"Don't speak of to-morrow," she said. "Let the music speak to us of to-night, in a happier language than ours."
Her lips trembled—a faint sigh fluttered from them, which she tried vainly to suppress. Her fingers wavered on the piano; she struck a false note, confused herself in trying to set it right, and dropped her hands angrily on her lap. Miss Halcombe and Mr. Gilmore looked up in astonishment from the card-table at which they were playing. Even Mrs. Vesey, dozing in her chair, woke at the sudden cessation of the music, and inquired what had happened.
"You play at whist, Mr. Hartright?" asked Miss Halcombe, with her eyes directed significantly at the place I occupied.
I knew what she meant; I knew she was right; and I rose at once to go to the card-table. As I left the piano Miss Fairlie turned a page of the music, and touched the keys again with a surer hand.
"I will play it," she said, striking the notes almost passionately. "I will play it on the last night."
"Come, Mrs. Vesey," said Miss Halcombe, "Mr. Gilmore and I are tired of écarté—come and be Mr. Hartright's partner at whist."
The old lawyer smiled satirically. His had been the winning hand, and he had just turned up a king. He evidently attributed Miss Halcombe's abrupt change in the card-table arrangements to a lady's inability to play the losing game.
The rest of the evening passed without a word or a look from her. She kept her place at the piano; and I kept mine at the card-table. She played unintermittingly—played as if the music was her only refuge from herself. Sometimes her fingers touched the notes with a lingering fondness—a soft, plaintive, dying tenderness, unutterably beautiful and mournful to hear—sometimes they faltered and failed her, or hurried over the instrument mechanically, as if their task was a burden to them. But still, change and waver as they might in the expression they imparted to the music, their resolution to play never faltered. She only rose from the piano when we all rose to say Good-night.
Mrs. Vesey was the nearest to the door, and the first to shake hands with me.
"I shall not see you again, Mr. Hartright," said the old lady. "I am truly sorry you are going away. You have been very kind and attentive; and an old woman like me feels