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Title: That Unfortunate Marriage, Vol. 1
Author: Trollope, Frances Eleanor, 1835-1913
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "That Unfortunate Marriage, Vol. 1" ***

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                     THAT UNFORTUNATE MARRIAGE.

                     BY FRANCES ELEANOR TROLLOPE


    VOL. I.


    Publishers in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen.


    (_All rights reserved._)



Augustus Cheffington had made an unfortunate marriage. That was admitted
on all hands. When he was a Cornet in a cavalry regiment quartered in
the ancient Cathedral City of Oldchester, he ran away with pretty Susan
Dobbs, the daughter of his landlady. Augustus's friends and family--all
the Cheffingtons, the Dormer-Smiths, the Castlecombes--deplored this
rash step. It was never mentioned, either at the time or afterwards,
without expressions of deep commiseration for him.

Nevertheless, from one point of view there were compensations. This
unfortunate marriage was made responsible for a great many shortcomings,
which would otherwise have been attributed more directly to Augustus
Cheffington himself. For example, it was said to account for his failure
in his profession. He had chosen it chiefly because he very much liked
the brilliant uniform of a certain crack regiment (it was in the days
before competitive examinations); and he had no other aptitude for it
than a showy seat on horseback, and a person well calculated to set off
the works of the regimental tailor. But when years had passed, and he
had remained undistinguished, his friends said, "What could one expect
after Augustus's unfortunate marriage?"

After a time he sold out of the Army, and went to live on the Continent,
where very shortly he had squandered nearly all his money, and fallen
into shady paths of life; and again there was a chorus of "I told you
so!" and a general sense that all this was due to the unfortunate

Finally, his wife died, leaving him with one little girl, the sole
survivor of five children; and he came to England with the idea of
securing some place which should be suited to his birth, his abilities,
his habits, and his inclinations. No such place was found. Several
members of the Peerage were applied to, to exert their influence with
"Government" on behalf of so well-connected a personage as Augustus
Cheffington. But "Government" behaved very badly, "Government" was
insensible to his claims. His claims, it is true, were not small. They
required a maximum of remuneration for a minimum of labour. He was
unable, also, to furnish any proofs of his fitness for one or two posts
which happened to be vacant, except the undeniable fact of his
cousinship with all the Cheffingtons and Castlecombes in England; and to
this kind of qualification "Government," it appeared, attached no
importance at all.

He paid a round of visits at country houses, and renewed his
long-disused acquaintance with a score of more or less distant
relations. But he was not popular. It has been observed that
unsuccessful men very often are not popular. "Gus Cheffington has
dropped out of the running," men said. "A fellow naturally gets
forgotten when he has kept out of sight for years--and besides, he makes
himself so deuced disagreeable! He's always grumbling."

This latter accusation was true. If England had shown no maternal
affection for her long-absent son, the son returned her hard-heartedness
with interest. Indeed, in his case, it turned into active resentment. He
got tired of country houses and town mansions where he was received but
coolly. He was sarcastic and bitter on the failure of his connections to
procure him a lucrative sinecure. He considered that the country was
travelling downhill at break-neck speed, and, for his part, he did not
feel inclined to move his little finger to impede that fatal course.
Moreover, the black coffee was, nine times out of ten, utterly
undrinkable. One day he shook the dust of England's inhospitable shores
from off his feet, and returned to his shady haunts on the
Continent--its irresponsibility, its _cafés_, its boulevards, and its
billiards. And when he was fairly gone, all the Cheffingtons, and the
Dormer-Smiths, and the Castlecombes were softened into sympathy; and
with much shrugging of shoulders and shaking of heads declared that it
was a heartrending spectacle to behold such a man as Augustus
Cheffington ruined, crushed, eclipsed, destroyed by his unfortunate

When he went back to Belgium, he left behind him at school in Brighton
his little motherless girl Miranda, familiarly called May. The
Honourable Mrs. Cheffington, Augustus's mother, had advised her son to
give the little girl a first-rate education, so as to mitigate as far as
possible one disastrous effect of the unfortunate marriage, which was,
that May had a plebeian mother. Mrs. Cheffington, known throughout all
the ramifications of the family as "the dowager," was a hard-featured,
selfish old woman, with a black wig, a pale yellow skin, and frowning
eyebrows. She lived on a pension which would cease at her death, and she
was supposed by some of her relations to be making a purse. They thought
it would turn out that the dowager had considerable savings to leave
behind her; and they founded this supposition on her never giving away
anything during her lifetime. Mrs. Dormer-Smith, Augustus Cheffington's
sister, declared that her mother made one exception to her rule of
refusing assistance to any of them. She believed that Augustus, who had
always been her favourite child, profited by the dowager's indulgence,
and managed to extract some money from her tightly-closed purse. And it
certainly was true that the old lady had paid May's school bills--so far
as they had been paid at all.

But one day the Honourable Anne Miranda Cheffington took off her black
wig for the last time, and relaxed her frowning eyebrows. The
announcement of her death appeared in the first column of the _Times_,
there was a brief obituary notice in a fashionable journal, and her
place knew her no more.

Augustus hastened home to England on the receipt of a telegram from his
sister. That is to say, he said he hastened; but he did not arrive in
town until some hours after the funeral was over. Mr. Dormer-Smith was
somewhat irritated by this tardiness, and observed to his wife that it
was just like Augustus to keep out of the way while there was any
trouble to be taken, and only arrive in time to be present at the
reading of the will. Any expectations that Augustus might have founded
on his mother's reluctance to give during her lifetime were quite
disappointed. The dowager had no money to bequeath. She had spent nearly
the last shilling of her quarter's income. In fact, there was not enough
to cover the expenses of the funeral, which were finally paid several
months afterwards by Mr. Dormer-Smith.

It seemed almost superfluous, under the circumstances, to have made a
will at all. But the will was there. The chief item in it was a quantity
of yellow old lace, extremely dirty, and much in need of mending, which
was solemnly bequeathed by Mrs. Cheffington to her daughter, Pauline
Augusta Clarissa Dormer-Smith. It was set forth at some length how that
the lace, being an heirloom of the Cheffingtons, should have descended
in due course to the wife of the eldest son, or, failing that, to the
eldest daughter of the eldest son; and how this tradition was
disregarded in the present case by reason of peculiar and unprecedented
family circumstances. This was the dowager's Parthian dart at the
unfortunate marriage. There was little other property, except the dingy
old furniture of Mrs. Cheffington's house at Richmond, and a few books,
treating chiefly of fortification and gunnery, which had belonged to
Lieutenant-General the Honourable Augustus Vane Cheffington, the
dowager's long-deceased husband.

"What the----What on earth my mother did with her money _I_ can't
conjecture!" exclaimed Augustus, staring out of the window of his
brother-in-law's drawing-room the day after the funeral.

"She didn't give it to us, Augustus," returned Mrs. Dormer-Smith
plaintively. "Even when my boy Cyril went to see her at the end of the
holidays, just before returning to Harrow, she never tipped him. Once I
think she gave him five shillings. But it's a long time ago; he was a
little fellow in petticoats."

"Then what _did_ she do with her money?" repeated Augustus, with an
increasingly gloomy scowl at the gardens of the Kensington square on
which his eyes rested.

"I believe that, with the exception of what she paid for May's
schooling, she spent it on herself."

"Spent it on herself? That's impossible! It was a very good income
indeed for a solitary woman, and she lived very quietly."

"You may get through a good deal of money even living quietly, when you
don't deny yourself anything you can get. For instance, she never would
drive one horse; she had been accustomed to a pair all her life."

Augustus checked an oath on his very lips, and, instead of swearing
according to his first impulse, observed with solemnity that he knew not
how his mother had been able to reconcile such selfishness with her
conscience, and hoped her last moments had not been troubled by remorse.

"Oh, I don't think mamma felt anything of that kind," said Mrs.
Dormer-Smith in her slow, gentle tones; "she was always complaining of
other people's unreasonable expectations."

The brother and sister fell silent for a while after this, each being
immersed in private meditation. That very morning a circumstance had
occurred which had put the last touch to Augustus's disappointment and
exasperation. The Brighton schoolmistress had sent Miss Miranda
Cheffington to London in the charge of a maid-servant, and the little
girl had arrived at her aunt's house in a cab with her worldly
possessions, namely, a small black trunk full of clothes, and a
canary-bird in a cage. The schoolmistress wrote civilly, but firmly, to
the effect that, after the lamented decease of the Honourable Mrs.
Cheffington, she could not undertake to keep May any longer; feeling
sure, by repeated experience, that all applications for payment made to
Captain Cheffington would be in vain, and understanding that Mrs.
Dormer-Smith declined to charge herself with her niece's education.
Captain Cheffington had been violently angry, and had denounced the
schoolmistress--Mrs. Drax--as an insolent, grasping, vulgar harpy. But
Mrs. Drax was out of his reach, and there was May, thirteen years old,
with a healthy appetite, and limbs rapidly outgrowing her clothes.

Augustus continued to glare moodily at the square for some minutes. His
sister leaned her cheek on her hand, and looked at the fire. At length
Augustus, composing his face to a less savage expression, turned away
from the window, sat down opposite to his sister, and said, pensively--

"We must arrange something for May, Pauline."

"You must, indeed, Augustus."

"We ought to consider her future."

"Yes; I think you ought, Augustus."

"The girl is at a hobbledehoy age. It's a perplexing position. So
difficult to know what to do with her."

"There is no age at which it is so awkward to dress a girl. I have
sometimes regretted not having daughters; but upon my word there must be
a dreadful amount of harass about their clothes between twelve and
fifteen--or in some cases sixteen."

"It's impossible for me to have her with me in Brussels. The way I
live--am obliged to live _malgré moi_--she'd upset all my arrangements
and habits. In short, you can see for yourself, Pauline, that it would
be out of the question."

"No doubt it would be very bad for the girl."

"Of course! That's what I mean. Wouldn't it be the best plan after all,
Pauline, to leave her here with you? She could have private masters----"

Mrs. Dormer-Smith shook her head.

"At my expense, of course," added Augustus. "I must screw and scrape and
make some sacrifices no doubt, but----"

"It really won't do, Augustus. I assure you it won't do. Frederick will
_not_ have it. He talked to me after luncheon. It isn't the least use."

Mrs. Dormer-Smith continued plaintively to shake her head as she spoke,
and to look with gentle melancholy at the fire.

"H'm! Frederick is very kind. But let us discuss the thing in a friendly
spirit. If I pay for her clothing and education, surely the expense of
her board wouldn't ruin you and Frederick!"

"No; but the butcher and the baker are the least part of the matter. It
isn't as if May were the daughter of one's housekeeper or one's
governess. She is a Cheffington, you know. So many things are required
for a girl with her connections; and as to your paying for her masters,
of course we know you wouldn't, Augustus."

"Upon my soul you are civil and sisterly!"

"Well, I dare say you would mean to pay, but you wouldn't. It would be
sure to turn out so, don't you know? Things always have been like that
with you, Augustus."

"Then what the devil do you think I'm to do?"

"Pray don't be violent! I really cannot bear any display of violence.
You should remember that it is scarcely a week since poor mamma was
taken from us."

"I don't see what that has to do with it. Miranda hasn't been taken from
us; that's the point."

Mrs. Dormer-Smith making no answer, her brother continued, after a
moment or two--

"You are fertile in objections, but you don't seem to have any plan to

"Well, an idea did occur to me. I don't know whether you would like it."

"Like it! Probably not. But I am used to sacrifice my inclinations."

"Well, I thought that you might put May into a school in France or
Germany, or somewhere, letting her give lessons in English in return for
her board and so on. There are plenty of schools where they do that sort
of thing. It wouldn't so much matter abroad, because people wouldn't
know who she was. You might tide over a year or two in that way."

Augustus got up from his chair. "My daughter a drudge in a Continental
school?" he exclaimed indignantly.

"If you chose a place little frequented by English, I don't think people
would know."

There was a short silence. Then Augustus said angrily, "I'll take the
girl back with me. She must share my home, such as it is. We will
neither of us trouble you or Frederick much longer. I shall start for
Ostend by the morning mail to-morrow." And he dashed out of the room
emitting a muffled roll of oaths, and jarring the door in a way which
made Mrs. Dormer-Smith clasp her forehead with both hands, and lean back
shrinkingly in her chair.

But when the morrow came, Captain Cheffington and his daughter did not
go to Ostend. When they had got out of sight of the Dormer-Smiths'
house, he ordered the cabman to drive to the Great Western Railway
Station, and started by an express train for Oldchester.


Amongst the minor grievances reckoned up by the deceased dowager as
accruing from Augustus's unfortunate marriage was the fact that his wife
had borne the plebeian name of Dobbs. One of her most frequent
complaints against poor little May was that the child was "a thorough
Dobbs." And when she was out of temper--which was very often--she would
prefer this charge as indignantly as though Dobbs were synonymous with
the most disgraceful epithets in the English language.

And yet the sound of it awoke very different associations in the city of
Oldchester, where Augustus's mother-in-law had lived all her life. Mrs.
Dobbs was the widow of a tradesman. The ironmonger's business, which her
husband had carried on, had long passed into other hands; but his name
still met the eyes of his fellow-townsmen in the inscription, "J. Brown,
late Dobbs," painted over the shop.

Oldchester is a city in which two streams of life run side by side,
mingling but little with each other. At a certain point in the existence
of Oldchester, its ancient course of civil and ecclesiastical history
had received a new tributary--a strong and ever-growing current of
commerce. Commerce built wide suburbs, with villa residences in various
stages of "detachment" and "semi-detachment" from one another. Commerce
strewed the pleasant country paths and lanes with coal-dust, and
blackened the air with smoke. Commerce set up Art schools, founded
hospitals (and furnished patients for them), multiplied railways for
miles round, and scored all the new streets, and some of the old, with
tramway lines. Commerce bought estates in the neighbourhood, was
conveyed to public worship in splendid equipages, sent its sons to Eton,
and married its daughters into the Peerage. But, for all that, the fame
of Oldchester continued to rest on its character as a cathedral city.
The old current surpassed the new one in length and dignity, if in
nothing else. The gray cathedral towers rose up majestically above the
din and turmoil of forge and loom and factory, with a noble aspiration
towards something above and beyond these; while the vibrations of their
mellow chimes shed down sweet suggestions of peace and goodwill among
the homes of the toilers.

Mrs. Dobbs particularly loved the sounds of the cathedral chimes; and
she sat with closed eyes listening to them in the twilight of a certain
autumn evening. Her house was in a narrow street, called Friar's Row,
which turned out of the High Street. A monastery had once stood on the
site of it, but all trace of the ancient conventual buildings had long
since disappeared. The houses were solid brick dwellings, from one to
two hundred years old. Mrs. Dobbs's husband had bequeathed her a long
lease of that which she occupied. Most of the other houses in Friar's
Row were used as offices or warehouses, the wealthier kind of
tradespeople who once lived in them having migrated to the suburbs. On
her husband's death some of Mrs. Dobbs's friends had urged her to remove
to a newer and more cheerful part of the town, but she had resisted the
suggestion with some contempt.

"I know what suits me," she would say. "And that's a knowledge the Lord
doesn't bestow on all and sundry. This house suits me. It's
weather-proof for one thing. And you needn't be afraid of putting your
foot through the floor if you walk a little heavy, as I do. When I go to
see the Simpsons in that bandbox they call Laurel Villa, I daren't lean
my umbrella against the wall, for fear of bringing the whole concern
down like a pack of cards."

She might easily have increased her income by letting her house and
removing to one in the suburbs; for its position was central, and the
tenements in Friar's Row were in great request for business purposes.
But she resisted this temptation. There were reasons of a more
impalpable kind than the solidity of its floors and roofs, which made
Mrs. Dobbs constant to her old home. She had lived there all the days of
her married life. Her daughter had been born there. Her husband had died
there. The somewhat narrow and dingy street had in her eyes the familiar
aspect of a friendly face. She loved to hear the rattle and bustle of
the High Street, slightly softened by distance. Those common sounds were
full of voices from the past: the common sights around were associated
with all the joys and sorrows of her life. Mrs. Dobbs never said
anything to this effect, but she felt it. And so she stayed in Friar's

The parlour in which she sat was comfortably and substantially
furnished. A competent observer would have perceived evidences of
permanence and respectability in the solid, old-fashioned chairs and
tables, the prints after Morland on the walls, and the corner cupboard
full of fine old china. The bookshelves which filled one end of the room
contained the accumulations of successive generations. There was a
square pianoforte with a pile of old music-books on the top of it; and a
big family Bible in massive binding had a place of honour all to itself
on a side-table covered with green baize. On this special autumn
evening, owing to the hour, and partly to the narrowness of the street,
which shut out some of the lingering daylight, the parlour was very dim.
A red fire glowed in the grate, a large tabby cat blinked and purred on
the hearthrug, and in a spacious easy-chair at one side of the fireplace
sat Mrs. Dobbs, listening with closed eyes to the cathedral chimes.

Presently the door was softly opened, and there came into the room Mrs.
Dobbs's life-long friend and crony, Mr. Joseph Weatherhead. This person
was her brother-in-law, and a childless widower. He had carried on the
trade of bookseller and stationer in Birmingham for many years; but had
sold his business on the death of his wife, and come to live in
Oldchester, near the Dobbs's. Mr. Weatherhead was a tall, lean man, with
a benevolent, bald forehead, and mild eyes. The only remarkable feature
in his face was the nose, which was large, slightly aquiline, brownish
red in colour, and protruded from his face at a peculiar angle. The
forehead above, and the chin below, sloped away from it rather rapidly.
The nose had thus a singularly inquisitive air of being eagerly in the
van, as though it thrust itself forward in quest of news.

As he closed the door behind him, Mrs. Dobbs opened her eyes.

"I thought you were asleep, Sarah," said Mr. Weatherhead.

"Asleep!" ejaculated Mrs. Dobbs, with all the indignation which that
accusation is so apt mysteriously to excite. "Nothing of the kind! I was
listening to the chimes. They always make me think----"

"Of poor Susy," interrupted Mr. Weatherhead, nodding. "Ah! And so they
do me. Poor Susy! How pretty she was!"

"She had better have been less pretty for her own happiness. The great
misfortune of her life wouldn't have happened but for her pretty face."

Mr. Weatherhead nodded again, and sat down opposite to Mrs. Dobbs in a
corresponding armchair to her own. He then took from his pocket a black
leather case, and from the case a meerschaum pipe, which he proceeded to
fill and light and smoke.

"What an infatuation!" sighed Mrs. Dobbs, pursuing her own meditations.
"To think of Susy throwing herself away on that extravagant, selfish,
good-for-nothing fellow without any principles to speak of, when she
might have had an honest tradesman in a first-rate way of business! She
had only to pick and choose."

"Humph! Honest tradesmen are not as plentiful as blackberries, though,"
observed Mr. Weatherhead, reflectively.

Mrs. Dobbs ignored this parenthesis, and went on: "It was a bad day for
me and mine when he first came swaggering into this house."

From which speech it will be seen that the Dobbs side of the family
coincided with the Cheffingtons in considering Augustus's to have been
an unfortunate marriage; only each party arrived at the same conclusion
by a different road.

"Have you heard from him lately, Sarah?" asked Mr. Weatherhead, after a

"From my precious son-in-law? Not I!"


"Not a word from him till he wants something. You may take your oath of
that, Jo Weatherhead."

"Oh, I thought you might have heard from him, because----"

"Well?" (very sharply).

"Well, because I see something has been putting old times into your
head; and I thought it might be that."

"Something been putting old times into my head? I should like to know
when they're out of my head! Much you know about it!"

Mr. Weatherhead apparently did know something about it; for after
another long silence, during which he puffed at his pipe and stared into
the fire, Mrs. Dobbs justified his penetration by saying--

"The truth is, I _have_ been turning things over in my mind a good deal
since yesterday."

Mr. Weatherhead was too wary to expose himself to another snub, so he
merely nodded two or three times in an oracular manner.

"I'm worried out of my mind about that child. She went off yesterday as
bright and happy as possible, and looking so pretty and genteel--fit for
any company in the land."

"Ah! She went off, you say, to----?"

"To the Hadlows'. She is to stay there over Sunday."

"Oh! But I don't quite see----"

"Go on! What is it that you don't quite see?"

"I don't quite see what there is to worry you in that. The Hadlows are
very good sort of people."

"I should think they _were_ very good sort of people! Canon Hadlow is
one of the best men in Oldchester; or in all England, for the matter of
that. And he's a gentleman to the marrow of his bones. But what sort of
a position has my grand-daughter among the Hadlows and their

"A very nice position, I should say."

"A very nice position!" exclaimed Mrs. Dobbs, who seemed determined to
repeat all poor Mr. Weatherhead's speeches in a tone of disdainful
irony. "That's so like you, Jo! _She_ thinks it a very nice position,
too, poor lamb. She knows nothing of the world, bless her innocent
heart. And, for all her seventeen years, she is the merest child in some
things. But you might know better. You are not seventeen years old, Jo

"Certainly not," assented he emphatically.

"The fact of the matter is that, whether by good luck or bad luck, May
does not belong to my sphere or my class. She's a Cheffington. She has
the ways of a lady, and the education of a lady, and she has a right to
the position of a lady. If that father of hers gives her nothing else he
might give her that; and he shall, if I can make him."

"Perhaps it might have been better, after all, if you had not sent the
child back to her old school, but just brought her up here, under your
own eye, in a plain sort of way. It would have been better for _you_,

"I don't know that."

"Why, you'd have been spared a good many sacrifices. There's not another
woman in England would have done what you've done, Sarah."

"Nonsense; there are plenty of women in England as big fools as me. Even
that wooden old figurehead of a dowager--Lord forgive me, she's dead and
gone!--had the grace to pay the child's schooling as long as she lived."

"She!" exclaimed Jo Weatherhead, firing up suddenly, and tapping his
meerschaum sharply against the hob. "That's a very different pair of
shoes. She could afford it a precious sight better than you. What did
_she_ ever deprive herself of? I say there's not another woman in
England would have done what you've done, and it's no good your

"There, bless the man! Don't let us quarrel about it."

"But I shall quarrel about it, unless you give in. Here's the case
fairly put:--A young spark runs away with your only daughter, and pretty
well breaks your heart. He takes her wandering about into foreign parts,
and you only get news of her now and then, and never good news. He's too
fine a gentleman to do a stroke of work for his family, but as soon as
he has run through his bit of money he's not too fine a gentleman to
fall into disreputable ways of life, nor yet to let who will look after
his motherless little girl, and feed, and clothe, and educate her. When
his own mother dies--leaving two quarters' school-bills unpaid, which
you have to settle, by-the-by--the rest of the family, including his own
sister, refuse to advance a sixpence to save the child from the

"I say, Jo, that's putting it a little too strong, my friend! There was
no talk of the workhouse."

"Let me finish summing up the case. I say they wouldn't spend sixpence
to save that child from _starvation_--there, now! When the dowager is
dead, and the rest of them button up their breeches' pockets, and the
schoolmistress sends away the poor little girl because she can't afford
to keep her and teach her for nothing, what does my gentleman do? Does
he try in any one way to do his duty by his only child? Not he. He
coolly shuffles off all trouble and responsibility on other folks'
shoulders. He hasn't taken any notice of you for years, except writing
once to borrow fifty pounds----"

"Which he didn't get, Jo."

"Which he didn't get because an over-ruling Providence had ordained that
you shouldn't have it to lend him. Well, after years of silence and
neglect, he turns up in Oldchester one fine morning, and walks into your
house bringing his little girl 'on a visit to her dear grandmother.'
Talk of brass! What sort of a material do you suppose that man's
features are composed of?"

"Gutta percha, very likely," returned Mrs. Dobbs, who now sat resting
her head against the cushions of her chair, and listening to Mr.
Weatherhead's eloquence with a half-humorous resignation; "that's a
good, tough, elastic kind of stuff."

"Tough! He had need have some toughness of countenance to come into this
house as he did. And that's not the end. He swaggers about Oldchester
for a week or two, using your house as an inn, neither more nor
less--except that there's no bill;--and then one day he starts off for
the Continent, leaving little May here, and promising to send for her as
soon as he gets settled. From that day to this, and it's four years ago,
you have had the child on your hands, and her precious father has never
contributed one shilling towards her support. You sent the child back to
school. You pinched, and saved, and denied yourself many little comforts
to keep her there. You have never let her feel or guess that she has
been a burthen on you in your old age. And I say again, Sarah Dobbs,
that, considering all the circumstances of the case, there's not another
woman in England would have done what you've done. No, nor in Europe!"

"Well, having come to that, I hope you've finished, Jo Weatherhead."

"I hope I have," returned Mr. Weatherhead, mopping his flushed face with
a very large red pocket-handkerchief. "I hope I have, for the present.
But if you attempt to contradict a word of what I have been saying, I'll
begin again and go still further!"

"There, there, then that's settled. But I am thinking of the future.
Supposing I died to-morrow, what's to become of May? I have nothing to
leave her. My bit of property goes back to Dobbs's family, and all right
and fair, too. I've nothing to say against my husband's will. But people
like the Hadlows, who invite May, and make much of her, have no idea
that she has no one to look to but me. I don't say they'd give her the
cold shoulder if they did know it; but it would make a difference. As it
is, they talk to her about her aunt, Mrs. Dormer-Smith, and her cousin,
Lord This, and her connection, Lady T'other, and a kind of a--what shall
I say?--a sort of atmosphere of high folks hangs about her. She's Miss
Miranda Cheffington, with fifty relations in the peerage. If she was
known only as the grandchild of Mrs. Dobbs, the ironmonger's widow, she
would seem mightily changed in a good many eyes. Sometimes it comes over
me as if I was letting May go on under false pretences."

"Why, she _has_ got fifty relations in the peerage, hasn't she?"

"A hundred, for all I know. But folks are not aware that her father's
family take no notice of her. She hardly knows it herself."

"But her aunt, Mrs. Dormer-Smith, writes to her, doesn't she?"

"Oh, a line once in a blue moon, to say she's glad to hear May is well,
and to complain of the great expense of living in London."

"The selfish meanness of that woman is beyond belief."

"Well--I don't know, Jo. She's a poor creature, certainly. But I feel
more a sort of pity for her than anything else."

"_Do_ you? It's only out of contradiction, then."

"Not altogether," said Mrs. Dobbs, laughing good-humouredly. "I made her
out pretty well that time I took May up to London before she went back
to school."

"Ah! I remember. You tried if the aunt would do anything to help."

"Yes, I tried. It was right to try. But I very soon saw that there was
nothing to be hoped for from that quarter. Mrs. Dormer-Smith has been
brought up to live for the world and the world's ways. To be sure her
world is a funny, artificial little affair compared with God Almighty's:
pretty much as though one should take a teaspoonful of Epsom salts for
the sea. But, at any rate, I do believe she sincerely thinks it ought to
be worshipped and bowed down to. It's no use to tell such a woman that
she could do without this or that useless finery, and spend the money
better. She'll answer you with tears in her eyes that it's _impossible_;
and, what's more, she'll believe it. Why, if some Tomnoddy or other,
belonging to what she calls "the best people," was to ordain to-morrow
that nobody should eat his dinner unless he was waited on by a man with
a long pigtail, that poor creature would know no peace, nor her meat
would have no relish until a man with a pigtail stood behind her chair.
That's Mrs. Dormer-Smith, Jo Weatherhead."

Mr. Weatherhead drew up his lips into the form of a round O, as his
manner was when considering any matter of interest, and appeared to
meditate a reply. But the reply was never spoken; for a brisk ring at
the street door gave a new turn to his thoughts and those of his

"Dear me!" exclaimed Mrs. Dobbs, putting up her hands to settle her cap,
and stretching out her feet with a sudden movement which made the old
tabby on the hearthrug arch her back indignantly. "Why, that must be the
Simpsons! I didn't think it was so late. Just light the candles, will
you, Jo? I hope Martha has remembered the roasted potatoes."


The Simpsons were old friends of Mrs. Dobbs. Mr. Simpson was organist of
the largest parish church in Oldchester, where his father had been
organist before him. To this circumstance he owed his singular Christian
name. The elder Simpson, whose musical enthusiasm had run all into one
channel, insisted on naming his son Sebastian Bach. Some men would have
felt this to be a disadvantage for the profession of organist and
music-teacher, as involving a suggestion of ridicule. But Mr. Sebastian
Bach Simpson was not apt to be diffident about any distinguishing
characteristic of his own. His wife had been a governess, and still gave
daily lessons in sundry respectable Oldchester families. By an
arrangement begun during her late husband's lifetime, this couple came
every Saturday evening to sup with Mrs. Dobbs, and to play a game of
whist for penny points before the meal.

The two guests entered the parlour just as Mr. Weatherhead was lighting
the candles.

"Dear me," exclaimed Mrs. Simpson, "are we too early? I had no idea!
Surely the choir practice was not over earlier than usual, Bassy?"

She was a large stout woman of forty, with a pink-and-white complexion
and filmy brown curls; and she wore spectacles. She had once been very
slim and pretty, and still retained a certain girlishness of demeanour.
It has been said that a man is as old as he feels, and a woman as old as
she looks. Mrs. Simpson had innocently usurped the masculine privilege;
and, not feeling herself to be either wiser or less trivial than she was
at eighteen, had never thought of trying to bring her manners into
harmony with her appearance. Her husband was a short, dark man, with
quick black eyes, and thick, stubby, black hair. His voice was
singularly rasping and dissonant, which seemed an unfortunate
incongruity in a professor of music. Such as he was, however, his wife
had a great admiration for him, and considered his talents to be
remarkable. Her marriage, she was fond of saying, had been a love-match,
and she had never got beyond the romantic stage of her attachment.

"Good evening, Mrs. Dobbs," said the organist, advancing to shake hands,
and taking no notice of his wife's inquiry.

"How are you, Weatherhead? I suppose you were napping--having forty
winks in the twilight, eh?"

"No, Mr. Weatherhead and I were chatting," said Mrs. Dobbs.

"Chatting in this kind of blind man's holiday, were you? I should have
thought you could hardly see to talk!"

"See to talk! Oh, Bassy, what an expression! You do say the drollest
things!" exclaimed Mrs. Simpson with a giggle. "Doesn't he, Mrs. Dobbs?
Did you ever hear----?"

