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BITTER AND SWEET BY SARAH DOUDNEY. CHAPTER II. TEPHEN followed Bessie into the sit¬ ting-room, and Mrs. Hurd saw at a glance that his face was paler than usual. Then she looked at her daughter, and trembled. The girl was deadly white. " We've been expecting William every day," the mother began. " It's a fortnight since he wrote to say he was coming. It's natural that Bessie should be anxious to know if he*s safe and well." " He was safe and well when I saw him a fortnight ago," said Stephen, in a quick sort of tone. He was watching Bessie as a cat watches a mouse. She gave a great start, and clasped her hands. The poor little fingers had got so thin that William's ring was always slipping off. How Stephen hated the sight of that ring ! " You saw him ! " cried Mrs. Hurd. Bessie's lips were colourless ; she tried to speak, but •could not bring out a word. "Yes," said Stephen, almost drawling. "Just a fortnight ago to-day I came down with him from London in the train. 'Twas a slow train, jtou see, and stopped at all the stations. When we got to Stillbrook, he said—' Let's get out, old fellow ; I'm sick of this. We'll have a drink, and then walk to Clare- ham across the fields.'" Stillbrook is the station before Clareham. The way across the fields was known to all the Clareham people, and on a bright May day it Avas natural enough that two young fellows should like to stretch their legs. But the words " We'll have a drink" grated on Mrs. Hurd's eaz'S, and dropped like lead No. 38. Febbuaky, 1895. upon Bessie's aching heart. William had never been a drunkard; but he was one of those men of whom it is said that they can enjoy their glass. "We got out," went on Stephen, still drawling, " and we went to the Stillbrook Arms. But one drink wasn't enough for William. When we'd gone about a mile on the road, and were just going to turn into the fields, he said we must have another tipple at the Black Cow. It's a little jDublic-house that stands all by itself, and we went in." "Why did you go in?" cried Mrs. Hurd, her face getting red with anger. " You ought to have kept him out!" Stephen shrugged his shoulders. " Easier said than done," he answered, in his cool way. " Will is a man who must have his fill. And he had it, and no mistake! There he sat, swilling and swilling, till I thought I should never get him out of the door again. At last, I give you my word for it, I dragged him away as drunk as a lord !" Bessie struggled to keep back a cry of anguish. Mrs. Hurd said " Go on " in a harsh voice. "I pulled him back to the station as well as I could," continued Stephen. " And then I left him at the hotel, and told him to get a sleep, and come on to Clareham next day. I had to come back, you know, and I knew he'd be quite safe. He was well enough before he touched the drink." " But he has never come here ! Where did he go when he got sober? " Mrs. Hurd demanded. Stephen put on a shy look, and cast down his eyes. " There was a girl he'd met before, hanging about.*' he said, stealing a glance at Bessie. " She was wait¬ ing on the platform when we got out. 'There's Lizzy,' he said, and went up and whispered into her ear. A wonderfully pretty girl she was. When I