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A young girl dressed in a cloak and hat, and looking sad and somewhat timid, stood in the middle of the large hall of a fine old country house. The floor was of oak, and the walls were covered with dark oak wainscoting, from which hung down several full-length portraits of grim old knights and gentlemen in bag wigs, and ladies in court suits, looking very prim and stern.
The hall door was open, and through it was seen a post-chaise, from which a footman was extracting a small trunk and a variety of other articles, under the direction of a woman who, it was evident, had also just arrived. As there was no one to notice the young lady, she amused herself by looking round the hall and examining the portraits.
While she was thus employed, a door opened, and a lad appeared, who, running forward, put out his hand, and said, “And so you are my own cousin, are you? and your name is Lilly Vernon, is it?”
The young lady looked up with a quick, intelligent glance, and answered, “If you are Ralph Clavering, I conclude we are cousins, for I am, as you suppose, Lilly Vernon.”
“All right—how jolly!” exclaimed the boy. “We have been looking for you for some days, and I have been expecting to have great fun when you came. I once had a sister, but she is dead, and I have terribly wanted some one to help me kill the time since then, though I would far rather have had a boy cousin, I will tell you that.”
“I would rather help you to employ time than to kill it, Cousin Ralph,” said Lilly, with a smile. “It may chance to come off the victor otherwise.”
“Oh, is that the way you talk? I don’t like preaching,” exclaimed Ralph petulantly, and turning away with a frown. He came back, however, and added, “But I don’t want to quarrel with you. Come into the dining-room, and warm yourself by the fire, and have some luncheon. I was eating mine when you arrived, and I have not finished. We shall be all alone, for papa is out hunting, and mamma is ill in bed, as she always is. I should have gone out after the hounds too, but I was ill and lazy. I intend to take a trot this afternoon though. You can ride I hope—if not, I will teach you; but ride you must, that I am determined.”