Mrs. Dobbs, for all reply, hospitably stirred the fire until it blazed,
helped Mrs. Simpson to remove her bonnet and cloak, and placed her in a
chair near her own. Mr. Simpson took his accustomed seat, and the four
persons drew round the fire, whilst Martha, Mrs. Dobbs's middle-aged
servant, set out a little card-table, and disposed the candles on it in
two old-fashioned, spindle-shanked, silver candlesticks. It was all done
according to long-established custom, which was seldom deviated from in
any particular.

"And how are you, dear Mrs. Dobbs?" asked Mrs. Simpson, taking her
hostess's hand between both her own. "And dear May--where's May?"

"May has been away from home on a visit since yesterday morning. She
won't come back before Monday."

"And may one ask where she is? It is not, I presume, a Mystery of

"She is at the Hadlows'."

"The Hadlows'? Canon Hadlow's?" cried Mrs. Simpson, clasping her hands
with a gesture of amazement. Then she added rather inconsistently,
"Well, I'm not surprised. I know they have lately taken a great deal of
notice of her. Miss Hadlow and she having been at school together, of
course created an intimacy which--ah, the friendships of early youth,
where they _are_ genuine, have a warmth, a charm----"

"_Now_, Amelia!" interposed her husband's rasping voice. (This
ejaculation was his habitual manner of recalling Mrs. Simpson's
attention to the matter in hand, whatever it might be; for the good
lady's mind was discursive.) "If you'll be kind enough to leave off your
nonsense, we can begin our game. Come and cut for partners."

An earnest whist player would have been outraged by the performances of
the four persons who met weekly in Mrs. Dobbs's parlour. They chatted,
they misdealt, they even revoked sometimes; and they overlooked each
other's misdemeanours with unscrupulous laxity. In a word, they regarded
the noble game of whist merely as a means and not as an end, and were
scandalously bent on amusing themselves regardless of Hoyle. The only
one of the party who had any pretensions to play tolerably was Mr.
Weatherhead. But even his attention was always to be diverted from his
cards by a new piece of gossip. And perhaps, it was as well that he did
not take the game too much to heart--especially on the present occasion;
for the fair Amelia fell to his lot as a partner, and her performances
with the cards were calculated to drive a zealous player into a nervous

The first hand or two proceeded in decorous silence. But by degrees the
players began to talk, throwing out first detached sentences, and at
last boldly entering into general conversation.

"Bassy had a great deal of trouble with the choir this evening," said
Mrs. Simpson plaintively. "The sopranos were _so_ inattentive! And
inattention is so particularly--oh dear, I beg pardon, I _have_ a
diamond! Well, it does not much matter, for we couldn't have made the
odd trick in any case."

"A nice business at Sheffield with those Trades Unions," said Mr.
Weatherhead. "Some severe measures ought to be taken; but they won't be.
That's what your precious Liberalism comes to!--Your lead, Simpson."

"Nonsense about Liberalism, Jo Weatherhead," replied Mrs. Dobbs. "I
believe you'd like to accuse the Liberals of the bad weather.
There!--Did you ever see such a hand? One trump! and that fell. Mrs.
Simpson playing out her knave misled me."

"Oh, if you reckon on Amelia's having any sufficient motive for playing
one card more than another----" exclaimed Amelia's husband. "Have you
heard, Mrs. Dobbs, that Mr. Bransby is getting better?"

"What Bransby is that?" asked Mr. Weatherhead, thrusting his head
forward inquiringly.

"Cadell and Bransby, Solicitors to the Dean and Chapter."

"Oh-o! He has been ill, then?"

"Very ill. But I hear he was pronounced out of danger on Wednesday."

"Is it not good news?" cried Mrs. Simpson. "Such a misfortune for his
young family! I mean if he had died, you know."

"But I suppose he's a warm man, isn't he? Cadell and Bransby--it's a
fine business, isn't it?" asked Mr. Weatherhead.

"It had need be," rejoined the organist, "to maintain that tribe of boys
and girls, and an extravagant young wife into the bargain."

"Oh, Bassy, but they are such pretty children! And Mrs. Bransby is so
truly elegant and interesting. All her bonnets come from Paris, I am
told. And indeed there is a certain style----Eh? You _don't_ mean to say
that spades are trumps? What a disappointment! I thought I had all four

This ingenuous speech might have called forth some remonstrance from
Mrs. Simpson's partner, but that the latter was too much interested in
the subject of the Bransbys to attend to it.

"The eldest son is provided for by his mother's fortune, isn't he?" he

"Well--'provided for;' I don't know that it is very much. But it was all
tightly settled. Otherwise Bransby's second marriage would have been a
greater misfortune for the young man than it is," replied the organist.

"I don't see that it is any misfortune at all," observed Mrs. Dobbs.
"Theodore Bransby is quite well enough off for a young fellow. And why
shouldn't his father marry again if he liked it?"

"He is an extremely gentleman-like young man, is Mr. Theodore Bransby,"
said Mrs. Simpson. "I have been imparting daily instruction to the
younger children, and I saw him rather frequently when he was at home
during the University vacation. He is now reading for the Bar, you know,
and I believe----Was that _your_ knave, Mr. Weatherhead? Really! Then I
have thrown away my queen. However," smiling amiably, "one can but take
the trick. I believe that Mr. Theodore Bransby means to go into
Parliament later. There is really something of the statesman about him
already, _I_ think--a way of buttoning his coat to the chin, don't you

"Is Theodore Bransby in Oldchester now?" asked Mrs. Dobbs, sorting her

"Oh yes," replied Mr. Simpson. "I wonder you didn't know, for he is a
great deal at Canon Hadlow's. They say he's making up to Miss Hadlow."

"O-ho! But there's Mrs. Hadlow's nephew, young Rivers," put in Mr.
Weatherhead. "_He's_ supposed to be dangling after his cousin, isn't

"I should think young Rivers had better dangle after an employment that
will give him bread and cheese. Miss Constance Hadlow won't have a

"Oh, Bassy, but where there's real affection mercenary considerations
must give way. True love--true love is above all!" As she uttered these
words with great fervour, Mrs. Simpson flourished her arm
enthusiastically, and in so doing swept off the table several coins
which had served as counters to register her opponent's score. The
silver discs rolled swiftly away into various inaccessible corners of
the room, with the perversity usually observed in such cases.
Fortunately the game had just come to an end, and Martha had announced
that the supper was ready. This circumstance, and the fact that her
husband was a winner, spared Mrs. Simpson a sharp reprimand.

Mr. Simpson uttered, indeed, a few sarcastic croaks. "_Now_, Amelia!
There you go! Always up to some nonsense or other." But he watched Mr.
Weatherhead and Martha as they crawled about on hands and knees to
recover the missing shillings and sixpences, with considerable
equanimity; merely observing that Amelia ought to be ashamed of herself
for giving so much trouble.

When the supper was set on the table, three of the party, at least, were
in high good humour, and disposed to enjoy it. Mr. Simpson had won, and
was content. Mr. Weatherhead paid his losses without a murmur,
conscious, no doubt, that they were due as much to his own wandering
attention as to his partner's aberrations. As for Mrs. Simpson, the
sweetness of her disposition was proof against far more souring
circumstances than having spoiled Jo Weatherhead's game. She was not the
least out of humour with him. Mrs. Dobbs alone was a little more silent
and a little less genial than usual. The talk that evening with her old
friend had awakened painful thoughts of the past and anxieties for the
future. She very rarely mentioned her son-in-law's name, even to Mr.
Weatherhead, who was thoroughly in her confidence; and, whenever she did
speak of him, the result was invariably to irritate and depress her.
However, her hospitable instincts roused her to shake off her cares in
some degree, and to make her friends welcome to the fare set before

When the more substantial part of the supper was disposed of, and a jug
of hot punch steamed on the board, Mrs. Simpson, delicately tapping with
her teaspoon on the edge of her tumbler, observed, with an air at once
penetrating and amiable----

"Well, I'm sure it will be very gratifying to Mrs. Dormer-Smith when she
hears that dear May has been invited to the Hadlows'."

"H'm! I don't think Mrs. Dormer-Smith will lose her wits with joy,"
answered Mrs. Dobbs drily.

"No? Oh, but surely----! She _must_ feel it agreeable that her niece
should be noticed by persons of such eminent gentility."

Mrs. Dobbs would have dismissed the subject with a smile and a shake of
the head, avoiding, as she always did, any discussion or even mention of
her son-in-law's family; but Mr. Simpson interposed magisterially--

"If Mrs. Dormer-Smith isn't gratified, it must be because she is
ignorant of the position held by Canon Hadlow's family in Oldchester."

Mrs. Dobbs faced about upon this, and said bluntly, "My dear good man,
all the best society of Oldchester put together would seem mighty small
beer to Mrs. Dormer-Smith."

"Oh, really!" returned Mr. Simpson, mortified and incredulous. "Such a
very fine lady, is she? Well, 'Dormer-Smith' doesn't _sound_ very
aristocratic; but it may be, of course."

"Mrs. Dormer-Smith _is_ a fine lady, and accustomed to mix with still
finer ladies. It's no use shutting one's eyes to facts. If we won't look
at them, we only bump up against them, because they're there, all the
same. As to opinions, that's different. I suppose I needn't say anything
about mine at this time of day. I'm a staunch Radical--always was, and
always will be."

"Pooh, pooh! Call yourself a Radical!" said Mr. Weatherhead, laughing
his peculiar laugh, which consisted of a series of guttural _ho, ho,
ho's_. "You're convicted out of your own mouth of not being one. Whoever
heard of a Radical that cared about facts?"

Mrs. Simpson put out her hand, and tapped him on the shoulder. "Now,
now; that's very naughty of you," she exclaimed. "Politics are strictly
forbidden on Saturday evenings by the ancient statutes of our society.
Isn't it so, Mr. Dobbs? I appeal to the chair." And she threatened Mr.
Weatherhead playfully with her forefinger, at the same time casting an
arch look through her spectacles. Glasses are not favourable to any
effective play of the eyes, and usually screen the most expressive of
glances behind a ghastly glitter, void of all speculation. But of this
consideration Mrs. Simpson was habitually oblivious. Then, by way of
turning the conversation into more agreeable channels, she continued,
"And, _àpropos_ of May, dear Mrs. Dobbs, when did you last hear from her

This simple inquiry startled the company into absolute silence for a few
moments. Mrs. Dobbs's resolute reserve on the subject of her son-in-law
was so well known that none of her friends for several years past had
ventured to mention him to her. Some refrained because they did not wish
to hurt her; and many because they were afraid she might hurt them: for
Mrs. Dobbs's uncompromising frankness of speech and force of character
made her a hard hitter, when she did hit. But the specific levity of
Mrs. Simpson's mind gave her a certain immunity from hard retorts--the
immunity of a fly from a cannon ball. On the present occasion, however,
she received no rebuke; for greatly to Jo Weatherhead's surprise, and
somewhat to Mr. Simpson's, Mrs. Dobbs, after a brief pause, answered--

"I have not heard lately from Captain Cheffington. He is a bad
correspondent. But we shall soon be obliged to communicate with each
other. May is seventeen, and various arrangements will have to be made
about her future."

"Goodness!" exclaimed Mrs. Simpson, clasping her hands. "You don't mean
to say that May isn't to remain with you?"

"That will depend on what is agreed on in the family. May must take her
place in the world as Miss Cheffington, you know, and not as my

The Simpsons exchanged a glance of surprise. This was the first time
they had heard Mrs. Dobbs assume any such position for her grandchild.
Sebastian was inclined to resist her doing so now. But something in Mrs.
Dobbs's manner checked him from expressing this feeling. It is generally
found easier to criticize our friends' shortcomings when we are free
from the disturbing element of their presence. The short remainder of
the evening was passed in talking of other things. But on their way home
Mr. and Mrs. Simpson discussed this new turn of affairs with some

The organist considered that the notion of the Hadlows not being good
enough company for the Dormer-Smiths was preposterous; and he feared
that Mrs. Dobbs was giving herself airs. In reply to his wife's
observations that Mrs. Dobbs was a "dear old soul," he pointed out that,
dear and good though she might be, yet her husband had kept an
ironmonger's shop, and publicly sold hardware therein behind his
counter, to the knowledge of all Oldchester. This retort depended for
its cogency on the understanding of an ellipsis; which, however, Mrs.
Simpson was perfectly able to supply, for she answered immediately--

"Oh, I'm sure, Bassy, Mrs. Dobbs would never undervalue your position as
a professional man. She knows very well that the Arts rank superior to

On the other hand, when Mrs. Simpson proceeded to opine that if May were
taken up by her father's family she would become quite a grand
personage, Mr. Simpson declared, with a good deal of heat, that for his
part he thought Mrs. Dobbs quite as good any day as the Cheffingtons,
about whom nothing certain was known in Oldchester except that they were
shabby in their dealings and "stuck-up" in their pretensions.

Mr. Weatherhead lingered behind the organist and his wife, to say a word
to Mrs. Dobbs after their departure.

"I can tell you one thing, Sarah; what you said about May will be all
over Oldchester by Monday."

"So I guess."

"O-ho! Then you mean it to be talked about?"

"I mean it to be known that May is to take her place in the world as
Miss Cheffington."

"But _is_ she? That's more than you can say, Sarah."

"I shall have a try for it, Jo."

Now whenever Mrs. Dobbs had said in that emphatic manner that she would
"have a try" for anything, that thing, so far as Jo Weatherhead's
experience went, had infallibly come to pass. But with all his faith in
his old friend, he could not help doubting her success in the present
case. He was eagerly curious to know how she intended to proceed; but
Mrs. Dobbs refused to say any more on the subject, declaring that she
must think things over quietly.

"I don't see it," said Mr. Weatherhead to himself, poking forward his
nose, and pursing up his lips as he walked homeward. "Sarah Dobbs is a
wonderful woman, but even she can't gather grapes from thorns. And in
respect of justice or generosity--not to mention common honesty--I'm
afraid all the Cheffingtons are rather thorny."


Among other features peculiar to itself, Oldchester possesses a
quadrangular building with an inner cloister, commonly called College
Quad. It is in the immediate neighbourhood of the cathedral, and is
divided into small tenements inhabited by clergy forming part of the
cathedral body. At the back of the houses on the south side of the
quadrangle, pleasant gardens slope down towards the river Wend. The
cloister is a very beautiful piece of Gothic work, with fretted roof and
springing pillars. Peace and quiet reign within it. In summer there
comes a sleepy sound of rooks from the Bishop's garden close at hand;
and, towards sunrise and sunset, the chirp of innumerable sparrows
mingled with the richer notes of thrush, blackbird, and nightingale in
their season. At certain times of the day, too, the stillness is broken
by the thrilling freshness of children's voices, as the scholars of the
ancient Grammar School scatter themselves over the Cathedral Green,
shouting and calling in the shrill silvery treble of boyhood. But these
sounds are softened and subdued by distance and thick masonry before
they penetrate within the precincts of College Quad. In autumn and
winter there is a chill dampness on the greenish-gray paving-stones of
the cloister, and the rain drips heavily from carven capitals into the
resounding court. The very order and cleanliness of the place--its
decorous, clerical, smooth-shaven air--seem sometimes under a watery
sky, and when the winds are moaning and complaining, or thrumming like
ghostly fingers on the fine resonant Gothic fret-work, to fill the mind
with melancholy.

A rich contrasting note is seldom wanting:--firelight and the glimpse of
a crimson curtain seen through lozenge-shaped window-panes; or an open
door sending out a gush of warmth and spicy smells from the kitchen, and
the sound of friendly voices. Yet even within doors there seems to be a
haunting sense of the old, old times when hands long crumbled into dust
built up that dainty cloister, and when patient monkish feet, long
stilled for ever, paced its stones. It is not a wholly sad feeling. It
may even give zest to the glance of living eyes, and the warm pressure
of dear hands. But it has a peculiar pathos:--a pathos which, perhaps,
is felt peculiarly by northern people, as the sad-sweet twilight belongs
to northern climates, and which many of those, to the manner born, would
not exchange for the unbroken garishness of golden-blue days and
silver-blue nights.

The habitations on the south side of College Quad are considered the
most desirable of all, by reason of the gardens before-mentioned running
down to the Wend, although one or two houses on the west side may be a
trifle larger. Canon Hadlow's family of three persons inhabited one of
these coveted southern houses, and found it roomy enough for their
needs; yet it was a small--a very small--dwelling. The front door opened
on to the beautiful cloister. Immediately on entering the house you
found yourself in a tiny entrance-hall, to the left of which a steep and
narrow staircase of dark oak conducted to the one upper story. On the
right, a massive oaken-door gave access to a long, low parlour, whose
three latticed windows--darkened somewhat by a drooping fringe of
jessamine and virginia-creeper--looked across the garden and the river
to wide meadows. Opposite to the front door, a glass one, which in
summer stood wide open all day long, led into the garden. In winter,
swinging double-doors, covered with dark baize, shut out the cold air
and the chill, damp mist which sometimes crept up from the river.

The exterior of the houses in College Quad was coeval with the Gothic
cloister; within, the passing centuries had somewhat modified their
aspect. The main features, however, were ancient, and most of the
inhabitants had chosen to preserve this general air of antiquity. Only
in some few cases had disastrous attempts at modernizing been made with
paint and French wall-papers. It would have been needless to tell any
Oldchester person that no such sacrilegious innovations deformed the
fine oak beams and wainscoting in Canon Hadlow's house. There was a dark
tone all through it, which, however, was not chill. It was rather the
rich darkness of Rembrandt's shadows, which seem to have a latent glow
in the heart of them. A deep red curtain here and there, or a well-worn
Turkey carpet, with its kaleidoscope of subdued tints, relieved the
general sombreness. Flowers in all manner of receptacles--from a
precious old china punch-bowl to the cheapest of glass goblets--adorned
every room in the house throughout the year. Even in winter there was
ivy to be had, and red-berried holly, and the coral clusters of the
mountain ash, and pale chrysanthemums. The garden furnished an ample
supply of stocks, roses, carnations, holly-hocks, china asters,
sweetwilliams, wallflowers, and the like old-fashioned blossoms with
homely names. But as Mrs. Hadlow herself quaintly remarked, she cared
more for the sight and smell of a flower than its sound.

One sacrifice the flowers cost; the Hadlows had no lawn-tennis ground.
Mrs. Hadlow declared she could not spare the space. Her neighbours to
the right and left boasted of lawns which, with their white lines,
looked like tables chalked on the pavement for the popular street game
of hop-scotch--and were very little bigger. But the Hadlows' garden was
a mosaic of box-bordered flower-beds. Only quite at the lower end, where
a clipped hedge divided it from a footpath on the river bank, there was
a strip of green sward like a velvet carpet, spread completely across
the garden. At one angle stood a yew-tree of fabulous age, and in its
shadow were a garden bench and table, and a few rustic chairs. This was
Mrs. Hadlow's drawing-room whenever the weather permitted her to be
out-of-doors. There she sewed, and read, and received visits. The oak
parlour, which served also as a dining-room, was the ordinary family
living room. There was a small room called the study, lined with books
from floor to ceiling; but drawing-room, properly so-called, there was
none at all. Constance Hadlow was the only one of the family who
regretted this circumstance. The canon was perfectly content with his
abode. And as to Mrs. Hadlow, no one who valued her good opinion would
have ventured to hint to her that her house lacked anything to make it
convenient and delightful. An ill-advised stranger had once opined in
her presence that the near neighbourhood of the river must make the
south side of the College Quad damp and unhealthy during the autumn and
winter, and Mrs. Hadlow's indignation had been boundless. That it was
sometimes cold in College Quad she was willing to admit--just as it was
sometimes cold on the Riviera or in Cairo. But that it could, under any
circumstances, or for the shortest space of time, be damp, was what she
would never be brought to acknowledge. As to the Wend, if any
exhalations did arise from that gentle stream, they could not, she was
sure, be unwholesome--_above bridge_. It was important to bear in mind
this limitation, since below bridge, where the factories were, and where
the poorer dwellings stood in crowded ranks, and the streets vibrated to
the rumble of heavy waggons and tramway cars, the Wend must naturally
incur such corruption of its good manners as came from evil
communications. Mrs. Hadlow loved and admired Oldchester with
enthusiasm. But Oldchester, in her mind, meant the cathedral and its
immediate surroundings. Her admiration was bounded by the cathedral
precincts; and, to judge from her words, so was her love also. But her
heart was not to be imprisoned within any such confines. Prejudice might
rule her speech, and warp her judgments, but her warm human sympathies
went out towards those unfortunates who dwelt beyond the pale, even
under the shadow of Bragg's factory chimney; nay, even in those vulgar
suburban villas, with fine names, which were particularly abhorrent to
Mrs. Hadlow's soul.

The sun shone brightly on a group of persons assembled in Mrs. Hadlow's
garden on the Monday forenoon after Mrs. Dobbs's supper-party. It was a
sun more bright than warm; and a little crisp breeze fluttered now and
then among the scarlet and gold leaves of the virginia-creeper which
draped the back of the house. Constance Hadlow, wrapped in a fleecy
shawl, and sitting in a patch of sunshine outside the shadow of the
yew-tree, declared it was "bitterly cold." Her opinion was evidently
shared by a black-and-tan terrier that shivered convulsively at
intervals with a sort of ostentation, as though to hint to the less
sensitive bipeds that it was high time to retire to the shelter of a
roof and the comforts of the hearthrug. Mrs. Hadlow's round, rosy face
seemed to shed a glow around it like a terrestrial sun, as she beamed
from behind a great basket piled with grey woollen socks belonging to
the canon: which socks were never darned by any other than his wife's
fingers. Her nephew, Owen Rivers, lounged on the bench beside her.
Seated on a low chair, May Cheffington was winding a ball of grey
worsted for the socks; and standing opposite to her, with his shoulder
against the trunk of the yew-tree, was Mr. Theodore Bransby. This young
gentleman had just said something which had startled the assembled
company. He was not given to saying startling things. He would probably
have pronounced it "bad form" to do so:--a phrase which, to his mind,
carried with it the severest condemnation. He had merely observed, "You
will all be sorry to lose Miss Cheffington, shall you not, Mrs. Hadlow?"
quite unconscious of saying anything to cause surprise. Surprise,
however, was plainly expressed on every countenance, including that of
Miss Cheffington herself.

The fact was that rumour, speaking by the voices of Mr. and Mrs.
Simpson, had already announced in Oldchester that May Cheffington was
going away to live with her grand relations in London. The report had
not yet penetrated College Quad, but it had been brought to the
Bransbys' house that morning by Mrs. Simpson when she came to give her
daily lesson to the children.

"Lose her! What do you mean?" asked Mrs. Hadlow.

"You're not going to be married, are you, May?" cried Miss Constance,
dropping her parasol in order to look full at the other girl; while Mr.
Rivers, on the other hand, raised himself on his elbow and stared at
young Bransby.

May laughed and coloured at her friend's question. "Certainly not that I
know of, Constance," she answered.

"Are you going away, then?"

"You must ask Mr. Bransby. He seems to know; I don't."

As she spoke, May turned a pair of bright hazel eyes full on the young
gentleman in question, and smiled. The admixture of Dobbs blood with the
noble strain of Cheffington had certainly not produced any physical
deterioration of the race. Yet the dowager had been discontented with
her grand-daughter's appearance, and had particularly lamented the
absence of the Cheffington profile. Now the Cheffington profile was
handsome enough in its way, in certain subjects and at a certain time of
life; but with advancing years it was apt to resemble the profile of an
owl: the nose being beaky, and the orbit of the eyes very large, with
eyebrows nearly semi-circular; while the chin tended to disappear in
hanging folds and creases of throat. The Cheffingtons, moreover, were
sallow and dark-haired. May inherited her mother's fair skin and soft
brown hair. Her slender young figure, not yet fully grown, was rather
below than above the middle height. She had the healthy, though
delicate, freshness of a field-flower; but, like the field-flower, she
might easily pass unnoticed. There was nothing of high or dazzling
beauty about May Cheffington, but she had that subtle attraction which
does not always belong to beauty. A great many persons, however, thought
she did not bear comparison with Constance Hadlow, her friend and
schoolfellow. Besides a firm faith in her own beauty--which is a more
powerful assistance to its recognition by others than is generally
supposed--Miss Hadlow possessed a pair of fine dark eyes and eyebrows, a
clear, pale skin, regular features, and white teeth. Those who were
disposed to be critical observed that her face and head were rather too
massive for her height; and that her figure, sufficiently plump at
present, threatened to become too fat as she approached middle life. But
at twenty years of age that would have appeared a very remote
contingency to Constance Hadlow, supposing her to have ever thought
about it. Although circumstances often prevented her from being dressed
after the latest fashion, her hair--dark, wavy, and abundant--was always
skilfully arranged in the prevalent mode, whatever that might be. It
happened just then to be a becoming one to Miss Hadlow's head and face.
The crimson colour of the shawl wrapped round her made a fine contrast
with the creamy pallor of her skin and the vivid darkness of her eyes.
Altogether, she looked handsome enough to excuse Owen Rivers for finding
it difficult to remove himself from her society, supposing Mr. Simpson's
statement to be true that the young man was "dangling after his cousin
instead of minding his business."

Theodore Bransby, on being called upon to explain himself, answered that
he understood Miss Cheffington was shortly going to London to reside
with her aunt, Mrs. Dormer-Smith.

"Oh no, I'm not," said May promptly, before any one else could speak.
"That is quite a mistake."


"Oh yes, indeed it is. I'm going to stay with granny."

"Indeed!" said Theodore Bransby once more. Then he added, "Are you quite
sure? Because I had it from a person who had it from Mrs. Dobbs

"From granny?" In her astonishment May let fall the ball of worsted. It
rolled across the grass under the very nose of the toy terrier, who
snapped at it, and then shivered more strongly than ever with an added
sense of injury.

"Very likely nothing is positively settled yet," continued Theodore.
"Mrs. Dobbs was speaking of family arrangements for the future."

"Then I suppose," said May, with an anxious look, "that she has heard
from papa?"

"Yes, I believe so; something was said about a communication from
Captain Cheffington."

There was a little pause. Then Mrs. Hadlow said, "Well, of course we
shall be sorry to lose you, my dear, as Theodore says. But it is quite
right that you should be amongst your own people, and be properly

"Granny is my own people," returned May in a low voice.

"Of course; and a most kind and excellent grandmother she is. But I
mean--in short, since it is Mrs. Dobbs's own plan, we must suppose she
thinks it best for you to go to town; and I must say I agree with her."

"It is obviously necessary," said young Bransby. "Miss Cheffington will
have, of course, to be presented."

"Why, you look quite glum, May!" cried Constance laughing. "Oh, you
little goose! I only wish I had the chance of going to town to be

Owen Rivers, who had hitherto been silent, now addressed May, and asked
her if she disliked her aunt.

"Dislike Aunt Pauline? Oh no; I don't dislike her at all. But I--I don't
know her very well."

"I thought," said Bransby, "that you had been in the habit of staying
with Mrs. Dormer-Smith during the school vacations?"

"No; before Grandmamma Cheffington died I used to go to Richmond, and I
only saw Aunt Pauline now and then. Since that time I haven't seen her
at all, for I've spent all my holidays with dear granny."

Constance began to question young Bransby as to who had given him the
news about May's departure; what it was that had been said; whether the
time of her going away were positively fixed; and so forth. May rose,
and, under cover of picking up her ball of worsted, walked away out of

"Are you that phenomenon, a young lady devoid of curiosity, Miss
Cheffington?" asked Owen Rivers, as she passed near him.

"Oh, there's nothing to be curious about," returned the girl, flushing a
little. "Granny and I shall talk it all over together this evening. I
need not trouble myself about what other people may say or guess."

Miss Hadlow had apparently forgotten that it was "bitterly cold:" for
she continued to sit on the lawn talking with Theodore after the others
had gone into the house. She moved at length from her seat at the
summons of the luncheon-bell. Fox the terrier, more consistent, had
availed himself of the breaking-up of the little party to hasten indoors
and establish himself on the dining-room hearthrug:--a step which
nothing but his unconquerable dislike to being alone, had prevented him
from taking long ago.

When the two loiterers at length entered the dining-room, Mrs. Hadlow
announced that May had gone home. Her grandmother had sent the servant
for her a little earlier than usual, and May had refused to remain for
luncheon. The young girl's absence gave an opportunity for discussing
her and her prospects; and they were discussed accordingly, as the party
sat at table.

Mrs. Hadlow expressed great satisfaction at hearing that May was to be
received and accepted "as a Cheffington;" Constance inclined to think
that May would not duly appreciate her good fortune; and Theodore
Bransby observed stiffly, that Miss Cheffington's removal to town had
always been inevitable, and that the date of it alone could have been
matter for uncertainty to persons who knew anything of the Cheffington

"Well," said Rivers, "I suppose Constance is the only one of us here
present who possesses that knowledge."

"No; I never knew much of them," answered his cousin. "I saw them
occasionally when I was at school. Sometimes the dowager came down to
stay at Brighton, and she used, now and then, to call for May in her
carriage; but she never entered the doors. And once or twice Mrs.
Dormer-Smith came. I remember we girls used to make game of old Mrs.
Cheffington with her black wig and her airs."

"She was thoroughly _grande dame_, I believe," said Theodore Bransby.

"Very likely. The servants used to say she was dreadfully stingy, and
call her an old cat. Mrs. Dormer-Smith had nice manners, and was always
beautifully dressed."

"Your information is somewhat sketchy, my dear Constance; but no doubt
the outline is correct as far as it goes," observed Rivers.

"Decidedly sketchy!" said Mrs. Hadlow, who was helping her guests to
minced mutton.

"Miss Hadlow, however, is _not_ the only one of us who knows anything
about the Cheffingtons," said young Bransby, with his grave air.

"Oh, dear me, I had forgotten!" interposed Mrs. Hadlow, after a quick
glance at the young man's face. "To be sure, Theodore has visited the
family in town. The fact is, Theodore has been a stranger himself so
long, that we have had no opportunity of hearing his report. Tell us
what the Dormer-Smiths are like, Theodore, since you know them."

"Like? They are like people who move in the best society--like
thoroughbred people," returned Theodore, drawing himself up, stiffly.

"Poor little May!" said Mrs. Hadlow, thoughtfully. "She's a sweet little
thing. I hope they'll be kind to her."

"Do you know anything of Mrs. Dobbs, Aunt Jane?" asked Rivers. "I mean,"
he added, "of course, you know _of_ her. But do you know her?"

"Oh yes. Once, many years ago, the canon had a tough battle with Mrs.
Dobbs, when he was helping to canvas for the city member. We couldn't
get her husband's vote for the right side. But he was a worthy man, and
sold very good ironmongery. When Constance first asked leave to invite
her schoolfellow here, I had an interview with Mrs. Dobbs. She came to
the point at once. She said, 'Mrs. Hadlow, you need not be uneasy. My
friends and equals are not yours; but neither are they my
grand-daughter's. She belongs by her father's family to a different
class. As for me, I am too old to make any mistakes about my place in
the world, and too proud to wish to change it."

"Too proud!" repeated Bransby, with raised eyebrows.

"I thought it was very well said," answered Mrs. Hadlow. "I only wish
all the people of her class had the same honest pride. But Mrs. Dobbs is
a woman of great good sense, and of the highest integrity. All the same,
of course, now that May is grown up, the girl's position in that house
is too anomalous. Captain Cheffington no doubt feels that. He probably
left his daughter there so long out of tenderness to Mrs. Dobbs's
feelings; and perhaps also to help out the old lady's income. But now,
naturally, it must come to an end. He can't sacrifice May's future. That
is how I explain the state of the case; and it seems to me to be
creditable to all concerned."

"At all events, it is creditable to Mrs. Dobbs, Aunt Jane," said Rivers.

"And why not, pray, to Captain Cheffington too?" asked Constance. "But
Captain Cheffington has the misfortune to be born a gentleman, so, of
course, Owen disapproves of him."

"Not at all, 'of course.' But I agree with you as to the misfortune--for
the other gentlemen, at all events!"

"I think you're a little mistaken about Captain Cheffington, Rivers,"
said Theodore. "He's a friend of mine."

"In that case I'm very sorry," answered Owen drily.

Mrs. Hadlow here interposed, rising from the table with a show of
cheerful bustle. "Come," said she, "you children must not loiter here
all day. The canon comes home from Wendhurst by the three-forty train,
and I am going to meet him; Constance has an engagement with the
Burtons; and as for you two boys, I shall turn you out without

The kind lady's intention had been to break off the discourse between
the two young men, which threatened to become disagreeable. But as
Bransby and Rivers walked away side by side through the fretted cloister
of College Quad, the former, with a certain quiet doggedness which
belonged to him, returned to the subject.

"You must understand," he said, "that I am not very intimate with
Captain Cheffington; but I know him, and am his debtor for some
courteous attentions. And I think you are a little--rash, if you don't
mind my saying so, in condemning him."

"I don't at all mind your saying so."

"You see, there are a great many circumstances to be taken into account,
in judging of Captain Cheffington's career. In the first place, there
was his unfortunate marriage."


When Augustus Cheffington had paid that sudden visit to his
mother-in-law which resulted in leaving May on her hands, Theodore
Bransby happened to be at home during a University vacation, and was
flattered by Captain Cheffington's notice. The fact was that Augustus
found himself greatly bored and out of his element in Oldchester, and
was glad to accept a dinner or two from Mr. Bransby, the solicitor to
the Dean and Chapter; for Mr. Bransby's port wine was unimpeachable. He
had also condescended to play several games of billiards with Theodore
upon a somewhat mangy old table in the Green Dragon Hotel; and to smoke
that young gentleman's cigars without stint; and to hold forth about
himself in the handsomest terms, pleased to be accepted, apparently,
pretty much at his own valuation. Theodore Bransby was no fool. But he
was young, and he had his illusions. These were not of a high-flown,
ideal cast. He would have shrugged his shoulders at any one who should
set up for philanthropy, or poetry, or socialism, or chivalry. But he
was subdued by a display of nonchalant disdain for all the things and
persons which he had been accustomed to look up to, from childhood. Mr.
Bragg, the great tin-tack manufacturer, his father's wealthiest client,
was dismissed by Augustus Cheffington in two words: "Damned snob!" and
even the bishop he pronounced to be a "prosin' old prig," and spoke of
the bishop's wife as "that vulgar fat woman." These indications of
superiority, together with many references to the noble and honourable
Castlecombes and Cheffingtons who composed Augustus's kith and kin, had
greatly fascinated Theodore. And Augustus had completed his conquest
over the young man by giving him a letter of introduction to his sister,
Mrs. Dormer-Smith, which letter was delivered when young Bransby went to
London to read for the Bar.

Although the brother and sister had parted not on the best terms with
each other, yet Augustus had not hesitated to give the introduction. He
believed that his sister would be willing to honour his recommendation
by showing civilities which cost her nothing; and, moreover, he was
quite indifferent (being then on the point of saying a long farewell to
Oldchester) as to whether the Dormer-Smiths snubbed young Bransby or
not. They did not snub him. Mrs. Dormer-Smith rather approved of his
manners; and it was quite clear that he wanted neither for means nor
friends. She was therefore inclined to receive him with something more
than politeness. And, in justice to Pauline, it must be said that she
was really glad of the opportunity to please her brother. She was not
without fraternal sentiments; and she strongly felt that an introduction
from a Cheffington to a Cheffington was not a document to be lightly
dishonoured. As for Mr. Dormer-Smith, although his feelings towards his
brother-in-law--never very cordial--had been exacerbated by having to
pay the bill for the dowager's funeral expenses, yet his resentment had
been to some degree soothed by Augustus's abrupt departure, and by his
withdrawal of May from her aunt's house. For many years past the
attachment of Augustus's relations for him had increased in direct
proportion to the distance which divided him from them. In Belgium he
was tolerated and pitied; had he gone to the Antipodes he would
doubtless have been warmly sympathized with; and it might safely be
prophesied that, when he should finally emigrate from this planet
altogether, the surviving members of the family would be penetrated by a
glow of affection.

"I think he's rather nice, Frederick," said Mrs. Dormer-Smith, with a
little sigh of relief after young Bransby's first visit.

"We may be thankful," returned her husband, "that Augustus has sent us a
possible person. One never can reckon on what he may choose to do."

"Mr. Bransby is quite possible. Indeed, I think he is nice. He shall
have a card for my Thursdays."

In this way Theodore had been received by Mrs. Dormer-Smith, and had
established himself in her good opinion on further acquaintance. "He
was," she said, "so quiet and so safe." At this time May Cheffington was
still at school, being maintained there, as has been recorded, by her
grandmother Dobbs; and Pauline would occasionally speak of her niece to
young Bransby. She always spoke kindly, though plaintively, of the girl,
over whom there hung the shadow of the unfortunate marriage.

Theodore Bransby was an Oldchester person, and could not, therefore, be
supposed to be ignorant of that lamentable event. The fact was, however,
that he had never heard a word about it until he made Captain
Cheffington's acquaintance in his native city. It had taken place before
he was born; and, indeed, Oldchester had been less agitated by the
marriage, even at the time when it happened, than any Cheffington or
Castlecombe would have believed possible. But Pauline found young
Bransby's sentiments on the subject all that they should be. No one
could have expressed himself more shocked at the idea of a gentleman's
marrying a person in Susan Dobbs's rank of life than did this
solicitor's son. And Mrs. Dormer-Smith had not the least suspicion that
he would have considered such a marriage quite as shocking a
_mésalliance_ for himself as for Captain Cheffington. "Misunderstanding"
is used as a synonym for "discord;" but, perhaps, a great deal of social
harmony depends on misunderstandings.

Theodore could not, of course, have the slightest personal interest in a
schoolgirl whom he had never seen; but his sympathies were so entirely
with the Cheffingtons on the question of the unfortunate marriage as to
inspire him with an odd feeling of antagonism against Mrs. Dobbs, and a
sense that she ought to be firmly kept in her place. He secretly thought
Mrs. Dormer-Smith weakly indulgent in allowing Miss Cheffington to
associate so freely with her grandmother, and was indignant at the idea
of that plebeian exercising any authority over Lord Castlecombe's
grand-niece. However, all that would doubtless come to an end when the
girl left school, and was introduced into society under her aunt's
protection. Theodore flattered himself that he thoroughly understood the
position. As for Viscount Castlecombe, he certainly knew all about
_him_--or, at least, what was chiefly worth knowing; for he had read
about him in the Peerage.

Primed with this varied knowledge, young Bransby held forth to Owen
Rivers as they walked together through College Quad, across the open
green beyond it, and up to the house of Mr. Bransby, senior, in the
Cathedral Close. Here they parted. Rivers declined a polite invitation
from the other to enter, and pursued his way alone towards the High
Street; and Bransby, as he waited for the door to be opened, stood
looking after him for a few moments.

The two young men had known each other more or less all their lives, but
theirs was a familiarity without real intimacy. The years had not made
them more congenial to each other. People began to say that they were
rivals in Constance Hadlow's good graces. But, whether this were so or
not, the latent antagonism between them had existed long before they
grew to be men. They had never quarrelled. The air is always still
enough in a frost. They did not even know how much they disliked one
another. As Theodore watched Owen's retreating figure, the thought
uppermost in his mind was that his friend's shooting-coat was badly cut,
and that he did not remember ever to have seen him wear gloves.

The home of Mr. Martin Bransby, of the old-established firm of Cadell
and Bransby, was a luxurious one. The house was an ancient substantial
stone building, with a spacious walled garden behind it, contiguous to
the bishop's. The present occupant had made considerable additions to
it. It is perhaps needless to say that he had been severely criticized
for doing so, there being no point on which it is more difficult to
content public opinion than the expenditure of one's own money. Several
of Mr. Bransby's acquaintances were unable to reconcile themselves to
the fact that he was not satisfied with that which had satisfied his
father and grandfather (for Martin Bransby was the third of his family
who had successively held that house and the business of solicitor to
the Dean and Chapter of Oldchester). It would have been better, they
opined, if, instead of building new rooms, he had saved his money to
provide for the young family rising around him. If it were observed to
this irreconcilable party that the presence of a numerous family
necessitated more space to lodge them in than the original house
afforded, they would triumphantly retort, "Very well, then, what
business had Martin Bransby to marry a second time? Or, if he must
marry, why did he choose a young girl without a penny instead of some
person nearer his own age and with a little property?" Martin Bransby,
however, marrying rather to please himself than to earn the approval of
his friends, had chosen a remarkably pretty girl of twenty, a Miss
Louisa Lutyer, of a good Shropshire family, whom he had met in London.
They had now been married twelve years, during which time five children
had been born to them, and they had lived together in the utmost
harmony. Those persons who disapproved of the match (solely in Mr.
Bransby's interests, of course) could find nothing worse to say than
that Martin was absurdly in love with his wife, and treated her with
weak indulgence. In short, the irreconcilables were driven, year by
year, to put off the date at which their unfavourable judgments were to
be corroborated by facts, much as sundry popular preachers have been
compelled by circumstances over which they had no control, to postpone
the end of the world.

Latterly they had had the mournful satisfaction of observing that Martin
Bransby was looking far from well--harassed and aged. And when he was
attacked by the severe illness which threatened his life, they solemnly
hinted that the malady had been aggravated by anxiety about his young
family; for although Martin had made, and was making, a great deal of
money, yet, with three boys to put out in the world, two daughters to
provide for, and an extravagant wife to maintain, even the excellent
business of Cadell and Bransby _must_ be somewhat strained to supply his

At any rate, the evidences of wealth and comfort were as abundant as
ever in the home which Theodore entered when he parted from his friend.
There was plenty of solid furniture, dating from the dark ages before
modern æstheticism had arisen to reform upholstery and teach us the
original sinfulness of the prismatic colours. But these relics of the
earlier part of the century were not to be found in the two spacious
drawing-rooms, which had been arranged by the fashionablest of
fashionable house-decorators from London. These rooms, together with a
tiny cabinet behind them, which was styled "The Boudoir," were Mrs.
Bransby's special domain. And here Theodore found her seated by the
fireside. A book lay on her knees; but she was not reading it. She was
resting in a position of complete repose, with her head leaning against
the back of the chair, her hands carelessly crossed on her lap, and her
feet supported on a cushion. She was enjoying the sense of bodily and
mental rest which comes from the removal of a keen-edged anxiety; for
during several weeks Mrs. Bransby had been the most devoted of
sick-nurses, and had scarcely left her husband's room. But now the
doctors had pronounced all danger to be over; the children's active feet
and shrill voices were no longer hushed down by warning fingers; the
housemaid sang over her brooms and dusters; and the mistress of the
house had unpacked and put on a new "tea-gown," which had lain neglected
for more than a fortnight in its brown-paper wrappings. From the
golden-brown clusters of hair on her forehead to the tip of her dainty
shoe every detail of her appearance was cared for minutely. Yet there
was nothing of stiffness or affectation. She reminded one of an
exquisitely-tended hothouse flower, and carried her beauty and her
toilet with as perfect an air of unconscious refinement as the flower
itself. Certainly Oldchester held no more lovely and graceful figure
than Mrs. Bransby presented to the eyes of her stepson. Yet the eyes of
her stepson rested on her with a glance of cool disapprobation. His
manner of addressing her, however, was not more chilly than his manner
of addressing most other persons--perhaps rather less so; and he was
scrupulously polite.

"Did Hatch give a good account of my father this morning?" he asked,
seating himself by the fire opposite to Mrs. Bransby.

"Excellent, thank goodness! He is to drive out on Wednesday, if the
weather is favourable. I felt so soothed and comforted by Dr. Hatch's
report, that I thought I would indulge myself with half an hour of
perfect laziness," added Mrs. Bransby, with a deprecating glance at
Theodore. She constantly reproved herself for assuming an apologetic
attitude towards her stepson, but constantly recurred to it; she was so
keenly conscious of his--always unexpressed--criticism.

"Mrs. Hadlow desired to send word that the canon means to call on my
father this afternoon, if he is well enough to see him."

"Oh yes; a talk with Canon Hadlow will do him good." Then, after an
instant's pause, Mrs. Bransby asked, "Have you been in College Quad,

"I lunched with Mrs. Hadlow. Rivers was there; I parted from him just
now. And Miss Cheffington."

"Oh, really? Mrs. Hadlow is very kind to that little May Cheffington."

Theodore made no answer, but looked stiffly at the fire.

Mrs. Bransby went on: "I saw her in the cathedral at afternoon service
yesterday, with the Hadlows. It struck me she was growing quite pretty.
Don't you think so?"

"I should not call her _pretty_----" began Theodore slowly.

Mrs. Bransby broke in: "Well, of course, she is eclipsed by Constance.
Constance is so very handsome. But still----"

"I should not describe Miss Cheffington as _pretty_," pursued Theodore,
in an inflexible kind of way. "She is something more than pretty. She
looks thoroughbred."

"But that's exactly what she is _not_, isn't it?" exclaimed Mrs. Bransby

"I am not sure that I apprehend you."

"I mean her mother was quite a common person, was she not?"

"A woman takes her husband's rank."

"Yes; but she doesn't inherit his ancestors. Besides, one really doesn't
know much about the father, for that matter. To be sure, Simmy was
making a great flourish about May's grand relations in London this
morning. But then all poor dear Simmy's geese are swans." (The name of
"Simmy" had been bestowed on Mrs. Simpson by the youngest little Bransby
but one; and although the elder children were reproved for using it, the
appellation had come to be that by which she was most familiarly known
in the Bransby family.)

"Mrs. Simpson is a silly person, but her information happens, in this
case, to be correct," returned Theodore. "The relations with whom Miss
Cheffington is going to live in London are friends of mine."

"Oh! Then what Simmy said is true?" said Mrs. Bransby simply.

Theodore proceeded, with a scarcely perceptible hesitation, "I think you
might invite Miss Cheffington here before she goes to town. I--I should
be obliged to you for the opportunity of showing her some attention, in
return for the Dormer-Smiths' kindness to me in London."

"Yes, I can ask the girl if you like," answered Mrs. Bransby, not quite
as warmly as Theodore thought she ought to have answered such a
suggestion from him; "but it will be rather stupid for her, I'm afraid.
At the Hadlows' there is a young girl near her own age; but here, unless
she likes to play with the children, I don't see how we are to amuse

"I did not contemplate Miss Cheffington's playing with the children. I
meant that you should invite her to a dinner-party, or something of that

"Invite May Cheffington to a dinner-party!" repeated Mrs. Bransby,
opening her soft, brown eyes in astonishment.

"My father spoke of giving a dinner before I go back to the Temple, and
he said he thought he should be well enough to see his friends by the
end of next week."

"Yes. He talked of inviting the Pipers, and the Hadlows, and perhaps Mr.

"Could you not include Miss Cheffington? Perhaps if you allowed me to
see your list I might help to arrange it."

"Oh, I suppose one _could_; but wouldn't it seem a very strange thing to

A little colour came into Theodore's pale fair face, and his chin grew
visibly more rigid above his cravat, as he answered, "I don't know. But
the social _convenances_ are not to be measured by Oldchester's
provincial ideas as to their strangeness. And--pardon me--I don't think
you quite understand Miss Cheffington's position."

And then he entered on an explanation of the "position," much as he had
explained it to Owen Rivers; with only such suppressions and variations
(chiefly regarding the private history of Augustus Cheffington) as he
thought the difference between his hearers demanded.

"Well, I'm sure if your father has no objection, I have none," said Mrs.
Bransby at length. And so Theodore got his own way. It was a matter of
course that he should get his own way so far as his step-mother was
concerned. Mrs. Bransby had, indeed, successfully resisted him on many
occasions; but always through the medium of her husband. If Theodore
attacked her face to face, she never had the courage to oppose him. Not
that in the present case she very much wished to oppose him. Nor, in
truth, had their wills ever clashed seriously. But the secret
consciousness of her weakness and timidity was mortifying: for Mrs.
Bransby, although too gentle to fight, was not too gentle to wish she
could fight. And after Theodore had left the room, she sat for some time
imagining to herself various neat and pointed speeches which would
doubtless have brought down her stepson's sententious, supercilious
tone, if she had only had the presence of mind to utter them.


May Cheffington went back to her grand-mother's house, very eager to
understand the origin of the rumours about herself which she had heard
at the Hadlows'. Mrs. Dobbs had not calculated on this, and would have
preferred to break the project to May herself, and in her own fashion.
However, as it had been mentioned, she spoke of it openly. She merely
cautioned her grand-daughter against rashly jumping at any conclusions:
the future being very vague and unsettled.

"There's one conclusion I _have_ jumped at, granny," said the girl, "and
that is, that I don't mean to give you up for any aunts, or uncles, or
cousins of them all. They are strangers to me, and I don't care a straw
about them--how should I?--whilst _you_ are--granny!"

"There is no question of giving me up, May. Perhaps I should not like
that much better than you would. But if your father should think it
right for you to stay for a while with his family, we mustn't oppose
him. And I must tell you that I should think it right, too."

"Oh, if it's only staying 'for a while'----!"

"Well, at all events we needn't look beyond a 'while' and a short while,
for the present."

Mrs. Dobbs found it more difficult than she had anticipated to put
before May the prospect of being removed from Oldchester altogether,
and, now that the idea of losing May out of her daily life fully
presented itself, she felt a grip at the heart which frightened her. But
she had one of those strong characters whose instinct it is to hide
their wounds and suffer silently; and she resolutely put aside her own
pain at this prospect--or rather, put it off to the solitary hours to

During the four years since her father had left her at Oldchester, May's
life had been passed between her school at Brighton and her holidays in
Oldchester. These had certainly been the happiest years she could
remember in all her young life. Her grand-mother's house had been the
first real home she had ever known. Her recollections of their life on
the Continent were dim and melancholy. She remembered fragmentary scenes
and incidents in certain dull Flemish towns; their strong-smelling
gutters, their toppling gables, the _carillons_ sounding high up in some
ancient cathedral belfry. She had a vision of her mother's face, very
pale and thin, with large bright eyes, and streaks of gray in the brown
hair. May, as the youngest of Susan Cheffington's children, had come in
for the worst part of their Continental life. The earlier years, when
there was still some money to spend, and fewer debts to be run away
from, had not been quite devoid of brightness. But poor little May's
conscious observation had little to take note of at home save poverty,
sickness, domestic dissensions, and frequent migrations from one shabby
lodging to another. Then her mother died, and some six or eight months
afterwards she was brought to England, and--Fate and the dowager so
willing it--was sent to school to Mrs. Drax in Brighton. The choice of
this school proved to be a very fortunate one for the little motherless
stranger. And perhaps the credit of it ought fairly to be assigned
rather to Destiny than the dowager. The latter would have selected a
more fashionable, pretentious, and expensive establishment had she
consulted merely her idea of what was becoming and suitable for Miss
Miranda Cheffington. But she soon found out that whatever was paid for
that young lady's schooling must, sooner or later, come out of her own
pocket, and she therefore preferred to honour Mrs. Drax with her
patronage, rather than Madame Liebrecht, who had been governess for
years in a noble family, and was supposed to accept no pupil who could
not show sixteen quarterings; or, of course, their equivalent in cash.

The choice made was, as has been said, very fortunate for May. Mrs. Drax
had the manners of a gentlewoman, and more amiability than could perhaps
have been reasonably expected to survive a long struggle with her
special world--a world of parents and guardians, who held, for the most
part, a liberal view of her duties and a niggardly one of her rights.
Here little May Cheffington remained as a pupil for nearly eight years.
During the first half of that time she sometimes spent her holidays with
the dowager at Richmond, and sometimes in Brighton under the care of
Mrs. Drax. She preferred the latter. Old Mrs. Cheffington did not treat
the child with any active unkindness; but she showed her no tenderness.
The little girl was usually left to the care of her grand-mother's
maid--an elderly woman, to whom this young creature was merely an extra
burthen not considered in her wages. The child passed many a lonely hour
in the garden, or beside the dining-room fire with a book, unheeded. Her
aunt Pauline she only saw at rare intervals. She had a confused sense of
innocently causing much sorrow to Mrs. Dormer-Smith, who seemed always
to be afflicted (why, May did not for several years understand) by the
sight of her clothes; and who used to complain softly to the dowager
that "the poor dear child was lamentably dressed." But, on the whole,
she retained a rather agreeable impression of her aunt, as being pretty
and gentle, and kissing her kindly when they met.

Then came the dowager's death, the sudden journey to Oldchester, and the
first acquaintance with that unknown Grandmother Dobbs, whose very name
she had heard uttered only in a reproachful tone by the dowager, or in a
hushed voice by the dowager's elderly maid, speaking as one who names a
hereditary malady. And to this _taboo_ Grandmother Dobbs the neglected
child soon gave the warm love of a very grateful and affectionate
nature. May did not know or guess that she was a burthen on her
grand-mother's means, nor would the knowledge have increased her
gratitude at that time. It was the fostering affection which the child
was thankful for. She nestled in it like a half-fledged bird in the warm
shelter of the mother's wing. She was not timid or reserved by
temperament; but the circumstances of her life had given her a certain
repressed air. That disappeared now like hoar-frost in the sunshine. She
was like a young plant whose growth had been arrested by a too chilly
atmosphere. She burgeoned and bloomed into the natural joyousness of
childhood, which needs, above all things, the warmth of love, and cannot
be healthily nurtured by any artificial heat.

In her school there was no influence tending to diminish May's
attachment to her grandmother, or her perfect contentment with the
simple _bourgeois_ home in Oldchester. Plain Mrs. Dobbs, who paid her
bills punctually, and listened to reason, stood far higher in the
schoolmistress's esteem than the Honourable Mrs. Cheffington, who was
never contented, and required to be dunned for the payment of her just
debts. As to her noble relations, May had no acquaintance with them, and
never sighed to make it. She was ignorant of the very existence of many
of them. When, at seventeen years of age, she was removed from school,
she looked forward to living in the old house in Friar's Row, and she
certainly desired no better home. Mrs. Drax, it has been said, had the
manners of a gentlewoman, and she had not vulgarized May's natural
refinement of mind by misdirecting her admiration towards ignoble
things. The provincialisms in her grand-mother's speech, and the homely
style of her grand-mother's household--although she clearly perceived
both--neither shocked nor mortified May. On the other hand, she accepted
it as a quite natural thing that she should be invited to Canon Hadlow's
house as a guest on equal terms. As Mrs. Dobbs had said to Jo
Weatherhead, May was very much of a child still, and understood nothing
of the world. Her unquestioning acceptance of the situation as her
grandmother presented it to her had something very child-like. She did
not inquire how it came to pass that her aunt Pauline, who had taken
very little notice of her during the past four years, should now desire
to have her as an inmate of her home. She did not ask why her father,
after so long a torpor on the subject, had suddenly awakened to the
necessity of asserting his daughter's position in the world; neither did
she, even in her private thoughts, reproach him for having delegated all
the care and responsibility of her education to "granny." A
healthy-minded young creature has deep well-springs of unquestioning
faith in its parents, or those who stand in the place of parents.

But there was one person not so easily contented with the first
statement offered; and that person was Mr. Joseph Weatherhead. Mr.
Weatherhead was very fond of May, and admired her very much. His social
and political theories ought logically to have made him regard her with
peculiar interest and consideration as coming of such very blue
blood--at least on one side of the house. But it so happened that these
theories had nothing on earth to do with his attachment to May. That
arose, firstly, from her being Sarah Dobbs's grandchild (Jo would have
loved and championed any creature, biped or quadruped, that belonged to
Sarah Dobbs), and, secondly, from her being very lovable. The poor man
was often embarrassed by the conflict between his curiosity and his
principles. His curiosity, which was as insatiable and omnivorous as the
appetite of a pigeon, would have led him to cross-question May minutely
about all she knew or guessed respecting her own future, and the
probable behaviour of her father's family towards her; but his
conscience told him that it would not be right to put doubts and
suspicions into the girl's trusting young soul. Certainly he himself
cherished many doubts and suspicions as to the future conduct of May's
papa. He questioned Mrs. Dobbs, indeed; but there was neither sport nor
exercise for his sharp inquisitiveness in that. When Mrs. Dobbs did not
choose to answer him, she said so roundly, and there was an end. She had
told him that she was in correspondence with Captain Cheffington, and
that she believed he would share her views about his daughter. Jo,
however, entertained a rooted disbelief as to Captain Cheffington's
holding any "views" which had not himself for their supreme object.

"And this Mrs. Dormer-Smith, now, Sarah," said he. "What reason have you
to suppose that she will be willing to take charge of her niece now,
when she would have nothing to say to her before?"

"A pretty girl of seventeen is a different charge from a lanky child of
twelve, Jo. Mrs. Dormer-Smith couldn't have taken a schoolgirl in short
frocks out into the world with her."

"Humph! You don't _know_ that she will take May out into the world with

"I have written. I shall have an answer in a few days, I dare say. I
don't expect matters to be settled like a flash of greased lightning, as
Mr. Simpson says. There's a deal to be considered. Hold your tongue,
now; here's May."

Similar conversations took place between them nearly every day. And when
they were not interrupted by any external circumstance, Mrs. Dobbs would
resolutely put an end to them by declining to pursue the subject.

One afternoon, about a week after May's return from her visit to the
Hadlows', the young girl was seated at the old-fashioned square
pianoforte, singing snatches of ballads in a fresh, untrained voice; Mr.
Weatherhead had just taken his accustomed seat by the fireside; and Mrs.
Dobbs was opposite to him in her own armchair, with the old tabby
purring in the firelight at her feet, when Martha opened the parlour
door softly, shut it quickly after her, and announced, with a slight
tone of excitement in her usually quiet voice, that there was a
gentleman in the passage asking for Miss May.

"For me, Martha?" exclaimed May, turning round at the sound of her own
name, with one hand still on the keys of the pianoforte. "Who is he?"

"He said 'Miss Cheffington.' I don't know him, not by sight. But here's
his card."

Mrs. Dobbs took the card from the servant, and put on her spectacles,
bending down to read the name by the firelight. "Bun--Brun--oh, Bransby!
Mr. Theodore Bransby. Ask the gentleman to walk in, Martha."

As Martha left the room, Mr. Weatherhead pointed to the door with one
thumb, and whispered, "Wonder what _he_ wants!" To which Mrs. Dobbs
replied by lifting her shoulders and slightly shaking her head, as much
as to say, "I'm sure I can't guess." The next moment Mr. Theodore
Bransby was ushered into the parlour.

The room was rather dim, and Theodore did not immediately perceive May,
who still sat at the piano. "Miss Cheffington?" he said interrogatively,
with a stiff little gesture of the head towards Mrs. Dobbs, which might
pass for a bow.

Mrs. Dobbs had risen from her chair, and now motioned her visitor to be
seated. "My grand-daughter is here. Pray sit down, Mr. Theodore
Bransby," she said. Then May got up, and came forward, and shook hands
with him.

"I don't think you know my grandmother, Mrs. Dobbs," she said,
presenting him.

Theodore, upon this, began to hold out his hand rather slowly; but, as
Mrs. Dobbs made no answering gesture, but merely pointed again to a
chair, he was fain to bow once more--a good deal more distinctly, this
time--and to sit down with the sense of having received a little check.

"I hope I have not interrupted you, Miss Cheffington?" said he, clearing
his throat and settling his chin in his shirt-collar. "You were

"Oh no; you haven't interrupted me at all. And, even if you had, it
wouldn't matter. My singing is not worth much."

"Pardon me if I decline to believe that. From some sounds which reached
me through the door, I am sure you sing charmingly."

May laughed. "Ah," said she, "the other side of the door is the most
favourable position for hearing me. I really don't know how to sing. Ask

"No; May doesn't know how to sing," said Mrs. Dobbs quietly, but very
decisively. (For she had caught an expression on Mr. Theodore Bransby's
pale, smooth face, which seemed to wonder superciliously what on earth
_she_ could know about it.) Whereupon his pale, smooth eyebrows raised
themselves a hair's breadth more, but he said nothing.

"My grandmother is a great judge of singing, you must know," went on May
innocently. "She has heard all the best singers at the Oldchester
Musical Festivals for years and years past, and she used to sing herself
in the choruses of the oratorios."

"Oh, I see!" said Theodore, with a little contemptuous air of

Jo Weatherhead looked across at him uneasily. He had a half-formed
suspicion that this young spark with the smooth, rather closely-cropped
blonde head, severe shirt-collar, faultlessly-fitting coat, and slightly
pedantic utterance, showed a tendency to treat Mrs. Dobbs with
impertinence. But he checked the suspicion, for, he argued with himself,
young Bransby had had the training of a gentleman. And what gentleman
would be impertinent to a worthy and respected woman, and in her own
house, too? He thought, as he looked at him, that Theodore bore very
little resemblance to his father, Martin Bransby, who was altogether of
a different and more massive type.

"You don't favour your father much, sir," said Jo blandly.

The young man turned his pale blue eyes upon him with a look studiously
devoid of all expression. "I had the honour of knowing your worthy
father well, some five-and-twenty--or it may be thirty--years ago."

Theodore, continuing to stare at him stonily, said, "Oh, really?" in a
low monotone.

"Yes; I knew him in the way of business. He was a customer of mine when
I was in the bookselling business at Brummagem, as we called it. Your
father was, even at that time, very highly thought of by some of the
leading legal luminaries. We had no assizes at Birmingham, as no doubt
you're aware; but I used to go over to Warwick Assizes pretty reg'larly
in those days, having some dealings there in the stationery line--which
I afterwards gave up altogether, though that isn't to the point--and I
used to frequent a good deal of legal company. Mr. Martin Bransby was
thought a good deal of, among 'em, I can tell you, and was taken a great
deal of notice of by some of the county families--quite the real old
gentry," added Mr. Weatherhead, pursing up his mouth and nodding his
head emphatically, like a man enforcing a statement which his hearers
might reasonably hesitate to accept.

"Oh, how is Mr. Bransby?" asked May.

"Thanks; my father is going on very well indeed. He has driven out
twice, and, in fact, is nearly himself again. He purposes asking some
friends to dine with him next week. Indeed, that furnishes the object of
my visit here. I--Mrs. Bransby--of course, you understand that my
father's long illness has given her a great deal to do."

"Truly it must!" broke in Mrs. Dobbs, thinking at once sympathetically
of the wife and mother threatened with so cruel a bereavement, and now
almost suddenly relieved from overwhelming anxiety. "I'm sure most folks
in Oldchester have been feeling greatly for Mrs. Bransby."

"And so," continued Theodore, addressing himself exclusively to May,
"she has not really been--been able to see as much of you as she would
have liked, Miss Cheffington."

May looked at him in surprise. "Why of course?" said she. "Mrs. Bransby
hasn't been thinking about _me_! How should she?"

"That is the reason--I mean my father's illness, and all the occupations
resulting from it--which has induced Mrs. Bransby to make me her
ambassador on this occasion."

As he spoke, Theodore took a little note from his pocket-book, and
handed it to May. She glanced at it, and exclaimed with open
astonishment, "It's an invitation to dinner! Look, granny!"

Mr. Weatherhead poked forward his head to see. It was, in fact, a formal
card requesting the pleasure of Miss Cheffington's company at dinner on
the following Saturday. Mrs. Dobbs once more put on her spectacles and
read the card.

"I hope you will be disengaged," said Theodore, severely ignoring

"Oh, I couldn't go to a grand dinner-party. It would be ridiculous!"

"May! That's not a gracious fashion of receiving an invitation, anyhow,"
said Mrs. Dobbs, smiling a little.

"It's very kind indeed of Mr. and Mrs. Bransby, but I would much rather
not, please," said May, endeavouring to amend her phrase.

"Oh, that's dreadfully cruel, Miss Cheffington!"

"You don't think I ought to go, do you, granny?"

"That," replied Mrs. Dobbs, "depends on circumstances."

"I assure you," said Theodore, turning round with his most imposing air,
"that it would be quite proper for Miss Cheffington to accept the
invitation. I should certainly not urge her to do so unless that were
the case."

Jo Weatherhead's suspicions as to this young spark's tendency to
impertinence were rather vividly revived by this speech, and his
forehead flushed as dark a red as his nose. But Mrs. Dobbs, looking at
Theodore's fair young face made up into an expression of solemn
importance, smiled a broad smile of motherly toleration, and answered in
a soothing tone--

"No, no; to be sure, you mean to do what's right and proper; only young
folks don't look at everything as has to be considered. But youth has
the best of it in so many ways, it can afford to be not quite so wise as
its elders."

This glimpse of himself, as Mrs. Dobbs saw him, was so totally
unexpected as completely to dumfounder Theodore for a moment. Never,
since he left off round jackets, had he been so addressed: for the
behaviour of our acquaintances towards us in daily life is generally
modified by their idea of what we think of ourselves.

"I--I can assure you," he stammered; and then stopped, at a loss for
words, in most unaccustomed embarrassment.

"There, there, we ain't bound to say yes or no all in a minute," pursued
Mrs. Dobbs. "Any way, we couldn't think of making you postman. That's
all very well for your step-mother, of course; but May must send her
answer in a proper way. Meanwhile, will you stay and have a cup of tea,
Mr. Bransby? It's just our teatime. The tray will be here in a minute."

Theodore had risen as if to go. He now stood hesitating, and looking at
May, who certainly gave no answering look of encouragement. She wanted
him gone, that she might "talk over" the invitation with her

With a pleasant clinking sound, Martha now brought in the tea-tray; and
in another minute had fetched the kettle and placed it on the hob,
where, after a brief interval of wheezing and sputtering, consequent on
its sudden removal from the kitchen fire, it resumed its gurgling sound,
and made itself cheerfully at home.

If Mrs. Dobbs had urged him by another word,--if she had shown by any
look or tone that she thought it would be a condescension in him to
remain, Theodore would have refused. But she began placidly to scoop out
the tea from the caddy, and awaited his reply with unfeigned equanimity.
There was an unacknowledged feeling in his heart that, to go away then
and so, would be to make a flat kind of exit disagreeable to think of.
He would like to leave this obtuse old woman impressed with a sense of
his superiority; and apparently it would still require some little time
before that impression was made.

"Thanks," he said. "If I am not disturbing you----"

"Dear no! How could it disturb me? Martha, bring another cup and

And then Theodore, laying aside his hat and gloves, drew a chair up to
the table and accepted the proffered hospitality.

Having found the method of supercilious reserve rather a failure, the
young man now adopted a different treatment for the purpose of awaking
Mrs. Dobbs, and that objectionably familiar person with the red nose, to
a sense of his social distinction and general merits. He talked--not
volubly, indeed: for that would have been out of his power, even had he
wished it, but he talked--in a succession of short speeches, beginning
for the most part with "I." His efforts were not, however, exclusively
aimed at Mrs. Dobbs and Jo Weatherhead. He watched May a good deal, and
spoke to her of the Dormer-Smiths as though that were a topic between
themselves, from which the profane vulgar (especially profane
ex-booksellers, with red noses) were necessarily excluded. As the others
said very little--with the exception of an occasional question from Jo
Weatherhead--Theodore's talk assumed the form of a monologue spoken to a
dull audience.

He was conscious, as he walked away from Friar's Row, of being a little
surprised at his own conversational efforts, and half-repentant of his
condescension. He had been obliged to take his leave without obtaining
any definite answer to the dinner invitation. But, perhaps, the feeling
uppermost in his mind was irritation at May's perfectly simple
acceptance of her position as Mrs. Dobbs's grand-daughter, and her
perfectly filial attachment to her grandmother. "It is really too bad!
Cheffington ought never to have allowed his daughter to be got hold of
by those people. Mrs. Dormer-Smith cannot have the least idea what sort
of a _milieu_ her niece lives in!" he said to himself.

The worst was that May was so evidently contented! If she had been at
all distressed by her surroundings, Theodore could have better borne to
see her there.


Persons like the Simpsons, who knew Mrs. Dobbs intimately, allowed her
to have a strong judgment, and asserted her to have a still stronger
will. She was far too bent on her own way ever to take advice, they
said. It certainly did not happen that she took theirs. But Mrs. Dobbs's
judgment was stronger than they knew. It was strong enough to show her
on what points other people were likely to know better than she did. She
would undoubtedly have followed Amelia Simpson's counsels as to the best
way of dressing the hair in filmy ringlets--if she had chanced to
require that information.

On the morning after Theodore Bransby's visit to her house, Mrs. Dobbs
put on her bonnet and set off betimes to College Quad. There she had an
interview with Mrs. Hadlow, who, it appeared, was going to the Bransbys'
dinner-party, and willingly promised to take charge of May.

"It seemed to me it wouldn't be the right thing for my grand-daughter to
go alone to a regular formal party," said Mrs. Dobbs. "But, as I don't
pretend to be much of an authority on such matters, I ventured to ask
you to tell me."

"Of course you were quite right, Mrs. Dobbs."

"And you think she had better accept the invitation? She doesn't much
want to do so herself, being shy of going amongst strangers. But, to be
sure, if she may be under your wing, and in company with Miss Hadlow,
that would make a vast difference."

"Oh yes, let her go, Mrs. Dobbs. Sooner or later she will have to go
into the world, and it may be well to begin amongst people she is used
to. Is it true that she is to go to her aunt's house in London very

"Nothing is settled yet. If there had been, you and Canon Hadlow should
have been the first to know it--as it would be only my duty to tell you,
after all your kindness to the child. Nothing is settled. But I am in
favour of her going myself."

"You take the sensible view, Mrs. Dobbs, as I think you always
do--except at election time," added Mrs. Hadlow, smiling.

The elder woman smiled back, with a little resolute setting of the lips,
and begged her best respects to the canon as she took her leave. The
canon was a great favourite with Mrs. Dobbs; and, on his part, their
political struggle in that long past election had inspired him with a
British respect for his adversary's pluck and fair play.

The prospect of going with Mrs. Hadlow and Constance greatly reconciled
May to the idea of the dinner-party. But she did not look forward to it
with anticipations of enjoyment.

"I would much rather dine in the nursery with the children," she said,
unconsciously echoing Mrs. Bransby's suggestion.

Mr. Weatherhead, who was present, took her up on this, and said, "Why,
now, May, you will enjoy being in good society! Mr. Bransby is a very
agreeable man, and used to some of the best company in the county. Mrs.
Bransby, too, is very pleasant and very pretty; a Miss Lutyer she was, a
regular beauty, and belonging to a good old Shropshire family. And young
Theodore----" Jo Weatherhead pausing here, and hesitating for a moment,
May broke in, "Come now, Uncle Jo," she exclaimed, "you can't say that
_he's_ pretty or pleasant!"

"He's not bad-looking," returned Mr. Weatherhead, rather doubtfully.
"Though, to be sure, he isn't so fine a man as his father."

"No; this lad is like his mother's family," said Mrs. Dobbs. "I remember
his grandfather and grandmother very well."

"Do you? Do you, Sarah? Who were they? What sort of people, now, eh?"

"Common sort of people; Rabbitt, their name was. Old Rabbitt kept the
Castlecombe Arms, a roadside inn over towards Gloucester way. He ran a
coach between his own market-town and Gloucester before the branch
railway was made, and they say he did a good deal of money-lending; any
way, he scraped together a goodish bit, and his wife came in for a slice
of luck by a legacy. So altogether their daughter--the first Mrs. Martin
Bransby that was--had a nice fortune of her own. She was sent to a good
school and well educated, and she was a very good sort of girl; but she
had just the same smooth, light hair, and smooth, pale face as this
young Theodore. Martin Bransby had money with his first wife--he's got
beauty with his second."

"O-ho!" exclaimed Jo Weatherhead, eager and attentive. "Rabbitt, eh? I
never knew before who the first Mrs. Bransby was."

"Not a many folks in Oldchester now do know. I happened to know from
being often over at Gloucester, visiting Dobbs's family, when I was a
girl. Many a day we've driven past the Castlecombe Arms in the chaise.
Dear, dear, how far off it all seems, and yet so plain and distinct! I
couldn't help thinking of those old times when the lad was here the
other day; he _has_ such a look of old Rabbitt!"

Thus Mrs. Dobbs, rather dreamily, with her eyes fixed on the opposite
houses of Friar's Row--or as much of them as could be seen above a wire
window-blind--and her fingers mechanically busy with her knitting. But
she saw neither the quaint gables nor the gray stone-walls. Her mind was
transported into the past. She was bowling along a smooth highroad in an
old-fashioned chaise. A girl friend sat in the little seat behind her,
and leaned over her shoulder from time to time to whisper some saucy
joke. Beside her was the girl-friend's brother, young Isaac Dobbs:--A
personable young fellow, who drove the old pony humanely, and seemed in
no hurry to get home to Gloucester. She could feel the moist, sweet air
of a showery summer evening on her cheek, and smell the scent of a
branch of sweetbriar which Isaac had gallantly cut for her from the

Theodore Bransby did not guess that Mrs. Dobbs had treated him with
forbearance and indulgence; still less did he imagine that the
forbearance and indulgence had been due to reminiscences of her
girlhood, wherein his maternal grandfather figured as "Old Rabbit."

The question of May's dress for the dinner-party gave rise to no debate.
Mrs. Dobbs had been brought up in the faith that the proper garb for a
young girl on all festive occasions was white muslin; and in white
muslin May was arrayed accordingly. The delicate fairness of her arms
and neck was not marred by the trying juxtaposition of that dead white
material. It served only to give value to the soft flesh tints, and to
the sunny brownness of her hair. When she had driven off in the roomy
old fly with Mrs. Hadlow and the canon and Constance, who called to
fetch her, Mrs. Dobbs and Mr. Weatherhead agreed that she looked lovely,
and must excite general admiration. But the truth was that May's
appearance did not seem to dazzle anybody. Mrs. Hadlow gave her a
comprehensive and approving glance when she took her cloak off in the
well-lighted hall of Mr. Bransby's house, and said, "Very neat. Very
nice. Couldn't be better, May." Canon Hadlow--a white-haired venerable
figure, with the mildest of blue eyes, and a sensitive mouth--smiled on
her, and nodded in confirmation of his wife's verdict. Constance,
brilliant in amber, with damask roses at her breast and in her hair,
thought her friend looked very school-girlish, and wanting in style. But
she had the good-nature to pay the one compliment which she sincerely
thought was merited, and to say, "Your complexion stands even that
blue-white book muslin, May. I should look absolutely mahogany-coloured
in it!"

May felt somewhat excited and nervous as she followed Mrs. Hadlow up the
softly carpeted stairs to the drawing-room. But she had a wholesome
conviction of her own unimportance on this occasion, and comforted
herself with the hope of being left to look on without more notice from
any one than mere courtesy demanded. Her first impression was one of
eager admiration; for just within the drawing-room door stood Mrs.
Bransby, looking radiantly handsome. May thought her the loveliest
person she had ever beheld; and her dress struck even May's
inexperienced eyes as being supremely elegant. Constance Hadlow's
attire, with its unrelieved breadth of bright colour and its stiff
outline, suddenly appeared as crude as a cheap chromo-lithograph beside
a Venetian masterpiece. Behind his wife, seated in an easy-chair, was
Martin Bransby, a fine, powerfully built man of sixty, with dark eyes
and eyebrows, and a shock of grizzled hair. His naturally ruddy
complexion was pallid from recent illness, and the lines under his eyes
and round his mouth had deepened perceptibly during the last two months.
Theodore stood near his father, stiffly upright, and with a cravat and
shirt-front so faultlessly smooth and white as to look as though they
had been cast in plaster of Paris. Standing with his back to the fire,
was Dr. Hatch:--a familiar figure to May, as to most eyes in Oldchester.
He was a short man, rather too broad for his height; with benevolent
brown eyes, a wide, low forehead, and a wide, firm mouth, singularly
expressive of humour when he smiled. No other guest had arrived when the
Hadlows entered the drawing-room.

After the first greetings, the party fell into little groups: the canon
and Mr. Bransby, who were very old friends, conversing together in a low
voice, whilst Theodore advanced to entertain Mrs. Hadlow with grave
politeness, and Constance made a minute and admiring inspection of Mrs.
Bransby's dress.

May thus found herself a little apart from the rest, and sat down in a
corner half hidden by the protruding mantelpiece of carved oak, which
rose nearly to the ceiling; an elaborate erection of richly carved
pillars, and shelves and niches holding blue-and-white china, in the
most approved style.

"Well, Miss May, and how are you?" asked Dr. Hatch, moving a little
nearer to her, as he stood on the hearthrug.

"Quite well, thank you, Dr. Hatch," said May, looking up with her bright
young smile.

"That's right! But don't mention to any member of the Faculty that I
said so. There's a professional etiquette in these matters; and I
shouldn't like to be quoted as having given any encouragement to rude

"I'll take care," returned May, falling into his humour, and assuming a
grave look. "And I will always bear witness for you that you gave me
some _very_ nasty medicine when I had the measles, Dr. Hatch. I'm sure
the other doctors would approve of that, wouldn't they?"

"Nice child," murmured Dr. Hatch. "Understands a joke. It would be as
much as my practice is worth to talk in that way to some young ladies I
could mention. Well, and so this is your first entrance into the gay and
festive scene, eh?"

"Yes; I have never been to a regular dinner-party before. I am so glad
Mr. Bransby is quite well again," said May, looking across the room at
their host.

"Are you? Well, I believe you are glad. Yes; it is much to be desired
that he should be quite well again." Dr. Hatch's eyes had followed the
girl's, and rested on Martin Bransby with a thoughtful look. Then, after
a minute's pause, he went on: "Now, as you are not quite familiar here,
I'll give you a map of the country, as the French say. Do you know who
that is who has just come in? No? That is Mr. Bragg. He makes millions
and billions of tin-tacks every week. You've heard of him, of course?"
May nodded. "Of course you have. Couldn't live long in Oldchester
without hearing of Mr. Bragg. That handsome, elderly man, now bowing to
Mrs. Bransby, is Major Mitton, of the Engineers. Ever hear of _him_? Ah,
well; I suppose not. He's a very good-natured, kindly gentleman, and an
excellent soldier, who distinguished himself greatly in the Crimea. But
no one will ever hear him say a word about that. What he _is_ proud of
is his reputation as an amateur actor. I have known more reprehensible
vanities. Ah, and here come the Pipers, Miss Polly and Miss Patty; and I
think that makes up our number."

Dr. Hatch did not think of asking May whether she had ever heard of the
Miss Pipers. The fact was she had heard of them very often. They were
Oldchester celebrities quite as much as Mr. Bragg was. But their fame
had not extended beyond Oldchester; whereas Bragg's tin-tacks were daily
hammered into the consciousness of the civilized world.

Miss Mary and Miss Martha Piper (invariably called Polly and Patty) were
old maids between fifty and sixty years old. They were not rich; they
had never been handsome; they were not, even in the opinion of their
most partial friends, brilliantly clever. What, then, was the cause of
the distinction they undoubtedly enjoyed in Oldchester society? The
cause was Miss Polly Piper's musical talent--or at least her reputation
for musical talent, which, for social purposes, was the same thing. Miss
Piper had once upon a time, no matter how many years ago, composed an
oratorio, and offered it to the Committee of a great Musical Festival,
for performance. It was not accepted--for reasons which Miss Piper was
at no loss to perceive. The reader is implored not to conclude rashly
that the oratorio was rejected because it failed to reach the requisite
high standard. Miss Piper knew a great deal better than that. She had
been accustomed to mix with the musical world from an early age. Her
father, an amiable Oldchester clergyman, rector of the church in which
Mr. Sebastian Bach Simpson was organist, was considered the best amateur
violoncello player in the Midland Counties. When the great music meeting
brought vocal and instrumental artists to Oldchester, the Reverend
Reuben Piper's house was always open to several of them; and Miss Polly
had poured out tea for more than one great English tenor, great German
basso, and great Scandinavian soprano. So that, as she often said, she
was clearly quite behind the scenes of the artistic world, and
thoroughly understood its intrigues, its ambitions, and its jealousies.
Thus she was less mortified and discouraged by the rejection of her
oratorio than she would have been had she supposed it due to honest
disapproval. The work, which was entitled "Esther," was played and sung,
however;--not indeed by the great English tenor, German basso, and
Scandinavian soprano, but by very competent performers. It was performed
in the large room in Oldchester, used for concerts and lectures, and
called Mercers' Hall. Admission was by invitation, and the hall was
quite full, which, as Miss Patty triumphantly observed, was a very
gratifying tribute on the part of the town and county. Miss Polly did
not conduct her own music. Ladies had not yet wielded the conductor's
_bâton_ in those days. But she sat in a front row, with her father on
one side of her and her sister Patty on the other, and bowed her
acknowledgments to the executants at the end of each piece.

It was a great day for the Piper family, and that one solitary fact (for
the oratorio was never repeated) flavoured the rest of their lives with
an odour of artistic glory, as one Tonquin bean will perfume a whole
chest full of miscellaneous articles. Truly, the triumph was not cheap.
The rehearsals and the performance had to be paid for, and it was said
at the time that the Reverend Reuben had been obliged to sell some
excellent Canal Shares in order to meet the expenses, and had thereby
diminished his income by so many pounds sterling for evermore. But at
least the expenditure purchased a great deal of happiness; and that is
more than can be said of most investments which the world would consider
wiser. From that day forth, Miss Polly held the position of a musical
authority in certain circles. Long after a younger generation had grown
up, to whom that famous performance of "Esther" was as vague an
historical fact as the Heptarchy, people continued to speak of Miss
Polly Piper as a successful composer. The lives of the two sisters were
shaped by this tradition. They went every year to London for a month
during the season; and, for a longer or shorter time, to some
Continental city,--Leipsic, Frankfort, or Brussels: once, even, as far
as Vienna,--whence they came back bringing with them the latest _dicta_
in musical fashions, just as Mrs. Clarkson, the chief Oldchester
milliner, announced every year her return from Paris with a large and
varied assortment of bonnets in the newest styles. It has been written
that "_they_" brought back with them the newest _dicta_ on musical
matters; but it must not be supposed that Miss Patty set up to interpret
the law on such points. She was, as to things musical, merely her
sister's echo and mouthpiece. But sincerity, that best salt for all
human communications, preserved Miss Patty's subservience from any taint
of humbug. However extravagant might be her estimate of Polly's artistic
gifts and attainments, you could not doubt that it was genuine.

These circumstances were, broadly speaking, known to every one present.
But May was acquainted with another aspect of the legend of Miss Piper's
oratorio: a seamy side which the poor good lady did not even suspect.
That famous oratorio had been a fertile source of mirth at the time to
all the performers engaged in it. There were all sorts of stories
current as to the amazing things Miss Piper did with her
instrumentation: the impossible efforts she expected from the "wind,"
and the anomalous sounds she elicited from the "wood." These were
retailed with much gusto by Jo Weatherhead, who, in virtue of a high
nasal voice, and a power (common enough in those parts) of reading music
at sight, had sung with the tenors through many a Festival chorus, and
known many professional musicians during his sojourn in Birmingham. One
favourite anecdote was of a trombone player who at rehearsal, in the
very climax and stress of the overture, when he was to have come in with
a powerful effect, stretched out his arm at full length, and produced
the most hideous and unearthly noise ever heard; and who, on being
rebuked by the conductor, handed up his part for inspection, observing,
amid the unrestrained laughter of the band, that that was the nearest
_he_ could come to the note Miss Piper had written for him, which was
some half octave below the usual compass of his instrument. Of this, and
many another similar story, Miss Piper and Miss Piper's friends knew
nothing. But May, remembering them, looked at the two old ladies as they
marched into the room with an interest not so wholly reverential as
might have been wished.

They were both short, fat, snub-nosed little women, with wide smiling
mouths, and double chins. Miss Patty was rather shorter, rather fatter,
and rather more snub-nosed than her gifted sister. But the chief
difference between the two, which struck one at first sight, was that
whereas Miss Piper's own grey locks were disposed in a thick kind of
curl, like a plethoric sausage, on each side of her face, Miss Patty
wore a pale, gingerbread-coloured wig. Why, having all the wigmaker's
stores to choose from, she should have chosen just that particular hue,
May secretly wondered as she looked at her. But so it was. And if she
had worn a blue wig, it could scarcely have been more innocent of any
attempt to deceive the beholder. Both ladies wore good substantial silk
gowns, and little lace caps with artificial flowers in them. But the
remarkable feature in their attire was the extraordinary number of
chains, beads, and bracelets with which they had festooned themselves.
And, moreover, these were of a severely mineralogical character. Round
Miss Patty's fat, deeply-creased throat, May counted three
necklaces:--One of coral, one of cornelian, and the third a long string
of grey pebble beads which dangled nearly to her waist. Miss Polly
wore--besides a variety of other nondescript adornments which rattled
and jingled as she moved--a set of ornaments made apparently of red
marble, cut into polygonal fragments of irregular length. Their rings
too, which were numerous, seemed to be composed for the most part of
building materials; and each sister wore a mosaic brooch which looked,
May thought, like a bit out of the tesselated pavement of the smart new
Corn Exchange in the High Street.

It did not take that young lady's quick perception long to make all the
foregoing observations. Indeed, she had completed them within the minute
and a half which elapsed between the Miss Pipers' arrival, and the
announcement of dinner.


The order of the procession to the dining-room had been pre-arranged not
without some difficulty. Mrs. Bransby had pointed out to Theodore that
his whim of inviting Miss Cheffington must cause a solecism somewhere in
marshalling their guests.

"Constance will, of course, expect you to take her," said Mrs. Bransby,
"and then what is to be done with little Miss Cheffington? I really
think I had better invite two more people, and get some young man to
take her in to dinner. Perhaps Mr. Rivers would come."

But Theodore utterly opposed this suggestion, and said that the simple
and obvious course was for him to give his arm to Miss Cheffington, and
for Dr. Hatch to escort Miss Hadlow.

"Oh, well, if you don't mind," said Mrs. Bransby, looking a little
surprised. And so it was settled. But at the last moment, in arranging
her table and disposing the cards with the guest's name before each
cover, Mrs. Bransby found that it would be necessary, for the sake of
symmetrically alternating a lady and gentleman, to divide one couple,
and place them on opposite sides of the table. She decided that Dr.
Hatch and Miss Hadlow would endure this sort of divorce with equanimity;
and thus it came to pass that when Theodore took his seat at table he
found himself in the enviable and unexpected position of sitting between
the two young ladies of the party--Constance and May.

Mr. Bransby led out Mrs. Hadlow, the hostess bringing up the rear with
Canon Hadlow. Major Mitton had the honour of escorting Miss Piper, while
Miss Patty fell to Mr. Bragg. There was, as is usual on such occasions,
very little conversation while the soup and fish were being eaten. Miss
Piper, indeed, who was constitutionally loquacious, talked all the while
to Major Mitton, though in a comparatively low tone of voice; but the
rest of the company devoted themselves mainly to their plates; or at
least said only a fragmentary sentence now and then. But by degrees the
desultory talk swelled into a continuous murmur, across which bursts of
laughter were wafted at intervals. May had the satisfaction she had
hoped for, of being allowed to be quiet; for her neighbour on the one
hand was the canon, who contented himself with smiling on her silently,
whilst Theodore was greatly occupied by _his_ neighbour, Miss Hadlow.
Being seated between him and Major Mitton, she monopolized the younger
gentleman's attention with the undoubting conviction that he enjoyed
being monopolized.

Mr. Bragg, a heavy, melancholy-looking man, found Miss Patty Piper a
congenial companion on a topic which interested him a good
deal--cookery. Not that he was a _gastronome_. He had a grand French
cook; but he confided to Miss Patty that he never tasted anything
nowadays which he relished so much as he had relished a certain
beef-steak pudding that his deceased "missis" used to make for him
thirty years ago, and better. Miss Patty had, as it happened, some
peculiar and special views as to the composition of a beef-steak
pudding; and Mr. Bragg--borne backwards by the tide of memory to those
distant days when his missis and he lodged in one room, and before he
had learned the secret of transmuting tin-tacks into luxury and French
cooks--enjoyed his reminiscences in a slow, sad, ruminating way.

Presently, when the dessert was on the table, there came a little lull
in the general conversation, and the husky contralto voice of Miss Piper
was heard saying, "My dear Major, I tell you it was the same woman. You
say you heard her at Malta fifteen years ago. Very well. That's no
reason; for she might have been only sixteen or seventeen then. These
Italians are so precocious."

"More like six or seven-and-twenty, Miss Piper. Bless you, she
had long outgrown short frocks and pinafores in those days.
Fourteen--fifteen--yes; it must be fully fifteen years ago. It was the
season that we got up the 'Honeymoon' for the garrison theatricals. I
played the Duke. It has been one of my best parts ever since. And there
was a scratch company of Italian opera-singers doing wretched business.
We got up a subscription for them, poor things. But fancy 'La Bianca'
still singing Rosina in the 'Barber!'"

"She looked charming, I can tell you. I don't say that her voice may not
be a little worn in the upper notes----"

"I wonder there's a rag of it left," put in the Major.

"Yes; a little worn. But she knows how to sing. If one must listen to
such trivial, florid music, that's the only way to sing it."

"Ah, there we shan't agree, Miss Piper! No, no; I always stand up for
Rossini. I don't pretend to be a great swell at music, but I have an
ear, and I like a toon. Give me a toon that I can remember and whistle,
and I'll make you a present of Wagner and the other fellows, all
howlings and growlings."

"Major, Major," called out Dr. Hatch from the opposite side of the
table, "this is terribly obsolete doctrine! We shall have you confessing
next that you like sugar in your tea, and prefer a rose to a sunflower!"

Mr. Bransby, wishing to avert any unpleasant shock of opinions on such
high themes, here interposed. He turned the conversation back to the
Italian singer, who could be abused without ruffling anybody's _amour

"But who is this _prima donna_ you're talking of, Major?" said he.

Miss Piper struck in before Major Mitton could reply. "It's a certain
Moretti:--Bianca Moretti. We heard her last summer in a minor theatre at
Brussels, with a strolling Italian Opera Company. Don't you remember,

"Moretti?" said Miss Patty, instantly breaking off in the middle of a
sentence addressed to Mr. Bragg, at the sound of her sister's voice.

"The woman with the fine eyes? Oh yes. I remember her particularly,
because of the awful scandal there was afterwards about her and that

Several heads at the table were now turned towards Miss Patty, who shook
her ginger-bread-coloured wig with a knowing air.

"I was just telling the Major," said Miss Piper. "We might never have
known of it, if it had not been for the Italian Consul, who was a friend
of ours. It was quite a sensation! A bit out of a French novel, eh?--Oh
yes; quite ready, Mrs. Bransby."

The last words had reference to a telegraphic signal from the hostess,
who immediately rose. Mrs. Hadlow had been looking across at her rather
uneasily during the last minute or so. The fact was that the Miss Pipers
were reputed in Oldchester to have a somewhat unconsidered and free way
of talking. Some persons attributed this to their annual visit to the
Continent: others thought it connected rather with Miss Piper's artistic
experiences, which in some mysterious way were supposed to have had a
tendency to make her "a little masculine." The implication would seem to
be that to be "masculine" involves a lax government of the tongue. But
as no Oldchester gentleman was ever known to protest against this
imputation, it is not necessary to examine it here more particularly.
"When she began to talk about a French novel, my dear, there was no
knowing what she might say next," said Mrs. Hadlow afterwards to Mrs.
Bransby. So the latter hurried the departure of the ladies as we have

When they rose to go away, May, of course, went out last; Theodore
holding the door open with his air of superior politeness.

"Who is that pretty little girl? I don't think I know her face," said
Major Mitton, when the young man had resumed his seat, and the chairs
were drawn closer together.

"That is Miss Miranda Cheffington."

"Cheffington? I knew a Cheffington once--a terrible black sheep. Very
likely it's not the same family, though. What Cheffingtons does this
young lady belong to?"

"The family of Viscount Castlecombe."

"The man I knew was a nephew of old Castlecombe. Gus Cheffington his
name was, I remember now."

Theodore moved a little uneasily on his seat, and, after a moment's
reflection, said gravely, "Captain Augustus Cheffington is this young
lady's father; he is a friend of mine. Miss Cheffington is going to town
to be presented next season by her aunt, Mrs. Dormer-Smith. She is a
very thoroughbred woman. Do you know the Dormer-Smiths, Major Mitton?
They are in the best set."

The Major did not know the Dormer-Smiths, and had no interest in
pursuing the subject. He turned to join in the conversation going on
between Mr. Bransby, the canon, and Dr. Hatch, and then Theodore slipped
out of his place and went to sit nearer to Mr. Bragg, who was looking a
little solitary. Mr. Bragg had a great many good qualities, but he was
usually considered to be heavy in hand from a conversational point of
view. Theodore, however, did not find him dull. He talked to Mr. Bragg
with an agreeable sense of making an excellent figure in the eyes of
that millionaire. Theodore had a strong memory, considerable powers of
application, and had read a great many solid books. He favoured Mr.
Bragg now with a speech on the subject of the currency, about which he
had read all the most modern theories up to date. The currency, he felt,
must be a peculiarly interesting subject to a man who sold millions and
billions of tin-tacks in all the markets of the world. Mr. Bragg drank
his wine, keeping his eyes on the table, and listened with silent
attention. Theodore, warmed by a mental vision of himself speaking in a
breathless House of Commons, rose to parliamentary heights of eloquence.
He had already addressed Mr. Bragg as "Sir," and had sternly inquired
what he supposed would be the consequence if the present movement in
favour of bimetallism should be still further developed in the United
States, when he was interrupted by his father's voice saying--

"Come, shall we ask Mrs. Bransby for a cup of coffee?"

Mr. Bragg lifted his eyes and rose from his chair, and Theodore and he
moved towards the door side by side.

"It ought to be boiled in a basin, oughtn't it?" said Mr. Bragg
thoughtfully. "Ah, no; it wasn't you. I remember now, it was Miss Patty
Piper who was mentioning--I'll ask her again when we get upstairs."

Meanwhile the elder ladies had been deep in the discussion of Miss
Piper's interrupted story. Constance and May had got close together near
the pianoforte, and Mrs. Bransby asked Constance to play something "soft
and pretty." Constance opened the instrument and ran her fingers over
the keys in a desultory manner, playing scraps of waltzes or whatever
came into her head, and continuing her chat with May to that running
accompaniment. Mrs. Bransby, Mrs. Hadlow, and the Miss Pipers grouped
themselves near the fireplace at the other end of the room, and carried
on their talk also under cover of the music.

"It was odd enough that on my happening to mention the name of the
Moretti to Major Mitton he should remember her at Malta so many years
ago," began Miss Piper.

"Yes; and you see now that I was right, and she can't be so young as you
thought her, Polly," said her sister.

"Lord, what does that matter? I only said she looked young, and so she
did. And besides, I dare say the Major exaggerates her age. When a woman
becomes a celebrity, or comes before the public in any way, her age is
sure to be exaggerated. Many people who only know me through my works
suppose me to be eighty, I dare say. They never imagine a woman so young
as I was at the time composing a serious work like 'Esther.'"

"Is she handsome, this Signora Moretti?" asked Mrs. Bransby, who was
always interested in, and attracted by, beauty.

"Very handsome--in that Italian style. Great black eyes, and black
eyebrows, and a fine profile. Too thin, though. But, oh yes; extremely
handsome. And a very clever singer."

"And a very worthless hussey," added Miss Patty severely.

"What a pity!" exclaimed Mrs. Hadlow. "It does seem so sad when one
finds great gifts, like talent and beauty, without goodness!"

"Well, I don't know that she was so very bad either," replied Miss

"Goodness, Polly! How can you talk so!" cried her sister. "Why, she was
living openly with that Englishman!"

"Some people said she was married to him, you know, Patty."

"Stuff and nonsense!" returned Miss Patty, who, whilst undoubtedly
accepting her sister's views about music, tenaciously reserved the right
of private judgment as to the character of its professors, and was,
moreover, chronically incredulous of the virtue of foreigners in
general. "No sensible person could believe that. And as to her 'not
being so very bad'--what do you make of that nice story of the gambling,
and the police, and all the rest of it?"

"The police!" echoed Mrs. Hadlow, in a low shocked voice.

"What was that?" asked Mrs. Bransby.

"Now, just let me tell it, Patty," said the elder sister. "If I am wrong
you can correct me afterwards. But I believe I know more about it than
you do. Well, there was an Italian Opera Company singing in a minor
theatre of Brussels when we were there, and doing very well; for the
_prima donna_, Bianca Moretti, was a great favourite. They had
previously been making a tour through Belgium. One night we were in the
theatre with some friends, expecting to hear her for the second time in
the 'Barbiere,' when, some time after the curtain ought to have risen, a
man came on to the stage, and announced that the Signora Moretti had
been suddenly taken ill, and there would be no performance. But the next
day we learned that the story of the Moretti's illness was only an
excuse--or, at least, that if she was ill, it was only from the nervous
shock of having her house searched by the police."

"I think that was quite enough to make her ill! But why did they search
her house?" said Mrs. Bransby.

"Well, you see, it was in this way," continued Miss Piper, lowering her
voice, and drawing a little nearer to her hostess, while Mrs. Hadlow
cast a glance over her shoulder to assure herself that the girls were
occupied with their own conversation. "It seems that a set of men were
in the habit of meeting every night after the opera in her apartment to
play cards. There was the Englishman, and a young Russian belonging to a
grand family, and a Servian, or a Roumanian, or a Bulgarian, or
something," said Miss Piper, whose ideas as to the national distinctions
between the younger members of the European family were decidedly vague,
"and others besides. Now this man, the--the Bulgarian, we may as well
call him, was a thorough blackleg, and bore the worst of characters. He
led on the Russian to play for very high stakes, and won large sums from
him. Well, to make a long story short, one night there was a terrible
scene. The Russian accused the other man of cheating. They came to
blows, I believe, and there was a regular _esclandre_. And next day the
Bulgarian was missing. He had got away with a good deal of plunder."

"How shocking and disgraceful!" exclaimed Mrs. Hadlow, in whom this
gossip excited far more disgust than interest; and who thought Polly
Piper showed very bad taste in selecting such a topic.

"But why did the police search the Italian singer's apartment? It was
not _her_ fault, was it?" asked Mrs. Bransby.

"Why, you see, the gambling had gone on in her rooms. And the Bulgarian
turning out to be connected with a regular gang of swindlers, the search
was made for any letters or papers of his that might be there. We were
told that the Russian ambassador had something to say to it; for the
young Russian was connected with _very_ high people indeed. Nothing was
found, however."

"Nothing was found that could be laid hold of," put in Miss Patty. "But
there could be no question what sort of a person that woman was after
all that!"

"Well, really, Patty," said her sister, "it seems to me that the
Englishman was a deal more to blame. Nobody pretended that the Moretti
wanted to gamble for her own amusement, or profit either! It was the
ruin of her in Brussels; at any rate for that season. There was a party
made up to hiss her whenever she appeared; and there were disturbances
in the theatre; and, in short, the performances had to cease. I was
sorry for her."

"Upon my word, Polly, I don't see why you should be," cried Miss Patty.
"She deserved all she got. I have no patience with bestowing pity and
sympathy on such creatures. If she had been an ugly washerwoman, instead
of a painted opera-singer, nobody would have had a soft word for her."

"Oh, surely there are plenty of people who would be gentle to an ugly
washerwoman, if she needed gentleness," put in Mrs. Hadlow. "And you
know, my dear Miss Patty, we are taught to pity all those who stray from
the right path."

"As to that, I hope I can pity error as well as my neighbours--in a
_religious_ sense," returned Miss Patty with some sharpness. "But this
is different. I was speaking as a member of society."

"And the Englishman--was he implicated?" asked Mrs. Bransby, rather from
a desire to divert the conversation from a direction fraught with danger
to the general harmony than from any special curiosity on the subject.

"No; not exactly implicated," replied Miss Piper. "That is to say, he
was not suspected of any unfair play, or anything of that sort; but it
was considered disgraceful for him to have been mixed up in these
gambling transactions; especially as he was a much older man than the
others. And then----"

"And then," continued Miss Patty, "it was not considered exactly
creditable, I believe--although perhaps Polly thinks it was; I'm sure I
don't know,--it wasn't, most people would say, exactly creditable for a
man of family, an English _gentleman_, to be strolling about the world
with a parcel of foreign singers. And he had been doing just that. We
heard of his being at Antwerp, and Ghent, and Ostend with them."

"A man of family, do you say? A really well-born man?" said Mrs. Hadlow,
sitting suddenly very upright in the energy of her feelings. "How
shocking! That really seems to be the worst of all!"

"Well, I suppose we must pity _his_ errors," observed Miss Patty, with
some causticity. But Mrs. Hadlow was insensible to the sarcasm; or, at
all events, her sense of it was swallowed up by a stronger feeling. "I
do think it's a public misfortune," she went on, "when a person on whom
Providence has bestowed gentle birth derogates from his rank and forgets
his duties. It grieves me."

"You must suffer a good deal in these days, I'm afraid," said Miss
Patty, grimly.

"Not on that account," replied Mrs. Hadlow. "No; truly not. There may be
exceptions--I won't deny that there are some. But, on the whole, I
thoroughly believe that _bon sang ne peut mentir_."

"Well, perhaps Mr. Cheffington's blood is not so good as he says it is;
that's all," said Miss Patty, with a short laugh.

Mrs. Hadlow and Mrs. Bransby uttered a simultaneous exclamation of
amazement; and then the former said in a breathless whisper, "Hush,
hush, my dear, for mercy's sake! Did you say Cheffington? That
is--Cheffington is the name of that girl! Don't turn your head."

"Oh, it can't be the same!" said Mrs. Bransby, nervously.

"No, no; I dare say not. But the name--it must, I fear, be a member of
the family," answered Mrs. Hadlow.

"How lucky it wasn't mentioned in her hearing," said Miss Piper. "Poor
little thing, I wouldn't for the world----! She's very pretty and
bright-looking. I don't think I ever saw her before."

Mrs. Bransby hurriedly explained how May came to be there, and as much
of her story as she was acquainted with--which was, in truth, very
little. The Miss Pipers listened eagerly, and Mrs. Hadlow sat by with a
cloud of anxious perplexity on her usually beaming face. They all
admitted that of course the person spoken of _might_ be no relation of
May's at all; but it was evident that no one believed that hypothesis.
To the Miss Pipers the whole matter was simply a relishing morsel of
gossip. They dwelt with _gusto_ on "the extraordinary coincidence" of
Miss Cheffington's being there just that very evening, and "the singular
circumstance" that Major Mitton should remember Bianca Moretti, and
enjoyed it all very much. Mrs. Bransby's prevalent feeling was one of
annoyance, and resentment against Theodore, who had brought this girl
into the house. Mrs. Bransby detested a "fuss" of any sort; and shrank,
with a sort of amiable indolence, from the conflict of provincial feuds
and the excitement of provincial gossip. And now, she reflected, this
story would be spread all over Oldchester, and she would be "worried to
death" by questions on a subject about which she knew very little, and
cared less.

"We won't say another word about this horrid story," she said, looking
appealingly at the Miss Pipers. "Silence is the only thing under the
circumstances. Don't you think so? It would be so dreadful if the girl
should overhear anything, and make a scene; wouldn't it?"

Miss Polly and Miss Patty readily promised to be most guardedly
silent--for that evening, and so long as May should be present;
declaring quite sincerely that they would not for the world risk hurting
the poor child's feelings. And then Mrs. Bransby began to flatter
herself that the subject was done with, so far as she was concerned. But
Fate had decided otherwise.

When the gentlemen came into the drawing-room, Miss Hadlow was playing
one of her most brilliant pieces, to which Miss Polly Piper was
listening with an air of responsible attention, and gently nodding her
head from time to time in an encouraging manner; Miss Patty Piper and
May were looking over a large album full of photographs together; while
Mrs. Bransby was narrating to Mrs. Hadlow, Bobby's latest witticisms,
and Billy's extraordinary progress in the art of spelling:--these
juvenile prodigies being her two younger children.

Constance did not interrupt her performance on the entrance of the
gentlemen, and Major Mitton went to stand beside the pianoforte,
gallantly turning over the music leaves at the wrong moment, with the
best intentions. Canon Hadlow sat down near Miss Piper; the host with
Dr. Hatch crossed the room to speak to Mrs. Hadlow, and Mr. Bragg and
Theodore approached the table, at which Miss Patty and May Cheffington
were seated. Mr. Bragg drew up a chair close to Miss Patty at once, and
began to talk with her in a low voice, and with more appearance of
animation than his manner usually displayed. Theodore, as he observed
this, remembered with satisfaction that his friend Captain Cheffington
had formerly pronounced old Bragg to be a d----d snob. A man must indeed
be on a low level who could prefer Miss Patty Piper's culinary
conversation to a luminous exposition of the currency question as set
forth by Mr. Theodore Bransby. He bent over May, who was still turning
the leaves of the photograph book, and said, "I'm afraid you are not
having a very amusing evening, Miss Cheffington."

"Oh yes, thank you," returned May, making the queerest little grimace in
her effort not to yawn. "I am very fond of looking at photographs."

"I don't suppose there are many portraits there that you would
recognize. A little out of your set," said Theodore. "In fact, I don't
know many of them myself, I have been so much away. By the way, have you
any commands for your people in town? I go up the day after to-morrow."

"Shall you see Aunt Pauline?"

"Certainly. I suppose Lord Castlecombe is not likely to be in town at
this season?" went on Theodore, raising his tone a little so as to be
heard by the others. Constance's playing had now come to an end, and
there was a general lowering of voices, occasioned by the cessation of
that pianoforte accompaniment.

"I don't know, I'm sure. I don't know where he lives," answered May

"Ahem! He is at this season, in all probability, at Combe Park, his
place in Gloucestershire."

May had never heard of her great-uncle's place in Gloucestershire; but
now, when Theodore said the words, her thought flashed through a chain
of associations to Mrs. Dobbs's mention of the Castlecombe Arms on the
Gloucester Road, kept by "Old Rabbitt," and she blushed as though she
had done something to be ashamed of.

"The last time I had the pleasure of seeing your father, he was talking
to me about Combe Park," continued Theodore, with a complacent sense of
superiority to the rest of the company in these manifestations of
familiar intercourse with members of the Castlecombe family. Lord
Castlecombe was a very important personage in those parts. As May did
not speak, Theodore went on: "Grand old place, Combe Park, isn't it?"

"Is it?" returned May absently. She was looking with great interest at
the portrait of a superb lace dress, surmounted by a distorted image of
Mrs. Bransby's head and face, which were quite out of focus. But the
lace flounces had "come out splendidly," as the photographer remarked.
And, if the truth must be told, May admired them greatly.

"Is it?" repeated Theodore, with a little smile. "But you have lived so
long abroad, that you are quite a stranger to all these ancestral
glories. I hope, however, that you have not the same preference for the
Continent that your father has?"

"Oh, I'm sure I should always love England best. But I don't know the
most beautiful parts of the Continent--Switzerland or Italy. We were
always in Belgium, and Belgium isn't beautiful. At least I don't
remember any beautiful country."

Thus May, with perfect simplicity, still turning over the photographs,
and all unconscious that the Miss Pipers had simultaneously interrupted
their own conversation, and were staring at her.

"No; Belgium is not beautiful--except architecturally," replied
Theodore. "But there is very nice society in Brussels, and a pleasant
Court, I believe. No doubt that's one reason why Captain Cheffington
likes it."

"Is Brussels your home, then? Do you live there?" asked Miss Patty,
leaning eagerly forward.

May looked up, and perceived all at once that every one was gazing at
her. The Miss Pipers' sudden attention to what she was saying had
attracted the attention of the others--as one may collect a crowd in the
street by fixedly regarding the most familiar object. In her
inexperience she feared she had committed some breach of the etiquette
proper to be observed at a "grown-up dinner party." Perhaps she ought
not to have devoted so much attention to the photographs! She closed the
book hurriedly as she answered--

"No, _I_ don't live in Brussels, but papa does--at least, generally."

Mrs. Bransby rose from her chair, and came rather quickly across the
room. "My dear," she said, "I want to present our old friend, Major
Mitton, to you;" and taking May by the arm, she led her away towards the

Theodore observed this proceeding with a cool smile, and sense of inward
triumph. Mrs. Bransby began to understand, then, what a very highly
connected young lady this was, and was endeavouring, although a little
late, to show her proper attention. Another time Mrs. Bransby would
receive _his_ introduction and recommendation with more respect. In the
same way, he felt gratification in the eager questions with which Miss
Patty plied him. Miss Patty left the millionaire Mr. Bragg in the lurch,
and began to catechize Theodore on the subject of the Cheffington

That fastidious young gentleman said within himself that the snobbery of
these Oldchester people was really too absurd; and mentally resolved to
cut a great many of them, as he gained a firmer footing in the best
London circles. Nevertheless he did not check Miss Patty's inquiries. On
the contrary, he condescendingly gave her a great deal of information
about his friends the Dormer-Smiths, the late lamented Dowager, the
present Viscount Castlecombe, his two sons, the Honourable George and
the Honourable Lucius, as well as some details respecting the more
distant branch of the Cheffington family, who had intermarried with the
Scotch Clishmaclavers, and were thus, not remotely, connected with the
great ducal house of M'Brose.

This was all very well; but Miss Patty was far more interested in
getting some information about Captain Cheffington which would identify
him with the hero of the Brussels story, than of following the genealogy
of the noble head of the family into its remotest ramifications. And,
notwithstanding that Theodore was much more reticent about the Captain,
she did manage to find out that the latter had lived abroad for many
years--chiefly in Belgium--and that his pecuniary circumstances were not

"I'm quite convinced it's the same man, Polly," she said afterwards to
her sister. And, indeed, all the inquiries they made in Oldchester
confirmed this idea. The Simpsons gave anything but a good character of
May's absentee parent. And subsequent conversation with Major Mitton
elicited the fact that Augustus Cheffington had been looked upon as a
"black sheep" even by not very fastidious or strait-laced circles many
years ago. The story of the Brussels scandal was not long in reaching
the ears of every one in Oldchester who had any knowledge, even by
hearsay, of the parties concerned.

Theodore Bransby, who left Oldchester on the Monday following the
dinner-party, and spent the intervening Sunday at home, was one of the
few in the above-named category who did not hear of it.


The correspondence between Mrs. Dobbs and Mrs. Dormer-Smith on the
subject of May's removal to London was not voluminous. It consisted of
three letters: number one, written by Mrs. Dobbs; number two, written by
Mrs. Dormer-Smith; and number three, Mrs. Dobbs's reply to that. Mrs.
Dobbs always went straight to the point, both with tongue and pen; and
Mrs. Dormer-Smith, although by no means so forcibly direct in her
dealings, had a dislike to letter-writing, which caused her to put her
meaning tolerably clearly on this occasion, so as to avoid the necessity
of writing again.

Mrs. Dobbs had proposed that May should become an inmate of her aunt's
house in London--at all events for a time--in consideration of an annual
sum to be paid for her board and dress. The said sum was to be
guaranteed by Mrs. Dobbs, and was so ample as to make Pauline say
plaintively to her husband, "Just fancy, Frederick, how deplorably
imprudent Augustus has been in offending and neglecting this old woman
as he has done! You see she has plenty of money. I had no idea what her
means were; but it is clear that, for a person in her rank of life, she
may be called rich. And Augustus might have obtained solid pecuniary
assistance from her, I've no doubt, if he had played his cards with
ordinary prudence. But there never was any one so reckless of his own
interests as Augustus--beginning with that unfortunate marriage."

Whereunto Mr. Frederick Dormer-Smith thus made reply, "I don't know what
you may call 'solid pecuniary assistance,' but it seems to me pretty
solid to keep Augustus's daughter, and clothe her, and pay for her
schooling, for four years and upwards. As to Augustus's disregard of his
own interests, it does not at any rate lie in the direction of
refraining from borrowing money, or remembering to pay it back; that
much I can vouch for."

Pauline put a corner of her handkerchief to her eyes. "Oh, Frederick,"
she said, "it pains me to hear you speak so harshly. Remember, Augustus
is my only brother."

"Mercifully! By George, if there was another of 'em I don't know what
_would_ become of us."

Mrs. Dormer-Smith declined to consider this hypothesis, but contented
herself with saying that she should like to do something for poor
Augustus's girl, and asking her husband if he didn't think they could
manage to receive her. Mr. Dormer-Smith thought they could on the terms
proposed, which, he frankly said, were handsome. And Pauline added

"Yes; and it is satisfactory that she offers to keep the arrangement
strictly secret. It would scarcely do to let it be known that Mrs. Dobbs
pays for May. It would be _inconvenable_. People would ask all sorts of
questions. It would put the girl herself in an awkward position.
'Grandmother!' people would say. 'What grandmother?' and the whole story
of that wretched marriage would be raked up again. But, on the
conditions proposed, I do think, Frederick, it could do no harm to
receive May. I am glad you consent. It will be a comfort to me to feel
that I am doing something for poor Augustus's girl, and acting as mamma
would have wished."

So a favourable reply was dispatched to Mrs. Dobbs's application. Mrs.
Dormer-Smith suggested that May should come to town a little before the
beginning of the season, so as to give time for preparing her
wardrobe--a task to which her aunt looked forward with _dilettante_
relish. And in answer to that, Mrs. Dobbs wrote the third and last
letter of the series, assenting to the date proposed for May's arrival,
and entering into a few minor details.

She had also, meanwhile, received a letter from Captain Cheffington,
elicited, after a long delay, by three successive urgent appeals for an
immediate answer. It was a scrawl in a hasty, sprawling hand, and ran

     "Brussels, Nov. 1, 18--.


     "I think it would be very desirable for Miranda to be presented
     by her aunt, if she is to be presented at all, and to be
     brought out properly. I have no doubt that my sister will
     introduce her in the best possible way. Since you seem to press
     for my consent, you have it herewith, although I hardly feel
     that I can have much voice in the matter, being separated, as I
     have been for years, from my country, my family, and my only
     surviving child. I am a mere exile. It is not a brilliant
     existence for a man born and brought up as I have been.
     However, I must make the best of it.

    "Yours always,

    "A. C."

This was sufficient for Mrs. Dobbs. She had made a point of obtaining
Augustus's authority for his daughter's removal to town; not because she
relied on his judgment, but because she knew him well enough to fear
some trick, or sudden turn of feigned indignation, if, from any motive
of his own, he thought fit to disapprove the step. As to the tone of his
reply, that neither troubled nor surprised her. But Mr. Weatherhead was
moved to great wrath by it. Mrs. Dobbs had tossed the note to him one
day, saying--

"There; there's my son-in-law's consent to May's going to town, in black
and white. That's a document."

Mr. Weatherhead eagerly pounced on it. "What a disgusting production!"
he exclaimed, looking up over the rim of the double eyeglass which he
had set astride his nose to read the note.

"Is it?" returned Mrs. Dobbs carelessly.

"Is it? Why, Sarah, you surprise me, taking it in that cool way. It is
the most thankless, unfeeling, selfish production I ever read in my

"Oh, is that all? Well, but that's just Augustus Cheffington. We know
what _he_ is at this time of day, Jo Weatherhead. It 'ud be a deal
stranger if he wrote thankfully, and feelingly, and unselfishly."

But Mr. Weatherhead refused to dismiss the matter thus easily. He
belonged to that numerous category of persons who, having established
and proclaimed a conviction, appear to be immensely astonished at each
confirmation of it. He had years ago pronounced Augustus Cheffington to
be a heartless scoundrel. Nevertheless he was shocked and amazed
whenever Augustus Cheffington did anything to corroborate that opinion.

The letter from Mrs. Dormer-Smith was not shown to him. Mrs. Dobbs meant
to keep the amount she was to pay for May a secret even from her
faithful and trusted friend Jo. He might guess what he pleased, but she
would not tell him. The means, too, by which she meant to raise the
money would not, she knew, meet with his approval. And, since she had
resolved to use those means, she thought it best to avoid vain
discussion beforehand, and therefore said nothing about them.

Accident, however, revealed a part of the secret in this way:

Mr. Weatherhead, calling one afternoon at Laurel Villa to see Mrs.
Simpson, who had been kept at home by a cold, found other visitors
there. Miss Polly and Miss Patty Piper were drinking tea out of Mrs.
Simpson's best cups and saucers, and chatting away with their usual
cheerfulness and volubility. The Miss Pipers, as they would themselves
have expressed it, "moved in a superior sphere" to that of the
music-teacher and his wife; but they did not consider that they
derogated from their gentility by occasionally drinking tea and having a
chat with the Simpsons. They liked to condescend a little, and
opportunities for condescension were rather rare. Then, too, they had a
certain interest in Sebastian Bach Simpson, inherited from the long-ago
days when Sebastian Bach's father played the organ in their father's
church, and Miss Polly and Miss Patty wore white frocks and blue sashes
at evening parties, and were the objects of a good deal of attention
from the Reverend Reuben's curates. Besides the sisters there was
present Dr. Hatch, who had come to pay a professional visit to Mrs.
Simpson, and who was just going away. It was a peculiarity of Dr. Hatch
to be always just going away. He had a very large practice, and was wont
to aver that his professional duties scarcely left him time to eat or
sleep. Yet Dr. Hatch's horses stood waiting through many a quarter of an
hour during which their master was engaged in conversation not of a
strictly professional nature.

When Mr. Weatherhead entered the best parlour of Laurel Villa, Dr. Hatch
had a cup of tea in one hand, and his watch in the other, and greeted
the new arrival with a friendly nod, and the assurance that he was "just
off." Mrs. Simpson shook hands with Mr. Weatherhead, and the Miss Pipers
graciously bowed to him. He, too, was connected in their minds with old
times. Miss Polly specially remembered seeing him on her visits to the
Birmingham Musical Festivals, when her father would take the opportunity
of turning over Weatherhead's stock of books, and making a few
purchases. And once the Pipers had lodged during a Festival week in the
rooms over Weatherhead's shop.

"Glad to see you better, Mrs. Simpson," said Jo, taking a seat after
having saluted the company.

"Oh yes, thank you, I'm quite well now. I know Dr. Hatch will scold me
if he hears me say so"--(with an arch glance baulked of its effect by
the unsympathetic spectacles)--"because he tells me I still need great
care. But my cough is gone. It is, really!"

Mrs. Simpson girlishly shook back her curls, and proceeded to pour out a
cup of tea for Mr. Weatherhead.

"And how is Simpson?" asked the latter.

"Bassy is very well, only immensely busy. He has three new pupils for
pianoforte and harmony; the daughters of Colonel ----,--tut, I forget
his name,--recommended by that kind Major Mitton. Or at least it would
be more proper to say that Major Mitton recommended Bassy to them! Not
very polite to say that the young ladies were recommended--oh dear! I
beg pardon. I'm afraid I've over-sweetened your tea?"

She had, in fact, put in half a dozen lumps, one after the other. But
Mr. Weatherhead fished the greater part of them out again with his
teaspoon, and deposited them in the saucer, saying it was of no

"I am so sadly absent-minded!" said Mrs. Simpson, smiling sweetly.
"Bassy would scold me if he were here."

"Serve you right, if he did!" said Dr. Hatch, rising from the table.
"You should pay attention to what you're doing. I expect to hear that
you have swallowed the embrocation and anointed your throat with syrup
of squills."

"Oh, doctor! You do say the drollest things!" exclaimed the amiable
Amelia, with an enjoying giggle.

"Ah, no; not the drollest! Thank Heaven, I hear a great many droller
things than I say! That's what mainly supports me in my day's practice."

Mrs. Simpson, not in the least understanding him, giggled again. Dr.
Hatch had the reputation of being a wag; and Amelia Simpson was not the
woman to defraud him of a laugh on any such selfish ground as not seeing
the point of his joke.

"Well, Mr. Weatherhead," said Miss Patty Piper, blandly, "so we are to
have your sister-in-law for a neighbour, I hear."

Jo poked his nose forward, and pursed up his mouth. "O-ho! my
sister-in-law, Mrs. Dobbs? How do you mean, ma'am, 'as a neighbour'?"

"We understand that Mrs. Dobbs has been looking after Jessamine Cottage;
the little white house with a garden on the Gloucester Road," returned
Miss Patty. Dr. Hatch paused with his hand on the latch of the parlour
door to hear.

"Oh dear no," said Jo Weatherhead decisively. "Quite a mistake. Sarah
Dobbs is too wedded to her old home. Nothing would induce her to leave
Friar's Row. You must have been misinformed, ma'am."

"As to leaving Friar's Row," put in Miss Polly, "she must do that in any
case; for she has let the premises as offices; and at a high rent, too,
I hear. Friar's Row is considered a choice position for business

Jo had opened his mouth to protest once more, when a sudden idea made
him shut it again without speaking. "Oh!" he gasped, and then made a
little pause before proceeding. "Ah, well--she--it wasn't quite settled
when I heard last. Would you mind stating your authority, ma'am?"

"The best--Mr. Bragg told us himself. His managing man at the works has
made the arrangement. Mr. Bragg has been looking out for a more central
office for some time."

"I told Mrs. Dobbs long ago that she was living at an extravagant rental
by sticking to Friar's Row," observed Dr. Hatch, turning the handle of
the door. "Depend on it, she has let it at a swinging rent; and quite
right, too. Now I really _am_ off."

Jo Weatherhead sat very still after the doctor's departure, with his cup
of tea in his hand, and a pondering expression of face. The Miss Pipers
were not sufficiently interested in him to observe his demeanour very
closely. If they did chance to notice that he was unusually silent, that
was accounted for by his sense of the superior company he found himself
in. They always spoke of him as "a good, odd creature, with sound
principles--a very respectable man, who knew his station." As for Amelia
Simpson, she was habitually unobservant, with an inconvenient faculty,
however, of suddenly making clear-sighted remarks when they were least

"I'm sure this is very good news for us!" she exclaimed. "Jessamine
Cottage is so near! At least, it _was_ quite close to us when we lived
in Marlborough Terrace."

"It will be a good move for Mrs. Dobbs. The air in our neighbourhood is
so much better than in her part of the town," said Miss Patty, with a
certain complacency, as who should say, "The merit of this atmospheric
superiority is all our own; but we are not proud."

"And yet I am surprised, too, at Mrs. Dobbs moving," replied Amelia.
"She always declared that she hated the suburbs, with their little
slight-built houses."

"That cannot apply to _our_ house," said Miss Polly. "Garnet Lodge stood
in its own ground many a long year before those new houses sprung up
between Greenhill Road and the Gloucester Road."

"But Mrs. Dobbs isn't going to live in Garnet Lodge!" returned Amelia,
with one of her sudden illuminations of common sense. "And Jessamine
Cottage is a mere bandbox."

"I remember Mrs. Dobbs among the trebles in 'Esther,'" observed Miss
Polly. "She had a fine clear voice, and could take the B flat in alt
with perfect ease."

"And her husband sold capital ironmongery. We have a coal-scuttle in the
kitchen now which was bought at his shop--a thoroughly solid article,"
added Miss Patty.

These appreciative words about the Dobbses, which at another time would
have gratified Jo Weatherhead, now fell on an unheeding ear. He took his
leave very shortly, and walked straight to Friar's Row.

"Well, Sarah Dobbs," said he, on entering the parlour, "I didn't think
you would steal a march on me like this! I did believe you'd have
trusted me sooner than a parcel of strangers, after all these years!"

He did not sit down in his usual place by the fireside, but remained
standing opposite to his old friend, looking at her with a troubled
countenance. Mrs. Dobbs gave him one quick, keen glance, and then said--

"So you've heard it, Jo? Well, I didn't mean that you should hear it
from any one but me. But who shall stop chattering tongues? They rage
like a fire in the stubble. And the poorer and lighter the fuel, the
bigger blaze it makes. It was settled only this very morning, too."

"It _is_ true, then, Sarah? I had a kind of a hankering hope that it
might be only trash and chit-chat."

"You mean about my letting my house, don't you? Yes; that's true."

"And me never to know a word of it!--To hear it from strangers!"

"Now look here, Jo; let us talk sensibly. Sit down, can't you?"

But Jo would not sit down; and after a minute's pause, Mrs. Dobbs went

"I'll tell you the truth. I didn't say a word to you of my plan
beforehand, because I was afraid to--there!"

"Afraid! You, Sarah Dobbs, afraid of _me_! That's a good one!" But his
face relaxed a little from its pained, fixed look.

"Yes; afraid of what you'd say. I knew you wouldn't approve, and I knew
why. You wouldn't approve for my sake. But, thinks I, when once it's
done, Jo may scold a little, but he'll forgive his old friend. And I
never thought of chattering jackdaws cawing the matter from the
house-tops. I meant to tell you myself this very afternoon; I did
indeed, Jo."

Jo drew a little nearer to his accustomed chair, and put his hand on the
back of it, keeping his face turned away from Mrs. Dobbs. "Of course,
you're the mistress to do what you like with your own property," he

"Nobody's mistress, or master either, to do what's wrong with their own
property. I mean to do what's right if I can. I was never one to heed
much what outside folks think of me; but I do heed what you think, Jo,
and reason good. And I want you to know my feeling about the matter once
for all, and then we can leave it alone."

Mr. Weatherhead here slid quietly into the armchair, and sat with his
face still turned towards the fire.

"You know," continued Mrs. Dobbs, "I told you some weeks ago that I was
troubled about the child's position here. She is a real lady, and ought
to be acknowledged as such. That's the only good that can come now from
poor Susy's marriage, and I do hold to it. There was only one way, that
I could see, of managing what I wanted. I could do it at a
sacrifice--after all, a very small sacrifice."

Jo Weatherhead shook his head emphatically.

"Yes, really and truly a very small sacrifice," persisted Mrs. Dobbs. "I
don't see why I shouldn't be just as happy and comfortable in Jessamine
Cottage as here--provided, of course, that my old friends don't cut me
and sulk with me. I shall be lonely enough when once the child's gone;
and you and me'll have to cheer each other up, and keep each other
company, as well as we can. You won't refuse to do that, will you, Jo?
Come, shake hands on it!"

Jo slowly put out his hand and grasped her proffered one. He then took
out, filled, and lighted his meerschaum, and smoked in silence for some
quarter of an hour, Mrs. Dobbs, meanwhile, knitting in equal silence.
All at once she said--

"Hark! There's May's step coming downstairs. Now you'll please to
understand that when my moving from this house is mentioned to the
child, it's because I find Friar's Row too noisy, and think the air in
Greenhill Road will agree better with my health. I trust you for that,
Jo Weatherhead, mind!"

May at this moment came gaily into the room, and Mr. Weatherhead thus
solemnly addressed her: "Miranda Cheffington, you have been to a
first-rate school, and have read your Roman history and all that,
haven't you?"

"Not much, I'm afraid, Uncle Jo."

"You have read about Lucretia, and Portia, and the mother of the
Gracchi" (pronounced "Gratch-I;" for Jo's instruction had been chiefly
taken in by the eye rather than the ear, in the shape of miscellaneous
gleanings from his own stock-in-trade), "and other distinguished women
of classical times, whose virtues were, in my opinion, not wholly
unconnected with bounce?"

Mary laughed and nodded.

"Well, allow me to tell you that there are Englishwomen at the present
day whom I consider far superior, in all that makes a real good woman,
to any Roman or Grecian of them all. Englishwomen to whom bounce in
every form is foreign and obnoxious. Englishwomen who do good by stealth
and never blush to find it Fame, because Fame is a great deal too busy
with rascals and hussies ever to trouble herself about _them_! Your
grandmother, Mrs. Sarah Dobbs, whom I'm proud to call my friend, is one
of those women. And what's more--and I'll have you bear it in mind,
Miranda Cheffington--I believe you'd be puzzled to find her equal in
Europe, Asia, Africa, or America--not to mention Australasia and the
'ole of the islands in the Pacific Ocean."

With that, Mr. Weatherhead walked gravely out; his nose somewhat redder
than usual, and his eyes glistening.


About a year before that dinner-party at which May Cheffington had made
her _début_ in Oldchester society, Mrs. Hadlow had begun to think it
probable that Theodore Bransby might wish to marry her daughter, and to
consider the desirability of his doing so. On the whole she did not
disapprove the prospect. Constance was very handsome, but she was also
very poor. Her ambition might not be satisfied by a match with Martin
Bransby's son; but on the other hand, Theodore was a young man of good
abilities, and apt to rise in the world. Moreover, he had sufficient
property of his own to facilitate his rising--a little ballast of that
sort being as useful in the _melée_ of this world as the lead in a toy
tumbler, and enabling a man, if not to strike the stars with his sublime
head, at least to keep right side uppermost.

Certainly Theodore had appeared much attracted by Miss Hadlow. Not only
her beauty but her self-assertion approved itself to him; for a man's
wife should be able to justify his taste; and there would be no
distinction in winning a woman whose meekness made it doubtful whether
she could have had the heart to say "No" to an inferior suitor. They had
been playfellows in childhood, but school and Cambridge had separated
them. But after Theodore began to read for the Bar, and, during the two
last vacations, which he had spent chiefly at home, a great intimacy had
sprung up between the young people. Theodore's frequent visits to the
old house in College Quad did not pass unobserved. One or two persons
thought his partiality for the Hadlows--especially when contrasted with
the lukewarm politeness he bestowed on other families, such as Raynes
the brewer, or the Burtons who lived in a park, and had had nothing to
do with retail for two generations--was creditable to Theodore's heart.
"He was not one to neglect old friends," said they, candidly confessing
at the same time that it was more than they should have expected of him.
But the majority felt sure that nothing short of being in love with
Constance Hadlow could induce young Bransby to prefer the canon's
old-fashioned parlour to Mrs. Raynes's red and gold drawing-room, or the
Burtons' æsthetic upholstery. Oldchester folks did not guess that
Theodore intended to frequent a style of society in which neither the
Rayneses nor the Burtons would be able to make any figure, nor did they
know that he set a considerable value on Mrs. Hadlow's connections. That
lady had been a Miss Rivers, and her family ranked among the oldest
landed gentry in the kingdom. There were not many Oldchester magnates to
whom Theodore Bransby thought it worth while to be more than coolly
civil. Mr. Bragg was an exception, but then Mr. Bragg was a man of very
great wealth; and as mere size is held in certain cases to be an element
of grandeur, so money, Theodore thought, is capable in certain cases of
inspiring veneration--that is to say, when there is enough of it.

As to Miss Constance's state of mind about young Bransby, it was too
complex to be described in a word. She liked Theodore, and thought him a
superior person; if not quite so superior as he thought himself. She had
faith, too, in his future. It would be agreeable to be the wife of a
distinguished M.P. or Q.C., or perhaps of both combined in one person.
Theodore would certainly settle nowhere but in London, and to live in
London had been Constance's dream ever since she was fifteen. Her
visions of what her life would be if she married Theodore Bransby
concerned themselves chiefly with their joint-entry into some
fashionable drawing-room, her presentation at Court, her name in the
_Morning Post_, herself exquisitely dressed driving Theodore down to the
House in a neat victoria, and returning the salutations of distinguished
acquaintances as they passed along Whitehall. All more serious questions
regarding their married life Constance set at rest by a few formulas. Of
course, she should do her duty. Of course, Theodore would always behave
like a gentleman. Of course, they should never condescend to vulgar
wrangling. Of course, her husband would give way to her in any
difference of opinion;--particularly since she was pretty sure to be
always right. And then Constance knew herself to be so very charming,
that a man of taste could not fail to delight in her society.

Yet it must not be supposed that she had fully made up her mind to marry
Theodore. That Theodore would be very glad to marry her she did not
doubt at all. There had been a time--nay, there were moments still--when
her visions of herself as Mrs. Theodore Bransby had been blurred by the
disturbing element of her cousin Owen's presence. He had shown an
attractive appreciation of her attractions; and had, to use Mr.
Simpson's phrase, "dangled after his cousin" a good deal. Owen Rivers
had reached the age of three and twenty without ever having earned a
dinner, and without any serious preparation to enable him to earn one.
He had had an expensive education, and had done fairly well at Oxford.
His mother had died in his infancy; and his father, a country clergyman,
had allowed the young man to lounge away his life at the parsonage,
under the specious pretext of taking time to make up his mind what
career he would follow. Owen had fished, and shot, and walked, and
boated, and cricketed; but he had also read a good deal, having an
intellectual appetite at once robust and discriminating. His friends and
relatives agreed in thinking him very clever; and, when they reproached
him with wasting his fine abilities and leading a purposeless existence,
he would answer jestingly that he should be sorry to belie their
judgment by subjecting his talents to the dangerous touchstone of
action. His father died before he had determined on a profession. But,
fortunately as he thought, and unfortunately as was thought by some
other persons, including his Aunt Jane, he inherited wherewithal to live
without working, and, with a hundred and fifty pounds per annum, could
not lack bread and cheese. On his father's death he went to travel on
the Continent. He walked wherever walking was possible, carrying his own
knapsack, spending little, and seeing much. After more than two years'
absence, he returned to England and made his way to Oldchester to see
his Aunt Jane, with whom he had maintained an intermittent
correspondence. There he found Constance, whom he last remembered as a
sallow, self-sufficient schoolgirl, grown to a beautiful young woman.
Her sallowness had turned into a creamy pallor, and her self-sufficiency
was mitigated, to the masculine judgment, by the depth and softness of a
pair of fine dark eyes. Owen, on his part, made a decidedly favourable
impression on his cousin. He was not handsome--which mattered
little--nor fashionably dressed--which mattered more; but he was well
made, and had the grace which belongs to youthful health and strength.
And he had, too, that indefinable tone of manner which ensured his
recognition as an English gentleman. Constance was by no means
insensible to this attraction. If she had not the sentiments which
originate the finest manners, she had the perceptions which recognize
them. When Mary Raynes and the Burnet girls criticized the roughness of
Owen's demeanour, comparing it with Theodore Bransby's "polish," she
knew they were wrong. Theodore always behaved with the greatest
propriety; but between his manners and Owen's there was the same sort of
difference as between a native and a foreigner speaking the same
language. The foreigner may often be more accurately correct of the two
on minor points, but it is an affair of conscious acquirement, and must
inevitably break down now and then; whereas the native talks as
naturally as he breathes, and can no more make certain mistakes than an
oak tree can put forth willow leaves. Then Owen was very amusing company
when he chose to be so,--and he usually did choose to be so when at his
Aunt Jane's; and he had good old blood in his veins. This latter fact
gave a certain piquancy, in Constance's opinion, to his political
theories, which were opposed to the staunch Tory traditions of his
family. Constance frequently took her cousin to task on this subject;
but with the comfortable conviction to sweeten their controversy that a
Rivers could afford to indulge in a little democratic heresy, just as
Lord Castlecombe could afford to wear a shabbier coat than any of his

All these considerations, together with the crowning circumstance that
he evidently admired her a good deal, caused Owen to fill a large place
in his cousin's mind. She even asked herself seriously more than once if
she were in love with Owen, but failed to answer the question
decisively. She did, however, arrive at the conviction that falling in
love lay much more in one's own power than was commonly supposed; and
that no Romeo-and-Juliet destiny could ever inspire _her_ with an
ungovernable passion for a man who possessed but a hundred and fifty
pounds a year. Mrs. Hadlow had at one time felt some uneasiness--nearly
as much on Owen's account as on her daughter's, to say the truth. But
she had satisfied herself that there was nothing more than a fraternal
kind of regard between the young people--wherein she was wrong; and that
there was no danger of their imprudently marrying--wherein she was

Mrs. Hadlow had, indeed, made up her mind that Constance would accept
Theodore Bransby whenever he should offer himself; and she privately
thought it high time that the offer were made. What did Theodore wait
for? His means (according to Mrs. Hadlow's estimate of things) were
sufficient to allow him to marry at once. But even supposing that he did
not choose to marry until he had fairly entered on his career as a
barrister, still there ought to be at least some clear understanding
between him and Constance. All Oldchester expected to hear of their
engagement, and it was not fair to the girl to leave matters in their
present uncertain condition. When, at the end of the vacation, young
Bransby left Oldchester again without having made any declaration, Mrs.
Hadlow was not only surprised, but uneasy; and she opened her mind to
her husband on the subject, invading his study at an unusual hour for
that purpose.

"Edward," said Mrs. Hadlow, "don't you think that Theodore Barnsby ought
to have spoken before he went to town this last time?"

"Spoken, my dear?"

"To Constance; or to us about Constance."

The canon leaned his head on his hand, keeping the thumb of the other
hand inserted between the pages of his Plato as a marker, and looked
absently at his wife.

"Well? Don't you think he ought?" she repeated impatiently.

The good canon meditated for a few moments. Then he said--

"I--I don't feel quite sure that I understand. What ought he to have
said, Jane?"

"Said! Goodness, Edward! He ought to have declared his intentions, of
course. It is high time that something was understood clearly."

The canon's gentle blue eyes lost their abstracted look, and a little
sparkle came into them as he answered, "I hope--nay, I am sure--Jane,
that you would not think of taking any step, or saying any word, which
might compromise our dear child's dignity. Let it not appear that you
are eager to put this interpretation on the young man's visits."

"My dear Edward, Theodore has been paying Conny marked attentions for
more than a year past; but during this last summer and autumn he has
been in our house morning, noon, and night. He doesn't come for _our
beaux yeux_."

"H'm, h'm, h'm! But, Jane, an attachment of that sort between two young
creatures should be treated with the greatest delicacy. It is shy and
sensitive. Let us beware of pulling up our flower by the roots to see if
it is growing."

This trope by no means corresponded with Mrs. Hadlow's conception of the
relations between Theodore Bransby and her daughter. She was an
affectionate mother, but she did not delude herself into thinking
Constance peculiarly sensitive or romantic. In fact, she was wont to say
that her daughter was twenty years older than herself on some points.
But the canon erroneously attributed to his daughter a quite poetical
refinement of feeling. His views on most subjects were romantic and
unworldly, and his ideas about women were peculiarly chivalrous. They
frequently irked Constance. She was not without respect as well as
affection for her father; and it was sometimes difficult to bring these
sentiments into harmony with her deep-seated admiration for herself.
However, she usually reconciled all discrepancies between what he
expected of her and what she knew to be the fact, by declaring that
"Papa was so old-fashioned!"

"Tell me, Jane," said the canon, after a little pause, "do you think
Conny's feelings are seriously engaged? Do you think this matter is
likely to make her unhappy?"

"Unhappy? Well, no; I hope not unhappy," answered Mrs. Hadlow slowly.

"Then all is well. We will not let our spirits be troubled."

"But, Edward, although she may not break her heart----"

"Heaven forbid! Break her heart, Jane?"

"Well, I say of course there's no fear of that; but it _is_ detrimental
to a girl to have an affair of this kind dragging on in a vague sort of
way. It might spoil her chance in other directions; and people will
talk, you know."

"Tut, tut! As to 'spoiling her chance'--which is a phrase very
distasteful to me in this connection--if you mean that any eligible
suitor would be discouraged from wooing Conny because another man is
supposed to admire her too, that's all nonsense. Do you think I should
have been frightened away from trying to win you, Jenny, by any such
impalpable figment of a rival?"

"You?" exclaimed Mrs. Hadlow, with a sudden flush and a proud smile.
"Oh, that's a _very_ different matter, Edward. I don't see any young men
nowadays to compare with what you were."

The canon laughed softly. "Thank you, my dear. No doubt your grandmother
said much the same sort of thing once upon a time; and I hope your
grand-daughter may say it too, some day. But set your heart at rest as
to this matter. That Theodore Bransby, whom we have known from his
birth, should be a frequent guest in our house, can surprise no one.
There is youthful society to be found here. Without reckoning Constance,
there's Owen Rivers, the Burton girls, little May--we may reasonably
suppose this to be attractive to a young man who has no companions of
his own age at home, without attributing to him any such intentions as
you speak off. In fact," added the canon simply, "we must believe you
are mistaken; since, if Theodore loved our daughter, there's nothing to
prevent his saying so!"

Of all which speech, two words chiefly arrested Mrs. Hadlow's attention
and stuck in her memory--"little May." It was true, now she came to
think of it, that the increased frequency of Theodore's visits coincided
with May Cheffington's presence in Oldchester. Then she suddenly
remembered it was by Theodore's influence that May had been invited to
Mrs. Bransby's dinner-party, and many words and ways of his with
reference to Miss Cheffington occurred to her in a new light. But then,
again, came a revulsion, and she told herself that the idea was absurd.
It was out of the question that Theodore Bransby, with his social
ambition, should think seriously of marrying insignificant little May
Cheffington, who was not even handsome (when compared with Constance),
who had childish manners, no fortune--and, worst of all, was Mrs.
Dobbs's grand-daughter! "Besides," said Mrs. Hadlow to herself, "he
_must_ be fond of Conny. It's quite an old attachment; and, though
Theodore may not have very ardent feelings, I don't believe he is

Nevertheless, she was not entirely reassured. After Theodore's departure
from Oldchester she observed her daughter solicitously for some time;
but she finally convinced herself that Conny's peace of mind was in no
danger. She had sometimes been provoked by Conny's matter-of-fact
coolness, and had felt that young lady's worldly wisdom to be an
anachronism. But she admitted that in the present case these gifts had
their advantage; for, when Oldchester friends showed their interest or
curiosity by hints and allusions to Theodore, which made Mrs. Hadlow
quite hot and uncomfortable, Constance met them all with perfect
calmness, and she discussed the young man's prospects with an almost
patronizing air that puzzled people.

In a few weeks more May Cheffington departed for London; Owen Rivers
also went away, and life in the dark old house in College Quad resumed
its usual quiet routine.


It was a raw, gusty afternoon towards the end of March when May and her
grandmother arrived in London. There had been some difficulty about the
journey, arising from Mrs. Dormer-Smith's objection to her niece's
travelling alone, and insisting on her being properly attended. In reply
to a suggestion that May would be quite safe in a ladies' carriage, and
under the care of the guard, she wrote:--"It is not that I doubt her
being safe; but I _cannot_ let my servants see her arrive alone when I
meet her at the station. Why not send a maid with her?" To which Mrs.
Dobbs made answer that she could not send a maid, having only one
servant-of-all-work, but that she herself would bring her grand-daughter
to London. "I shall go up by one train, and come down by the next," said
she to Jo Weatherhead. And when he remonstrated against her incurring
that expense and fatigue, she answered, "Oh, we won't spoil the ship for
a ha'porth of tar. If I make up my mind to part with the child, I'll
start her as well as I can."

The travellers found Mrs. Dormer-Smith awaiting them at the
railway station. She greeted May affectionately, and Mrs. Dobbs
amiably. "My servant has a cab here for the luggage," she said.
"But"--hesitatingly--"how shall we manage about----? I'm afraid the
brougham is too small for three." Mrs. Dobbs settled the question by
declaring that she did not purpose going to Mrs. Dormer-Smith's house.
She would get some dinner at the station, and return to Oldchester by an
evening train. "Oh dear, I'm afraid that will be very uncomfortable for
you!" said Pauline, politely trying to conceal her satisfaction at this
arrangement. "Will you not come and--and lunch with us?" But Mrs. Dobbs
stuck to her own plan.

While the footman was superintending the placing of May's luggage on the
cab, her grandmother drew her into the waiting-room to say "good-bye."
"God bless you, my dear, dear child! Write to me often, keep well, and
be happy!" she said, folding the girl in her arms. Mrs. Dormer-Smith
stood by, not unsympathetic, but at the same time relieved to know James
was busy with the luggage, so that he could not witness the parting, nor
hear May's exclamation, "Darling granny! darling granny!" Indeed, it
might be hoped that he would never know the relationship between this
stout, common-looking old woman and Miss Cheffington; nor be able to
report it in the servants' hall. She felt that Mrs. Dobbs was behaving
very properly, and said with gracious sweetness, "I'm sure we ought all
to be very much obliged to you for the care you have taken of my niece.
It was most good of you to undertake this tiresome journey."

Mrs. Dobbs looked up with a flash in her eyes. "I only hope," she
returned hotly, "that you will take as good care of my grandchild as I
have taken of your niece." The next moment she repented of her retort,
and said quite humbly, "You will be kind to her, won't you? Poor
motherless lamb! You will be kind to her, I'm sure!"

"Indeed I will," answered Mrs. Dormer-Smith, with unruffled gentleness.
"I have always wished for a daughter, and she shall be like my own
daughter to me." And, with a motherly caress, she drew May to her side.

"Don't be afraid for me, granny dear!" said May, smiling with tearful
eyes. "I shall be very happy with Aunt Pauline. Besides, I shall see you
again very soon."

Mrs. Dobbs laid her hand on the girl's shoulder and pushed her gently,
but firmly, out of the waiting-room, standing herself in the doorway
until May and her aunt had disappeared. Then she sat down by the fire,
untied her bonnet-strings, pulled out her handkerchief, and sobbed
unrestrainedly. The waiting-room attendant looked at her curiously; for
she had noticed that Mrs. Dobbs did not belong to the same class as that
elegantly dressed lady, attended by a servant in livery, with whom the
young girl had gone away. Presently she drew near, on pretence of poking
the fire, and said--

"You're very fond of the young lady, ain't you? But don't take on so.
You'll see her again very soon, I dare say. Don't cry, poor dear!"

"I _have_ cried," said Mrs. Dobbs, getting up and drying her eyes
resolutely. "I have cried, and it's done me good. And now I'll go and
get a bit of food."

But she only trifled with the modest dinner set before her; and, as she
sat in a corner of the second-class carriage which conveyed her back to
Oldchester, her handkerchief was soaked with silent tears.

To May the separation naturally seemed far less terrible than it did to
Mrs. Dobbs. She had no idea that it was to be a long, much less a
permanent, one. She found it agreeable to sit in the well-hung, neatly
appointed brougham, with a cushion at her back and a hot-water tin under
her feet, and to look through the clear glasses at the bustle and
movement of London. Her aunt Pauline was very pleasant and sympathetic.
May thought that she might come to love her father's sister very dearly.
She admired her already. Mrs. Dormer-Smith's gentle manner, her soft,
low voice, the quiet elegance of her dress, and even the delicate
perfume of violets which hung about her, were all appreciated by May.

"My cousin is not at home, is he, Aunt Pauline?" she asked after a
little silence.

"No; Cyril is at Harrow. There are only the children."

"Oh, children!" cried May, with brightening eyes. "I'm so glad! I love
children. I didn't know you had any children besides Cyril."

Mrs. Dormer-Smith laughed her peculiar little guttural laugh, consisting
of several ha, ha, ha's, slowly and softly uttered, and made no answer.

"Are they boys or girls? How many are there? How old are they?"
questioned May eagerly.

"Two little boys. Harold is--let me see--Harold is six, and Wilfred
five. It is very awkward having two little things in the nursery so many
years younger than their elder brother. Cyril is turned fifteen. It is
like beginning all one's troubles over again," said Pauline plaintively.
The birth of these two children was, indeed, a standing grievance with

May thought this an odd way of talking, and said no more on the subject
of her little cousins. But she looked forward to seeing them with
pleasant expectation.

The sight of the house in Kensington brought back vividly to her mind
the day after the dowager's funeral, when she had arrived there from
school, feeling very strange and forlorn. She remembered, too, the
abrupt departure next morning with her father, and her impression that
the Dormer-Smiths had not behaved well, and that her father was very
angry with them. May was shown into a bedroom at the back of the house,
overlooking some gardens. The maid, having asked if she could do
anything for Miss Cheffington, and having mentioned that the
luncheon-gong would sound in ten minutes, withdrew, and left May alone.
She examined the room with girlish interest. It was very pretty, she
thought. Perhaps, in point of solid comfort, the old-fashioned furniture
of her room in Friar's Row might be superior; but in Friar's Row there
was no such ample provision of looking-glasses as there was here. She
was still contemplating herself from head to foot in a long swing
mirror, which stood in a good light near the window, when the gong

May ran downstairs, and in the dining-room she found her aunt and a
heavy-looking man with grizzled, sandy hair, and dull blue eyes, who
asked her how she did, and supposed she would hardly recognize him.

"Oh yes, I do, Uncle Frederick!" she answered.

And again an uncomfortable recollection of her father's angry departure
from that house came over her. But whatever quarrels there might have
been in those days, her aunt and uncle appeared to have forgotten all
about them. Mr. Dormer-Smith told May more than once that he was pleased
to see her.

"You're not a bit like your father, my dear," said he, with an approving
air not altogether flattering to Augustus.

"Oh yes, Frederick!" interposed his wife. "There is a family

"It's an expression I have never seen on your brother's face. No, nor
any approach to it."

Mrs. Dormer-Smith laughed the soft little laugh which was habitual with
her when embarrassed or disconcerted, and changed the conversation. "I
hope you like your room, May?" she said.

"Oh yes, very much indeed, thank you, Aunt Pauline."

"I wish I could have come upstairs with you. But I am obliged to
_ménager_ my strength as much as possible."

"Are you not well, Aunt Pauline?" asked May with ready sympathy.

"I am not _strong_, dear."

"You would be better if you exerted yourself more," said Mr.
Dormer-Smith. "Your system gets into a sluggish state from sheer

"Ah, you don't understand, Frederick," answered his wife, with a
plaintive smile.

And May felt indignant at her uncle's want of feeling. But the next
minute she relented towards him when he said, as he rose from table--

"I'll go round to the chemist's myself for Willy's medicine, and bring
it back with me, as I suppose you will be wanting James to go out again
with the carriage by-and-by."

"Is one of the little boys ill?" asked May.

This time it was her aunt who replied calmly, "Oh no. The child has a
little nervous cough; it is really more a trick than anything else."

"Huggins doesn't think so lightly of it, I can assure you. He tells me
great care is needed," said Mr. Dormer-Smith.

"Can I--would you mind--might I see my little cousins?" asked May, with
some hesitation. She was puzzled by these discrepancies of opinion
between husband and wife.

Mr. Dormer-Smith turned round with a look almost of animation. "Come
now, if you like. Come with me," he said. And May followed him out of
the room, disregarding her aunt's suggestion that it would be better for
her to lie down and rest after her journey.

The nursery was a large room--in fact, an attic--at the top of the
house. May noticed how rapidly the elegance and costliness of the
furniture and appointments decreased as they mounted. If the dining-room
and drawing-rooms represented tropical luxury, the bedrooms cooled down
into a temperate zone; and the top region of all was arctic in its
barrenness. The nursery looked very forlorn and comfortless, with its
bare floor, cheap wall-paper dotted with coarse, coloured prints, and
its small grate with a small fire in it, which had exhausted its
energies in smoking furiously, as the smell in the room testified. At a
table in the middle of the room sat a hard-featured young woman, with
high cheek-bones, and a complexion like that of a varnished wooden doll,
mending a heap of linen; and in one corner, where stood a battered old
rocking-horse and a top-heavy Noah's Ark, two little boys were kneeling
on the floor, building houses with wooden bricks. On their father's
entrance, they looked up languidly; but when they saw who it was, they
scrambled to their feet with some show of pleasure, and came to stand
one on each side of him, holding his hands. They were both like him,
blue-eyed and sandy-haired, and both looked pale and sickly. Harold, the
elder, seemed the stronger of the two. Wilfred was a meagre,
frail-looking little creature, with a half-timid, half-sullen expression
of face. Their father kissed them both, and, sitting down, drew the
younger child on his knee, whilst Harold stood pressing close against
his shoulder.

"Well, do you know who this is?" asked Mr. Dormer-Smith, pointing to

Apparently they had no wish to know, for they nestled closer to their
father, and sulkily rejected May's proffered caresses.

"Oh, come, you mustn't be shy," said their father. "This is your cousin
May; kiss her, and say, 'How d'ye do?'"

But nothing would induce either of the boys to give May his hand, nor
even to look at her; and at length she begged her uncle not to trouble
himself, and hoped they would all be very good friends presently.

"And how do we get on with our lessons, ma'amselle?" asked Mr.
Dormer-Smith of the hard-featured young woman, who, beyond rising from
her chair when they came in, had hitherto taken no notice of them.

"We haven't had no lessons to-day," put in Harold, with a lowering look
at "ma'amselle."

"No, monsieur, it has been impossible till now; I have had so much
sewing to do for madame. See!" and she pointed to the heap of linen.
"But we will have our lessons in the afternoon."

"I don't want lessons; I want to go out with papa. Take me with you,
papa," cried Harold. Whereupon little Wilfred lisped out that he too
would go out with papa, and set up a peevish whine.

"It is too cold for you, my man," said the father. "The sharp wind would
make you cough. Harold will stay with you, and you can play together,
and do your lessons afterwards, like good boys."

But the children only wailed and cried the louder, whilst mademoiselle,
with her eyes on her needlework, monotonously repeated in her
Swiss-French, "What is this? Be good, my children," and apparently
thought she was doing all that she was called upon to do under the

May thought her little cousins peculiarly disagreeable children; but she
could not help feeling sorry for them and for their father, who looked
quite helpless and distressed. "Would you like me to tell you a story?"
she said. "I know some very pretty stories."

A wail from Wilfred and a scowl from Harold were all the answer she
received from them. But her uncle caught at the suggestion eagerly.

"Oh, that would be very kind of Cousin May," he said. "A pretty story!
You'll like that, won't you?"

"No, I shan't! I want to go with papa," grumbled Harold.

"I want to go wis papa," sobbed Wilfred.

"It is always so when monsieur comes to the nursery," said the Swiss,
coolly going on with her sewing. "The children are so fond of monsieur."

"Poor little fellows!" cried May.

Then kneeling down beside her uncle, she began softly to stroke
Wilfred's hair, and to speak to him coaxingly. After a while, the child
glanced shyly into her face, and ceased to sob. Presently he allowed
himself to be transferred from his father's knee to May's. The Noah's
Ark was brought into requisition. May ranged its inmates--all more or
less dilapidated--on the floor, and began to perform a drama with them,
making each animal's utterances in an appropriate voice. A smile dawned
on Wilfred's pale little face, and Harold drew near to look and listen
with evident interest.

"Now, Uncle Frederick, if you have to go out, I will stay and play with
the children, until lesson-time. They are going to be very good now;
ain't you, boys?"

"Ve'y good now," assented Wilfred, his attention still absorbed by the
Noah's Ark animals.

"Well, if you'll make the pig grunt again, I will be good," said Harold,
with a Bismarckian mastery of the _do ut des_ principle.

Mr. Dormer-Smith's face beamed with satisfaction. "It's very good of
you, my dear," said he. "If you don't mind, it would be very kind to
stay with them a little while; that is, if you are not too tired by your
journey?" And as he went away, he repeated, "It's very good of you, my
dear; very good of you!"

But May found that her aunt took a different view.

"_Dear_ May," said she, when she learned where her niece had been
spending the two hours after luncheon, "this is very imprudent! You
should have lain down and taken a thorough rest instead of exerting
yourself in that way."

"Oh, I'm not in the least tired, Aunt Pauline."

"Dear child, you may not think so; but a railway journey of three or
four hours jars the nerves terribly."

"Oh, I was very glad to amuse the children, Aunt Pauline. They were
crying to go out with their father, so I tried to comfort them. They got
quite merry before I left them."

Mrs. Dormer-Smith slowly shook her head and smiled. "You will find them
extremely tiresome, poor things!" said she placidly. "They are by no
means engaging children. Cyril was very different at their age."

"Oh, Aunt Pauline! I think they might be made--I mean I think we shall
come to be great friends. I couldn't bear to see them cry, poor mites!"

"That is all very sweet in you, dear May, but I fancy it is best to
leave their nursery governess to manage them. Her French is not all that
I could wish. But a pure accent is not so vitally important for boys. It
is much if an Englishman can speak French even decently. And Cecile
makes herself very useful with her needle."

Pauline then announced that she would not go out again that afternoon,
but would devote herself to the inspection of May's wardrobe. "Of course
you have no evening dresses fit to wear," she said; "but we will see
whether we cannot manage to make use of some of your clothes. Smithson,
my maid, is very clever."

"Why, of course granny would not have sent me without proper clothes!"
protested May, opening her eyes in astonishment. "And I _have_ an
evening frock--a very pretty white muslin, quite new."

To this speech Aunt Pauline vouchsafed no answer beyond a vague smile.
She scarcely heard it, in fact. Her mind was preoccupied with weighty
considerations. As she seated herself in the one easy-chair in May's
room, and watched her niece kneeling down, keys in hand, before her
travelling trunk, she observed with heartfelt thankfulness that the
girl's figure was naturally graceful, and calculated to set off well-cut
garments to advantage.

"Oh!" exclaimed May suddenly, turning round and letting the keys fall
with a clash as she clasped her hands, "above everything I must not miss
the post! I want to send off a letter, so that granny may have it at
breakfast time to-morrow for a surprise. Have I plenty of time, Aunt

"No doubt," answered her aunt absently. She was debating whether the
circumference of May's waist might not be reduced an inch or so by
judicious lacing.

"Perhaps I had better get my letter written first, Aunt Pauline. I
wouldn't miss writing to granny for the world, and any time will do for
the clothes."

To which her aunt replied with solemnity, and with an appearance of
energy which May had never witnessed in her before, "Your wardrobe, May,
demands very serious consideration. April is just upon us. You are to be
presented at the second Drawing-room. Dress is an important social duty,
and we must not lose time in trifling."


It was a great comfort to Mrs. Dormer-Smith to find her niece so pretty
("not a beauty," as she said to herself, "but extremely pleasing, and
with capital points"), and so entirely free from vulgarisms of speech or
manner. In fact, May's outward demeanour needed but very few polishing
touches to make it all her aunt could desire. But a more intimate
acquaintance revealed traits of character which troubled Mrs.
Dormer-Smith a good deal.

"I suppose," she observed to her husband, with a sigh, "one had no right
to expect that poor Augustus's unfortunate marriage should have left no
trace in his children. But it is dreadfully disheartening to come every
now and then upon some absolutely middle-class prejudice or scruple in
May. Now, Augustus, whatever his faults may be, always had such a
thoroughbred way of looking at things."

"Certainly, no one can accuse your brother of having scruples," said

"Besides, it is terribly bad form in a girl of her age to set up for a

"It doesn't seem much like May to set up for anything: she is always so
childish and unpretending."

"Oh yes; and that _ingénue_ air is delicious: it goes so perfectly with
her _physique_. But there are so many things which one cannot teach in
words, but which girls brought up in a certain _monde_ learn by

"What sort of things do you mean?" asked her husband after a little

"Well, on Thursday, for instance, I was awfully annoyed. Mrs. Griffin
was here, and seemed pleased with May, and talked to her a good deal.
You know that is very important, because the duchess invites people or
leaves them out pretty much as her mother dictates. So I was naturally
very much gratified to see May making a good impression. In fact, Mrs.
Griffin whispered to me, 'Charming! So fresh.' Presently Lady Burlington
came in, and they began talking of those new people, the Aaronssohns,
who have a million and a half a year. Lady Burlington had been at a big
dinner there the night before, and she told us the most astonishing
things of their vulgarity and their pushing ways. When she was gone Mrs.
Griffin said, 'I do like Lady Burlington,' and began praising her
manners and her air of _grande dame_. And, very kindly turning to May,
she said, 'Do you know, little one, that that is one of the proudest
women in England?' 'Is she?' said May. 'I should never have guessed that
she was proud.' Something in her way of saying it caught Mrs. Griffin's
attention; and she pressed her and cross-questioned her, until May
blurted out that she thought it despicable to accept vulgar people's
hospitality only because they were rich, and then to ridicule them for
being vulgar. I never was so shocked; for, you know, the duchess and
Mrs. Griffin both went to the Aaronssohns' ball last season. Now you
know," pursued Mrs. Dormer-Smith almost tearfully, "that kind of thing
will never do. You must allow that it will never do, Frederick."

"It would be awkward," assented Frederick, looking grave. "Couldn't you
tell her?"

"Of course, I spoke to her after Mrs. Griffin had gone away. But she
only said, 'What could I do, Aunt Pauline? The old lady insisted on my
answering her, and I couldn't tell her a story.' You see what a
difficult kind of thing it will be to manage, Frederick."

Mr. Dormer-Smith had become a great partisan of May's. He was genuinely
grateful for her kindness to his children, and would willingly have
taken her part had it been possible. But he felt that his wife was
right; it would really never do to carry into society an _enfant
terrible_ of such uncompromising truthfulness. And this feeling was much
strengthened by the recollection of sundry remarks which May had
innocently made to himself--remarks indicating an inconvenient
assumption on her part that one's principles must naturally regulate
one's practice. However, as he told his wife, they must trust to time
and experience to correct this crudeness.

"She is but a schoolgirl, after all," he said.

Pauline did not pursue the subject, but she reflected within herself
that there are schoolgirls and schoolgirls.

There had been some discussion as to who should present May. Mrs.
Dormer-Smith was of opinion that had there been a Viscountess
Castlecombe, the office would properly have devolved on her ladyship;
but old Lord Castlecombe had been a widower for many years. At length it
was decided that May should be presented by her aunt.

"I know it is a great risk for me to go out _décolletée_ on an English
spring day," said that devoted woman. "And Lady Burlington would do it
if I asked her. But I wish to carry out the duty I have undertaken
towards Augustus's daughter, as thoroughly as my strength will allow.
Under all the circumstances of the case, it is important that she should
be publicly acknowledged, and, as it were, identified with the family.
Of course, I shall feel justified in buying my gown out of May's money."

"May's money" had come to be the phrase by which the Dormer-Smiths spoke
of the payment made by Mrs. Dobbs for her grand-daughter.

But besides the comforting sense of duty fulfilled, there were other
compensations in store for Mrs. Dormer-Smith. May's presentation dress
was pronounced exquisite, and was ready in good time; and May herself
profited satisfactorily by the instructions of a fashionable professor
of deportment, in the difficult art of walking and curtsying in a train.
To be sure, she had alarmed her aunt at first, by going into fits of
laughter when describing Madame Melnotte's lessons, and imitating the
impressive gravity with which the dancing-mistress went through the dumb
show of a presentation at Court. But she did what she was told to do,
not only with docility, but with an unaffected simplicity which Aunt
Pauline's good taste perceived to be infinitely charming. And she said
to her husband that she really began to hope May would be "a great

The great day of the Drawing-room came and went, as do all days, great
or small. But whether she had been a success or a failure, in her aunt's
sense of the words, May had not the remotest idea. Indeed, the various
feelings on the subject of her presentation which had filled her breast
beforehand (including a genuine delight in her own appearance as she
stood before the big looking-glass, while Smithson put the finishing
touches to her head-dress), were all swallowed up in the supreme feeling
of thankfulness that it was over; and that she had not disgraced herself
by tumbling over her train, or otherwise shocking the eyes of august
personages. Also, in a minor degree, she was thankful that Aunt
Pauline's antique lace-flounce--a portion of the dowager's legacy lent
for the occasion--had escaped destruction. On their drive homeward, she
sat silent, trying to extricate some definite image from her confused
impressions of the ceremony, and finding that her most distinct
recollection recorded the pressure of a persistent and ruthless elbow
against her ribs. Mrs. Dormer-Smith, too, was too much exhausted to say
much. She leaned back in the carriage with closed eyes, wrapping her
furs round her, and sniffing at a bottle of salts.

But when refreshed by a glass of wine, and seated in a well-cushioned
chair before a blazing fire, Mrs. Dormer-Smith felt very well satisfied
with the result of the day. Mrs. Griffin had been there, and had nodded
approvingly across a struggling crowd of bare shoulders; and Mrs.
Griffin's approbation was worth having. Mr. Dormer-Smith came home from
his club a full hour earlier than usual, in order to hear the report--a
proof of interest which May, not being a whist-player, was unable fully
to appreciate.

"Well," said Pauline, with a kind of pious serenity, "we have
accomplished this somewhat trying social duty."

"Trying, indeed," exclaimed May. "I'm afraid you are dreadfully tired,
Aunt Pauline. And the crowd and closeness made your head ache, I saw.
How is your head now?"

"It is better, dear, much better."

"Well?" said Mr. Dormer-Smith, looking interrogatively with raised
eyebrows at his wife.

"Oh yes, Frederick; very nice indeed, very satisfactory. I was very much
pleased. I _had_ been a little anxious about the effect of the
_corsage_, but Amélie has done herself great credit. And, mercifully,
white suits our dear child to perfection. She really looked very well."

"Did I, Aunt Pauline? Well, I'm sure it didn't much matter how I

"Didn't matter!" echoed Mrs. Dormer-Smith in a shocked tone.

"Oh, come, May!" cried her uncle. "I thought you were above that sort of
nonsense. Do you mean to tell me that you don't care about looking

"Oh no! I mean--well, I did think my dress was lovely when I looked at
myself in the big glass upstairs; but in that crush who could see it?
And I was awfully afraid that Aunt Pauline's lace flounce would be torn
completely off the skirt."

Her uncle laughed. "You don't appear to have altogether enjoyed your
first appearance as a courtier," said he.

"Enjoyed! Oh, who _could_ enjoy it?" Then, fearful of seeming
ungrateful, she added, "It was very, very kind of Aunt Pauline to take
so much trouble, and to get me that beautiful dress."

May had not been accustomed to think about ways and means. It had seemed
a matter of course that her daily wants should be supplied, and she had
hitherto bestowed no more thought on the matter than a young bird in the
nest. But it was impossible for her to live as a member of the
Dormer-Smiths' family without having the question of money brought
forcibly to her mind. There were small pinchings and savings of a kind
utterly unknown in Friar's Row; elaborate calculations were made as to
the possibility of this or that expenditure; Aunt Pauline frequently
lamented her poverty; and yet, withal, there was kept up an appearance
of wealth and elegance. May was not long in discovering the seamy side
of all the luxury which surrounded her; and it amazed her. Why should
her aunt so arrange her life as to derive very little comfort from very
strenuous effort? And what puzzled her most of all at first was the air
of conscious virtue with which this was done: the strange way in which
Aunt Pauline would mention some piece of meanness or insincerity as
though it were an act of loftiest duty. On one or two occasions May had
innocently suggested a straightforward way out of some social
difficulty; such as wearing an old gown when a new one could not be
afforded, or refusing an invitation which could only be accepted at the
cost of much bodily and mental harass. But these childish suggestions
had been met by an indulgent smile; and she had been told that such and
such things must be done or endured in order to keep up the family's
position in society. Once May had asked, "Then why _should_ we keep up
our position in society?" But her aunt had shown such genuine
consternation at this impious inquiry, that the girl did not venture to
repeat it.

Another question, however, soon forced itself upon May--namely, how it
came to pass that, under all the circumstances, so much money was spent
on her dress. Besides the court train and petticoat, her aunt had
provided for her a wardrobe which, to the young girl's inexperienced
eyes, appeared absolutely splendid (for Pauline's conscience, although
cramped and squeezed into artificial shape like a Chinese lady's foot,
was alive and sentient; and she would on no account have failed to
expend "May's money" for May's advantage): and yet all the while there
were the two little boys in their comfortless nursery, wearing coarse
clothing and shabby shoes; and there was Cecile toiling at needlework
instead of attending to the children, in order that the cost of a
seamstress might be saved! On this subject May felt that she had a right
to interrogate her aunt; and accordingly she took courage to do so. Mrs.
Dormer-Smith was considerably embarrassed, and made an attempt to fence
off the subject. But May persisted.

"It's very, very good of you and Uncle Frederick to do so much for me,"
she said; "but I can't bear to take it all."

"Nonsense, May! Remember you are a Cheffington. You _must_ appear in the
world properly equipped."

"But, Aunt Pauline, it isn't fair to Harold and Wilfred!"

"Harold and Wilfred?" echoed her aunt, opening wide her soft dark eyes.
"What _do_ you mean, May?"

May coloured hotly, but stuck to her point. "Well," she said, "you know
Uncle Frederick was saying the other day that Willy ought to have change
of air; and you said you couldn't afford to send him to the seaside just
now; and--and I think Cecile thinks they ought to have new walking
suits; and all the while I have so many expensive new frocks. I can't
bear it. It isn't really fair."

Then Mrs. Dormer-Smith found herself compelled to assure her niece that
no penny of the cost of her toilet came out of Uncle Frederick's pocket,
and reading a further question in the girl's face, she hastened to
anticipate it by adding, "The arrangements made for you here, May, are
in entire accordance with your father's wishes. There has been a
correspondence with him on the subject, and he wrote quite distinctly;
otherwise your uncle and I would not have undertaken to bring you out."

"I hope," said May, "that papa does not deprive himself of anything for
me. He used not to be at all well off, I know. I can remember when I was
a little thing in Bruges."

"Augustus deprives himself of _nothing_," answered Mrs. Dormer-Smith
softly, but emphatically. "Pray say no more on the subject, my dear.
This sort of thing makes my head ache."

Her conscience being thus relieved, May accepted and enjoyed her new
finery and her new life. She found that "taking up one's position in
society" involved pleasanter things than being presented at a
Drawing-room. It was delightful to be tastefully and becomingly dressed.
It was agreeable to be sure of plenty of partners at every dance. It was
satisfactory to have so admirable a chaperon as Aunt Pauline. One could
no more form a fair judgment of that lady from knowing her only in
domestic life, than one could fully appreciate a swan from seeing it on
dry land. In the congenial element of "society," her merits were
exhibited to the utmost advantage. They were, indeed, greater than May
had any idea of; Mrs. Dormer-Smith's tact in warding off ineligible
partners, and securing as far as possible eligible ones for her niece,
was masterly. But May admired her aunt's unruffled temper and gentle
grace. She had been quick to find out--with some astonishment, but
beyond the possibility of doubt--that fine people can be exceedingly
rude on occasion; and she observed with pride that Aunt Pauline was
never rude. Moreover, Aunt Pauline's softness of manner was a far more
effectual protection against impertinence, than the _brusquerie_
affected by sundry ladies who forgot the wisdom embodied in the homely
saying, that "those who play at bowls must look out for rubbers;" and
who were always liable to be vanquished by greater insolence than their

May soon began to be reticent of her real sentiments and opinions in
speaking to her aunt and uncle. She felt that nine times out of ten she
was not understood; or, which was worse, was misunderstood. But in
writing to her dear granny, she frankly and fully poured out all her
heart. These letters were the joy and consolation of Mrs. Dobbs's life.
Every minutest detail interested her. She laughed over May's description
of the Drawing-room, and read it out aloud to Jo Weatherhead by way of a
wholesome corrective to his Tory prejudices.

But at the same time she secretly treasured a copy of the _Morning Post_
containing Miss Miranda Cheffington's name, and a description of Miss
Miranda Cheffington's toilet on that occasion. And she listened, with a
complacency of which she was more than half ashamed, to Mrs. Simpson's
ecstasies on the subject; and to the scraps of information which the
good-natured Amelia quoted--generally incorrectly--from social gossip
setting forth how Mrs. Dormer-Smith and her niece, Miss Miranda
Cheffington, had been present at this or that grand entertainment. These
things might appear frivolous; but was it not for this end, to put May
in her right place in the world, to give her her birthright, that Mrs.
Dobbs had made a great sacrifice? Jo Weatherhead understood this so
well, that the "fashionable intelligence" in the local newspapers
assumed a quite pathetic interest in his eyes. When he went to drink tea
with his old friend in the parlour of her new abode with its trashy,
stuccoed ceiling, miserably thin walls, and squeezed little fireplace,
he felt it to be a positive comfort to pull from his pocket a copy of
the _Court Journal_ or other equally polite print, and read aloud to
Sarah some paragraph in which May's name occurred. It was a consolation,
too, to let himself be lectured and laughed at by Sarah for his absurd
admiration of the aristocracy. And he took every opportunity of
combating her Radicalism, in order that she might victoriously vindicate
the steadfastness of her political principles.

Meanwhile, Captain Cheffington saw the accounts of his daughter's
appearance in the fashionable world, and began to think that he had been
too easy in giving his consent to it. He had got nothing by it; and
perhaps something might have been got. He wrote twice to Pauline,
urgently requiring her to tell him what was the exact sum which Mrs.
Dobbs paid for her grand-daughter's maintenance. That it was handsome he
did not doubt; knowing by experience that the Dormer-Smiths would not
contribute a shilling. Pauline had replied evasively to the first
letter, and not at all to the second, with the result that Augustus's
imagination absurdly exaggerated Mrs. Dobbs's wealth. The old woman must
be rolling in money after all! Had May's allowance been a small one, his
sister would not have hesitated to tell him the exact sum. It was clear
to his mind that the Dormer-Smiths were making an uncommonly good thing
of it, and he was decidedly disinclined to leave all the profit to them.
He wrote off to Oldchester a demand for money on his own account. It was
refused; and his anger was very bitter. He even began to cherish a
grudge against May. Why should she be surrounded by luxury, enjoying all
the gaieties of London, and taking a social position to which her only
claim was the fact of being _his_ daughter, whilst he lived the life of
an outcast? He went so far as to threaten to come to England and bring
away his daughter: having some idea that Mrs. Dobbs might ransom May,
and pension him off. But the energy which might once upon a time have
enabled Augustus Cheffington to take this strong step had waned long
ago. He had grown inert. And, above all, the circumstances of his
private life rendered such independent action difficult, if not

It presently began to be reported amongst Mrs. Dormer-Smith's
acquaintance, with other items of tea-table gossip, that "little May
Cheffington had a rich old grandmother somewhere down in the country."
Theodore Bransby, who was admitted as a familiar visitor at the
Dormer-Smiths', and who made a parade of his intimacy with the
Cheffingtons, was interrogated on the subject. He maintained a cautious
reserve in his replies:--"He really could say nothing; he had no idea
what the old lady's means might be; he could scarcely, in fact, be said
to know her at all." Wishing, as he did, completely to ignore that
objectionable old ironmonger's widow, it was irritating to find her
existence known, and her means discussed, in London. To be sure, no one
troubled himself to inquire "Who is she?" general interest being
exclusively concentrated on the question, "What has she?" Theodore's
reticence was by no means attributed to its real cause. People said that
young Bransby was looking after the girl himself, and wanted to choke
off possible rivals. Theodore did, indeed, push himself as far as
possible into every house which May frequented. There were some still
inaccessible to him; but he had patience and perseverance. And he was
constantly meeting May in the course of the season. She was far more
pleased to see him in London than she had ever been in Oldchester. He
was associated with persons whom she loved: and on many occasions when
ball-room lookers-on pronounced Miss Cheffington and young Bransby to be
"spooning awfully," May was talking with animation of his half-brothers,
Bobby and Billy, of the dear old canon and her friend Constance, or even
of Mr. and Mrs. Sebastian Bach Simpson. Theodore had no relish for these
topics; but it was better to talk with May of them, than not to talk
with her at all. And to the girl, he seemed the only link between her
present life and the dear Oldchester days.

At the beginning of June, however, he ceased to have this exclusive
claim on her attention. One fine day Aunt Pauline, returning from an
afternoon drive with her niece, found a large visiting card with "The
Misses Piper" engraved on it with many elaborate flourishes, whilst
underneath was written in pencil "Miss Hadlow."

"Piper!" said Pauline, languidly dropping her eyeglass, and looking
round at May. "What can this mean?"

"Oh, it means Miss Polly and Miss Patty and my schoolfellow Constance
Hadlow!" cried May, clapping her hands. "Fancy Conny being in town! I
dare say the Pipers invited her on a visit. I'm so glad!"

Mrs. Dormer-Smith's countenance expressed anything but gladness; and she
privately informed May that it would be impossible to do more than send
cards to these ladies by the servant. "I _can't_ have them here on my
Thursdays, you know, May," she said plaintively, and with an injured

Three months ago May would have indignantly protested against this tone,
and would have pointed out that it would be unfeeling and ungrateful on
her part to slight her old friends. But she had by this time learned to
understand how unavailing were all such representations to convince Aunt
Pauline, in whose code personal sentiments of goodwill towards one's
neighbour had to yield to the higher law of duty towards "Society."

"Perhaps," said May, after a pause, "if you cannot go yourself, Uncle
Frederick would take me to Miss Piper's some Sunday after church, when
we go for a walk with the children. You see they have written 'Sundays'
on the corner of their card."

"Oh, do you think they would be satisfied with that sort of thing?"
asked her aunt.

"They are most kind, good-natured old ladies," pursued May. "They
wouldn't mind the children at all. Indeed, they like children. And as to
coming to your Thursdays, Aunt Pauline, I really don't think they would
care to do it. Music is their great passion--at least, Miss Polly's
great passion--and when they are in London I think they go to concerts
morning, noon, and night. Miss Hadlow is different. Her grandpapa was a
Rivers," added May, blushing at her own wiliness, "and she is very
handsome, and sure to be asked out a great deal."

But May's profound strategy did not end here. She coaxed Uncle Frederick
by representing what a treat it would be to Harold and Wilfred to go out
visiting with papa. Those young gentlemen, privately incited by hints of
possible plum-cake, were soon all eagerness to go; and when, on the very
next Sunday, May set off with her uncle and cousins to walk to Miss
Piper's lodgings, she felt that she had achieved a diplomatic triumph.


Those Oldchester persons who considered Miss Piper's artistic tendencies
responsible for her occasional freedom of speech would have been
confirmed in their opinion as to the demoralizing tendency of Art and
Continental travel had they known how the daughters of the late Reverend
Reuben Piper employed Sunday afternoon in London. Miss Patty herself had
been startled at first by the idea of not only receiving callers, but
listening to profane music on that day; and the sisters had had some
discussion about it. When Patty demurred to the suggestion, Polly
inquired whether she truly and conscientiously considered that there was
anything more intrinsically wrong in seeing one's friends and opening
one's piano on a Sunday than on a Monday.

"No; of course not _that_," answered Patty. "If I thought it wrong, I
shouldn't discuss it even with you. I should simply refuse to have
anything to do with it."

"I know that, Patty," said her sister. "And I hope I am not altogether
without a conscience either."

"No, Polly; but would you do this in Oldchester?"

"Certainly not."

"Then that's what I say. We ought not to have two weights and two
measures. If a thing is objectionable in Oldchester, it is objectionable
in London."

"Not at all. Circumstances alter cases. I may think it a good thing to
take a sponge-bath every morning; but I should not take it in public."

"Polly! How can you?"

"What I mean is, that, so long as we are not a stumbling-block of
offence to other people, we have a right to please ourselves in this

So Miss Polly's will prevailed, as it prevailed with her sister upon
most occasions; and the Sunday receptions became an established custom.

The house in which the Miss Pipers lodged when they came to London was
in a street leading out of Hanover Square. The lower part of it was
occupied by a fashionable tailor--a tailor so genteel and exclusive that
he scorned any appeal to the general public, and merely had the word
"Groll" (which was his name) woven into the wire blind that shaded his
parlour window. The rooms above were sufficiently spacious, and were,
moreover, lofty--a great point in Miss Polly's opinion, as being good
for sound. They were furnished comfortably, albeit rather dingily. But a
few flower-pots, photographic albums, and bits of crochet-work,
scattered here and there, answered the purpose--if not of decoration, at
least of showing decorative intention. A grand pianoforte, bestriding a
large tract of carpet in the very middle of the front drawing-room,
conspicuously asserted its importance over all the rest of the

May and her uncle, accompanied by the two little boys, were shown
upstairs, and, the door of the drawing-room being thrown open, they
found themselves confronted by a rather numerous assembly. The last bars
of a pianoforte-piece were being performed amidst the profound silence
of the auditors, and the newly arrived party stood still near the door,
waiting until the music should come to an end.

At the piano sat a smooth-faced young gentleman playing a series of
incoherent discords with an air of calm resolve. Immediately behind him
stood an elderly man of gentleman-like appearance, whom May found
herself watching, as one watches a person swallowing something nauseous,
and involuntarily expecting him to "make a face" as each new dissonance
was crashed out close to his ear. But his amiable countenance remained
so serene and satisfied, that the doubt crossed her mind whether he
might not possibly be deaf. In the embrasure of a window stood a very
tall, thin man, whose bald head was encircled by a fringe of grizzled
red hair, and whose eyes were fast shut. But as he stood up perfectly
erect, with his hands folded in a prayerful attitude on his waistcoat,
it was obvious that he was not asleep. Miss Piper was seated with her
back towards the door and her face towards the pianist, so that May
could not see it. But the composer of "Esther" nodded her head
approvingly at every fresh harmonic catastrophe which convulsed the
keyboard. Her satisfaction seemed to be shared by a stout lady of
majestic mien, who sat near her and fired off exclamations of eulogium,
such as "Charming!" "Wonderful modulation!" "Intensely wrought out," and
so on--like minute guns; and with a certain air of suppressed
exasperation, as though she suspected that there _might_ be persons who
didn't like it, and was ready to defy them to the death. A dark-eyed
girl, very plainly dressed, and holding a little leather music-roll in
her hand, occupied a modest place behind this lady. Sitting close to the
dark-eyed girl was a man of about thirty-five years old, well-featured,
short in stature, and with reddish blonde hair and moustaches. This
personage's countenance expressed a singular mixture of audacity and
servility. His smile was at once impudent and false, and he listened to
the music with a pretentious air of knowledge and authority. The rest of
the company, with Miss Patty, were relegated, during the performance, to
the back drawing-room, where tea was served; and the folding-doors were
closed, lest the clink of a teaspoon, or the sibillation of a whisper,
should penetrate to the music-room. But, in truth, nothing less than a
crash of all the crockery on the table, and a simultaneous bellow from
all the guests, could have competed successfully with the
pianoforte-piece then in progress.

At length, with one final bang, it came to an end, and there was a
general stir and movement among the company. The amiable-looking elderly
man advanced towards Miss Piper with a most beaming smile, and said, in
a soft refined voice--

"That is the right way, isn't it? One knows the sort of thing said by
people who don't understand this school of music, the only music, in
fact; but I have long been sure that this is the right way."

"Of course, it is the right way," exclaimed the stout lady, breathing
indignation, not loud but deep, against all heretics and schismatics.

"We are so very, very much obliged to you, Mr. Turner," said the
hostess. "That new composition of yours is really wonderful!" (And so,
indeed, it was.)

As Miss Piper went up to the young gentleman who had been playing the
piano, and who remained quite cool and unmoved by the demonstrations of
his audience, she caught sight of the group near the door, and hastened
to welcome them. May was received with enthusiasm, and her uncle with
one of Miss Piper's best old-fashioned curtsies. Mr. Dormer-Smith began
to apologize for bringing his little boys, and to explain that he had
not expected to find so numerous an assembly; but Miss Piper cut him
short with hearty assurances that they were very welcome, and that her
sister in particular was very fond of children. Then, the doors being by
this time reopened, she ushered them all into the back room, crying--

"Patty! Patty! Who do you think is here? May Cheffington!" and then Miss
Patty added her welcome to that of her sister.

Harold and Wilfred had been shyly dumb hitherto, although once or twice
during the pianoforte-playing Wilfred had only saved himself from
breaking into a shrill wail and begging to be taken home, by burying his
face in the skirts of May's dress; but on beholding plum-cake and other
good things set forth on the tea-table, they felt that life had
compensations still. They took a fancy also to the Miss Pipers, finding
their eccentric ornaments a mine of interest; and before three minutes
had elapsed Harold was devouring a liberal slice of cake, and Wilfred,
seated close to kind Miss Patty, was diversifying his enjoyment of the
cake by a close and curious inspection of that lady's bracelet, taken
off for his amusement, and endeavouring to count the various geological
specimens of which it was composed.

As soon as May appeared in the back drawing-room, Constance Hadlow rose
from her seat in a corner behind the tea-table, and greeted her.

"Dear Conny," cried May, "I am so glad to see you! Then you are staying
with the Miss Pipers! I guessed you were."

Mr. Dormer-Smith was then duly presented to Miss Hadlow. Constance was
in very good looks, and her beauty and the quiet ease of her manner made
a very favourable impression on May's uncle.

Miss Hadlow found a seat for him near herself; and then turned again to
May, saying, "There is another Oldchester friend whom you have not yet
spoken to. You remember my cousin Owen?"

May's experience of society had not yet toned down her manner to "that
repose which stamps the caste of Vere de Vere." She heartily shook hands
with the young man, exclaiming, "This is a day of joyful surprises. I
didn't expect to see you, Mr. Rivers. Now, if we only had the dear
canon, and Mrs. Hadlow, and granny, I think I should be _quite_ happy."

"You are not a bit changed," said Owen Rivers, giving May his chair, and
standing beside her in the lounging attitude so familiar to her in the
garden at College Quad.

"Changed! What should change me?"

"The world."

"What nonsense!" cried May, with her old schoolgirl bluntness. "As if I
had not been living in the world all my life!"

Mr. Rivers raised his eyebrows with an amused smile.

"Well, _isn't_ it nonsense," pursued May, "to talk as if a few hundred
or thousand persons in one town--though that town is London--made up the

"It is a phrase which every one uses, and every one understands."

"But every one does not understand it alike."

"Perhaps not."

"What did you mean by it, just now?"

"What could I mean but the world of fashion, _the_ world par excellence?
Rightly so-called, no doubt, since it affords the best field for the
exercise of the higher and nobler human faculties. Those who are not in
it exist, indeed; but with a half-developed, inferior kind of life, like
a jelly-fish."

May laughed her frank young laugh.

"You're not changed either!" she said emphatically.

"Did you enjoy the performance with which that young gentleman has been
obliging us?" asked Rivers.

"I only heard the end of it."

"Very diplomatically answered."

"Are you fond of music, Mr. Rivers?"

"Yes, of _music_--very fond."

"So am I; but I know very little about it. Granny is a good musician."

"How fond you are of Mrs. Dobbs!" said Rivers.

"I am very proud of her, too," answered May quickly.

Owen Rivers looked at her with a singular expression, half-admiring,
half-tenderly, pitying--as one might look at a child whose innocent
candour is as yet "unspotted from the world."

"I suppose you know all the people here," said May, looking round on the

"I know who they are, most of them."

"That gentleman who was standing by himself at the window--the tall
gentleman--who is he?"

"Mr. Jawler, a great musical critic."

"And the pleasant-faced man who seemed so delighted with the playing?"

"Mr. Sweeting. He is an enthusiastic admirer and patron of young
Cleveland Turner, the pianist: a very kindly, amiable, courteous
gentleman, with much money and leisure, as I am told."

"That stout lady talking to Miss Piper seems to be musical also?"

"That is Lady Moppett: a very good sort of woman, I dare say, but
fanatical. She would bowstring all us dogs of Christians who believe in

"And who is that disagreeable little man in the corner?"


"The little man with moustaches. There. Close to the nice-looking,
dark-eyed girl."

"Oh, that man? But he is not considered disagreeable by the world in
general, Miss Cheffington! He is by way of being a rather fascinating
individual: Signor Vincenzo Valli, singing-master, and composer of
songs. I wonder why he condescends to favour Miss Piper with his

"Is it a condescension?"

"A great condescension. Signor Valli is nothing, if not aristocratic."

At this moment there was a general movement in the other room. The young
pianist seated himself once more at the instrument. The various groups
of talkers dispersed, and took their places to listen. May whispered
nervously to Miss Patty, that perhaps she and her uncle had better go,
and take away the children before the music commenced.

"I am so afraid," she said naïvely, "that Willy may cry if that
gentleman plays again."

Miss Patty found a way out of the difficulty by taking the children away
to her own room. It was no deprivation to her, she said, not to hear Mr.
Turner play.

So the two little boys, laden with good things, and further enticed by
the promise of picture-books, trotted off very contentedly under Miss
Patty's wing. Mr. Dormer-Smith had passed into the front drawing-room,
where he was chatting with Lady Moppett, who proved to be an old
acquaintance of his. May was following her uncle to explain to him about
the children, when Miss Piper hurried up to her with an anxious and
important mien.

"Sit down, my dear," she said; "sit down. Cleveland Turner is going to
play that fine Beethoven, the one in F minor, the opera 57, you know.
Mr. Jawler particularly wishes to hear him perform it."

May glanced round, and seeing no place vacant near at hand, returned to
the other room, and took a seat close to the folding-doors, which were
now left open.

"What is our sentence?" asked Rivers.

"Do you mean what is he going to play? A piece of Beethoven's."

"Ah! Well, at least he will have something to say this time. Remains to
be seen whether he can say it."

Mr. Cleveland Turner performed the _sonata appassionata_ correctly,
although coldly, and with a certain hardness of style and touch. But the
beauty of the composition made itself irresistibly felt, and when the
piece was finished there was a murmur of applause. Mr. Jawler opened his
eyes, inclined his head, opened his eyes again, and said, apparently to
himself, "Yes, yes--oh yes!" which seemed to be interpreted as an
expression of approval; for Miss Piper looked radiant, and even the icy
demeanour of Mr. Cleveland Turner thawed half a degree or so. Signor
Valli had applauded in a peculiar fashion--opening his arms wide, and
bringing his gloved hands together with apparent force, but so as to
produce no sound whatever. And as he went through this dumb show of
applause, he was talking all the time to the dark-eyed girl near him,
with a sneering smile on his face.

Miss Piper bustled up to them. "Dear Miss Bertram," she said, "you must
let us hear your charming voice. Mr. Jawler has heard of you. He would
like you to sing something. Signor Valli," with clasped hands, "_might_
I entreat you to accompany Miss Bertram in one of your own exquisite
compositions? It would be such a treat--such a musical feast, I may

Miss Bertram unrolled her music-case in a business-like way, and spread
its contents before the singing-master.

"What are you going to sing, Clara?" asked Lady Moppett, turning her
head over her shoulder.

"Signor Valli will choose," answered the young lady quietly.

Valli selected a song and offered his arm to Miss Bertram to lead her to
the piano. She did not accept it instantly, being occupied in replacing
the rest of her music in its case; and with a sudden, impatient gesture,
Valli wheeled round and walked to the piano alone. Miss Bertram followed
him composedly, and took her place beside him. May looked at her with
interest, as she stood there during the few bars of introduction to the

Clara Bertram was not beautiful, but she had a singularly attractive
face. Her dark eyes were not nearly so large, nor so finely set, as
Constance Hadlow's, but they were infinitely more expressive, and her
rather wide mouth revealed a magnificent set of teeth when she smiled or
sang. The song selected for her was one of those compositions which, if
ill-sung, or even only tolerably sung, would pass unnoticed. But Miss
Bertram sang it to perfection. Her voice was very beautiful, with
something peculiarly pathetic in its vibrating tones, and she pronounced
the Italian words with a pure, unaffected, and finished accent.

"Oh, how lovely!" exclaimed May, under her breath, when the song was

"Isn't it?" said Miss Piper, who happened to be near enough to catch the
words. "I am so glad you are pleased with her! Do you think Mrs.
Dormer-Smith would like her to sing now and then at a _soirée_? She
wants to get known in really good houses."

Before May could answer the little woman had hurried off again, and in
another minute was leading Miss Bertram up to Mr. Jawler, who spoke to
the young singer with evident affability, keeping his eyes open for a
full minute at a time.

Meanwhile Valli was left alone at the piano, and an ugly look came into
his face as he glanced round and saw himself neglected. But his
expression changed in an instant with curious suddenness when Miss
Hadlow drew near, and, leaning on the instrument, addressed some words
of compliment to him.

"Will you not let us hear you sing, Signor Valli?" she said presently.

Valli merely shook his head in answer, keeping his eyes fixed on Miss
Hadlow's face with a look of bold admiration, and letting his fingers
stray softly over the keys.

"Oh, that is a terrible disappointment!"

"I don't think so," replied the singing-master, speaking very good

"It is, indeed."

Again he shook his head.

"It is to me, at all events."

"Well, I shall sing for you; a little song _sotto voce_, all to

"Oh, but that would be too selfish on my part, to enjoy your singing all
to myself."

"It is a very good plan to be selfish," returned Valli; and forthwith he
began a little Neapolitan love-song--murmuring, rather than singing
it--and still keeping his eyes fixed on Miss Hadlow.

At the first sound of his voice, low and subdued though it was, Miss
Piper held up her finger to bespeak silence. There was a general hush.
Every one looked towards the piano, against which Constance was still
leaning, with her back to the rest of the company. She made a little
movement to withdraw to a seat, but Valli immediately ceased singing,
and, under cover of a noisy _ritournelle_ which he played on the piano,
said to her, "I am singing for you. If you go away, my song will go away

"But I can't stand here by myself, Signor Valli," protested Constance,
by no means displeased. At this moment Miss Piper approached to implore
the _maestro_ to continue, and Constance whispered to her in a few words
the state of the case.

"Caprices of genius, my dear," said the little woman. "When you have
seen as much of professional people as I have, you will not be
astonished." Then to Valli, "Will you not continue that exquisite air?
We are all dying to hear it."

"Yes; on condition that you both stay there and inspire me," answered
he, with an unconcealed sneer.

Miss Piper, however, took him at his word, and, linking her arm in
Constance's, remained standing close to the instrument. Valli, upon
this, resumed his song. He gave it now at the full pitch of his voice,
addressing it ostentatiously to Miss Hadlow, and throwing an exaggerated
amount of expression into the love passages. Miss Piper was enchanted,
and led off the applause enthusiastically. Valli was soon surrounded by
a group of admirers, Mr. Dormer-Smith among them. May was conscious of a
painful impression, which destroyed any pleasure she might have had in
the song. And that Owen Rivers shared this impression was proved by his
walking up to the piano, and unceremoniously putting his cousin's hand
on his arm to lead her away.

"Oh, don't take Conny away, Mr. Rivers," cried Miss Piper. "Signor Valli
is going to favour us with some more of his delicious national airs."

"Come and sit down, Constance," said Owen authoritatively. "Let me get
you a seat also, Miss Piper," he added. "It can scarcely be necessary
for the due exhibition of this gentleman's national airs to keep two
ladies standing."

"Oh no, no; please don't mind me. I'm quite comfortable," said Miss
Piper, with a shade of vexation on her good-humoured round face.

Constance remained perfectly calm and self-possessed; only a faint smile
and a sparkle in her eyes revealed a gratified vanity as she took the
chair near May, to which her cousin conducted her.

Miss Piper shrugged up her shoulders and pursed up her mouth. "He has no
idea what artists are," she whispered in Lady Moppett's ear. "And,
besides, poor dear young man, he's so desperately in love with his
cousin that he can't bear her to be even looked at. I only hope Signor
Valli won't take offence."

But Valli, finding himself now the object of general attention, was very
gracious. He sang song after song without the inspiration of Miss
Hadlow's handsome face opposite to him; and he sang far better than
before;--with less exaggeration, and managing his naturally defective
voice with singular skill and _finesse_. But the praise and flattery
which his hearers poured forth unstintingly did not seem quite to
satisfy him. His glance wandered restlessly, as though in search of
something; and finally, after a very clever rendering of an old air by
Carissimi, he addressed himself suddenly to Miss Bertram, who was
standing somewhat apart in the background, and asked, in Italian--

"Is the Signorina content?"

"I always like your singing of that aria," she answered, in a quiet,
matter-of-fact tone.

"Like it, indeed!" exclaimed Lady Moppett, with her severest manner. "I
should think you did like it, Clara! And you ought to profit by it. To
hear singing so finished--of such a perfect school--is a lesson for

Valli, upon this, made a low bow to Lady Moppett--a bow so low as to
seem almost burlesque. As he raised his face again he turned it towards
Miss Bertram with a subtle smile, saying, "Miladi is such a judge! Her
praise is very precious." Clara, however, kept an impassive countenance,
and declined to meet the glance he shot at her. Then Valli made a second
and equally low bow to the hostess, and, cutting short her ecstatic
compliments and thanks, left the room without further ceremony.

The party now broke up. Lady Moppett departed with Miss Bertram and Mr.
Jawler, to whom she offered a seat in her carriage. Mr. Cleveland Turner
and his patron, Mr. Sweeting, went away together. In a few minutes there
remained Mr. Dormer-Smith, with his niece, and Owen Rivers. Miss Patty
bustled in with the two children.

"Dear me," said she. "Is the music all over? Well, now let us be

But Mr. Dormer-Smith declared he must reluctantly bring his visit to an
end. "I don't know how to thank you," said he to Miss Patty, "for your
kindness to my children. I hope you will forgive me for bringing them."

Miss Patty heartily assured him that there was nothing to forgive, and
that she hoped he would bring them again. She had gathered from the
artless utterances of Harold and Wilfred an idea of their home life,
which made her feel compassionately towards them.

As for Miss Polly, she was in the highest spirits. Mr. Jawler and Signor
Valli, both stars of considerable magnitude in the musical world, had
shone for her with unclouded lustre. It had been, she thought, a highly
successful afternoon. So also thought Harold and Wilfred. And perhaps
these were the only three persons who had enjoyed themselves thoroughly
and unaffectedly.


The London season proceeded with its usual accumulation of engagements,
its usual breathless chase after half-hours that have got too long a
start ever to be recaptured, its usual fleeting satisfactions and
abiding disappointments, its snubs, sneers, smiles, follies, falsehoods,
and flirtations. The rushing current of fashionable life in London
carried little May Cheffington on its surface, together with many brazen
vessels of a very different kind. Constance Hadlow observed
half-enviously to her friend that she was thoroughly "in the swim," a
phrase which May found singularly inappropriate in her own case, feeling
that there was no more question of a swim than in shooting Niagara! To
her, especially, the whirl of society was confusing, phantasmagoric, and
unreal. All the faces were new to her, most of the names awoke no
associations in her mind. On the other hand, this peculiar inexperience
gave freshness to her impressions and keenness to her insight. She had
none of those social traditions which, nine times out of ten, supply the
place of private judgment. She found her impression of many personages
startlingly at variance with the label which the world had agreed to
affix to them. It is possible to be at once simple and shrewd, just as
it is possible to be both _rusé_ and dull-witted.

May's simplicity was not of the blundering thick-skinned type; and her
ingenuous freshness was admired by a great many persons, among whom was
Mrs. Griffin. Far from being offended by May's moral indignation against
those who accepted the hospitality of vulgar people, and then ridiculed
them for being vulgar, Mrs. Griffin entirely approved her sentiments.
Mrs. Griffin herself deplored, as she often said, "the servility towards
mere money, which was degrading the tone of society." And whenever any
new instance of it came to her knowledge, she would shake her head, and
exclaim, softly, "Oh, Mammon, Mammon!" But this did not, of course,
apply to her daughter the duchess, who sometimes went to the
Aaronssohns'. Her daughter was so very great a lady as to be above
ordinary restrictions. Other people worshipped Mammon; the duchess only
patronized Mammon--which was, surely, a very different thing!

Aunt Pauline, however, derived no gratification from May's
unconventional frankness. It was, on the contrary, a source of constant
anxiety to her; and she felt daily more and more that it would be a
relief to get May off her hands. Introducing her niece into
society--even although the niece was a pretty girl, and a Cheffington to
boot--had not proved so pleasing a task as she had anticipated. There
was, to her thinking, a strange perversity in the girl's character,
which made her callous where she should be sensitive, and sensitive
where she might well be indifferent. For instance, she showed culpable
coolness about her great-uncle Castlecombe and his family, and provoking
warmth about her Oldchester friends. Not that May was apt to speak much
of her life in Oldchester. In the natural course of things she would
have talked freely and eagerly about her dear granny; but very soon
after her arrival in London, her affectionate loquacity on this subject
received a check. Aunt Pauline had hinted, with her usual mild
politeness, that it would be desirable not to speak of Mrs. Dobbs before
Smithson or any of the servants. Seeing the startled look in May's eyes,
and the indignant flush on May's cheeks, her aunt added diplomatically,
"Your father would not like it, May. I am trying to carry out his
expressed wishes. That ought to be enough for you."

It was enough, at all events, to close May's lips. Her love and pride
combined to make her silent. She tried to persuade herself that her
father, at all events, had some good and reasonable motive for this
prohibition, and that he, at least, was not ashamed of Mrs.
Dobbs--ashamed of granny! The very thought made her hot with anger. But
that Aunt Pauline was ashamed of her was too clear to May's honest mind.
Painful as this conviction was, however, she came by degrees to hold it
rather in sorrow than in anger, and to regard her aunt with something of
the same indulgent toleration that Mrs. Dobbs had once expressed to Jo
Weatherhead. For Mrs. Dormer-Smith's worldliness was not at all of a
cynical sort. It was rather in the nature of a deep-rooted superstition
conscientiously held.

To some points of her worldly creed Pauline clung with religious
fervour. One of these was the duty incumbent on a dowerless young lady
to marry well. To marry _very_ well was to marry a man with birth and
money; but to secure a husband with money only--provided there were
enough of it--she allowed to be marrying well. She did not look at the
matter with vulgar flippancy. It was, no doubt, a sacrifice for a
well-born woman to become the wife of an underbred man, however wealthy.
But well-born women were no less called upon than their humbler sisters
to make sacrifices in a good cause.

None of the Castlecombes much frequented fashionable society, and Mrs.
Dormer-Smith had hitherto resigned herself, without much difficulty, to
seeing very little of her noble kinsfolk. But when May was introduced,
her aunt thought it desirable to cultivate them. Lord Castlecombe's big,
gloomy, family mansion in town had been let ever since his wife's death
many years ago; and whenever his lordship came to London to give his
vote in the House of Peers--which was almost the sole object that had
power to bring him up from the country--he occupied furnished lodgings.
Of his two sons, both bachelors, the elder was governor of a colony on
the other side of the globe, and the younger held a permanent post under
Government. This Lucius Cheffington occasionally met Mr. Dormer-Smith at
the club, and exchanged a few words with him. Captain Cheffington, on
his penultimate visit to England, when his ungrateful country declined
to provide for him, had quarrelled with all the Castlecombes, and had
made himself particularly obnoxious to Lucius; for Lucius, whom his
cousin considered a solemn ass, held a lucrative place, whilst Augustus,
who knew himself to be a remarkably clever fellow, with immense
knowledge of the world, was relegated to poverty and obscurity. But
Pauline had not quarrelled with them. She would not willingly have
quarrelled with any one, least of all with her Uncle Castlecombe and his
family. And as to Mr. Dormer-Smith, it chanced that the one point of
sympathy between himself and his cousin-in-law Lucius was the latter's
cordial dislike to Gus. Nevertheless, the dislike did not descend to
Gus's daughter. Lucius was pleased to approve of his young kinswoman,
none the less, perhaps, that it was evident her father troubled himself
little about her.

Mr. Dormer-Smith knew very well that the most effectual way of winning
Lord Castlecombe's goodwill for his grand-niece was to assure his
lordship that he would not be called upon to do anything for her. He,
therefore, confidentially informed Lucius that the girl's grandmother in
Oldchester was defraying her expenses, and would, no doubt, eventually
provide for her altogether. The sagacity of this course was proved soon
afterwards, when Lucius announced that his father would come and dine
with Pauline the next time he should be in town, and make Miranda's

This was well. And even as to May's Oldchester friends matters turned
out better than her aunt could have hoped. In the first place, the
Misses Piper showed no disposition whatever to force themselves on Mrs.
Dormer-Smith. That being the case, there was no objection to May's going
to see them every Sunday with her uncle and the children. To Harold and
Wilfred these Sunday visits were such a delightful break in the dull
routine of their lives that their father would have endured considerable
boredom and discomfort rather than deprive them of it. But, in fact, he
was not bored. Whenever the music became too severe, he could withdraw
into the tea-room, where he always found some one to chat with. Possibly
he, too, felt these Sundays to be a break in the monotony of his daily
life. There was a cordial, hearty tone about the hostesses which was
decidedly pleasant, although he was aware that Pauline would pronounce
it sadly underbred. But Pauline was not there to be shocked, and there
were some red drops in Mr. Dormer-Smith's veins (he was not quite so
blue-blooded as his wife) which warmed to this plebeian kindness.
Sometimes even the moisture would come into his eyes when he watched his
little boys clinging familiarly about Miss Patty as they never clung
about their mother. The good-natured old maid had won the children's
hearts completely. They were overheard one day in a lively discussion as
to which was the prettier, Miss Patty or Cousin May: Wilfred inclining,
on the whole, to award the palm of beauty to his cousin, but Harold
powerfully arguing in favour of Miss Patty that she had such "beautiful
curls" (an ingenuous, and probably unique, tribute to the ginger-bread
coloured wig!) and a "shiny brooch like a butterfly."

Then Constance Hadlow, whom Mrs. Dormer-Smith had unwillingly invited to
lunch one day with her former schoolfellow, proved to be in every
respect "most presentable," as Aunt Pauline herself candidly admitted.
So presentable was she in fact, so handsome, self-possessed, and even
(on the mother's side) well connected, that there might have arisen
objections of a different sort against receiving her, as being a
dangerous competitor for that solemn duty of marrying well. But a chance
word of May's to the effect that young Bransby had long been an admirer
of Constance, and that they were supposed by many persons in Oldchester
to be engaged to each other, relieved Aunt Pauline's mind on that score.

"It would be very suitable," she said approvingly. "I think Mr. Bransby
a very nice person; so quiet."

The subject of this glowing eulogium had not appeared at Mrs.
Dormer-Smith's receptions for some time. He had been ordered into the
country, to cure a violent cold by change of air; and although he much
disliked leaving town at that moment, he never thought of neglecting his
physician's advice. Theodore's mother had been consumptive; and the fear
that he inherited her constitution made him anxiously careful of his
health. Immediately on his return to London he presented himself, about
half-past five o'clock one Thursday afternoon, in Mrs. Dormer-Smith's
drawing-room, and experienced a shock of disagreeable surprise on
finding Constance Hadlow seated near May at the tea-table. May,
innocently supposing that she was doing him a good turn, gave him her
place, and went to another part of the room. But Constance coolly
greeted him with a "How d'ye do, Theodore?" in a tone of the politest
insipidity, which he sincerely approved of. Nevertheless, he would
rather not have found her there. On glancing round he was struck by
several innovations. In the first place, the pianoforte--usually a dumb
piece of furniture in Mrs. Dormer-Smith's house--stood open, with some
loose sheets of music lying on it; and Signor Vincenzo Valli sat, teacup
in hand, smiling his false smile beside Mrs. Griffin. Theodore knew
perfectly well who Signor Valli was; and it needed not Mrs. Griffin's
gracious demeanour to instruct this rising young man that Valli was
sufficiently the fashion to be worth being civil to. But he was
surprised to find him there. His surprises, however, were not at an end;
for whom should he behold in familiar conversation with a gentleman at
the opposite side of the room but Owen Rivers? And near them was--he
could hardly believe his eyes--Mr. Bragg! It seemed to Theodore as if
there had been a conspiracy amongst his acquaintance to make all sorts
of fresh combinations on the social chess-board during his brief
absence. He felt that it was necessary for him to take an accurate
survey of the new positions. But he saw no immediate opportunity of
doing so; for there was no one at hand to interrogate, except Constance
Hadlow, who, of course, knew nothing. She must be spoken to, however;
but he would cut the conversation as short as possible.

Thoughts--even the weighty thoughts of a diplomatically-minded young
gentleman--move quickly, and there was scarcely any perceptible pause
between Constance's greeting and his gravely polite remark that it was
quite an unexpected pleasure to see her there.

"Yes; I came up a few weeks ago with the Pipers."

"Oh! you are staying with _them_?" (This with a strong flavour of his
superior manner; for the Pipers were really nobodies.)

"And what have you been doing with yourself? I haven't seen you
anywhere," said Constance coolly.

"I have been out of town. But in any case we might possibly not have
met. Have you been going out much?"

"Oh, as much as most people, I suppose. I was at the Aaronssohns' dance
last night."

"The Aaronssohns!" exclaimed Theodore. (This time he was so astonished
that he spoke quite naturally.) "I didn't know that you knew them."

"Oh, I don't know them."

"Then how did you get--I mean----"

"How did I get there? Dear me, Theodore, your visit to the country has
given you a refreshing buttercup-and-daisy kind of air! Do you suppose
that the Aaronssohns' ball-room was filled with their personal friends
and acquaintances? Mrs. Griffin got me an invitation."

Now to be presented to Mrs. Griffin and to be invited to the
Aaronssohns' were pet objects of Theodore Bransby's social ambition, and
he had not yet compassed either of them.

"Oh, indeed!" said he, struggling, under the disadvantage of conscious
ill-humour, to maintain that air of indifference to all things in heaven
and earth which he imagined to be the completest manifestation of high
breeding. "I suppose that was achieved through Mrs. Dormer-Smith's

"Not altogether. It was May Cheffington who first introduced me to Mrs.
Griffin. She's just the same dear little thing as ever--I don't mean
Mrs. Griffin! But Mrs. Griffin found out that she had known my
grandfather Rivers. I believe they were sweethearts in their pinafores a
hundred years ago; so she has been awfully nice to me."

While Constance was speaking, Theodore's eye lighted on Mr. Bragg, solid
and solemn, wearing that look of melancholy respectability which is
associated with the British workman in his Sunday clothes.

"Oh, and Mr. Bragg was at the Aaronssohns', too," said Constance,
following the young man's glance. "Fancy Mr. Bragg at a ball!"

"Did Mrs. Griffin know _his_ grandfather?" asked Theodore, with a sneer.

It was clear to Constance that he had quite lost his temper. Otherwise
he would not, she felt sure, have said anything in such bad taste. But
she replied calmly--

"I don't think Mr. Bragg ever had a grandfather. But he is rich enough
to do without one. It is poor persons like you and me who find
grandfathers necessary--or, at all events, useful."

Theodore understood the sarcasm of this quiet speech, and it helped him
to master his growing irritation. There are some natures on which a
moral buffet acts as a sedative.

"Was it your friend Miss Piper who brought Mr. Bragg here?" he asked,
showing no sign of having felt the blow, except a slight increase of

"Oh dear, no! The Pipers have never been here themselves, except to
leave a card at the door. This is not the kind of society they care for,
you know. I saw Mr. Bragg come in to-day with May's cousin, Mr. Lucius
Cheffington, but I can't say whether he first introduced him or not."

"Is that Mr. Lucius Cheffington?"

"That man talking to Owen?--Yes."

"Mrs. Dormer-Smith has rather a mixed collection this afternoon. I see
Valli over there. You know who I mean? That short, foreign man near----"

"Oh yes; Signor Valli is a great ally of mine. He's delightful, I think.
His airs and graces are so amusing. I can tell you how _he_ comes to be
here, if you like," returned Constance placidly. She was secretly
enjoying Theodore's discomfiture. He had expected to play the part of
town mouse, and to patronize and instruct her. "The fact is," she
continued, "that Lady Moppett begged Mr. Dormer-Smith to induce his wife
to have her _protégée_, Miss Bertram, to sing here on Thursday
afternoons, promising, as a kind of bait, to get Valli to come too. I
don't think Mrs. Dormer-Smith particularly wished to have Miss Bertram;
but she thought it would be nice to have Valli, who is run after by the
best people, and is very difficult to get hold of. So the negotiation
succeeded. It is too funny how one has to _ménager_ and coax these
professional people. If you don't want any more information just now, I
think I will go and speak to Mrs. Griffin." