr. John Morton. They, too, were a little afraid of Arabella, though she was undoubtedly the niece of a duke.
She was aware now,--as always,--how much depended on her personal bearing; but this was a moment of moments! She would fain have kept the letter, and have opened it in the retirement of her own room. She knew its terrible importance, and was afraid of her own countenance when she should read it. All the hopes of her life were contained in that letter. But were she to put it in her pocket she would betray her anxiety by doing so. She found herself bound to open it and read it at once,-- and she did open it and read it.
After all, it was what she had expected. It was very decided, very short, very cold, and carrying with it no sign of weakness. But it was of such a letter that she had thought when she resolved that she would apply to Lord Mistletoe, and endeavour to put the whole family of Trefoil in arms. She had been,--so she had assured her-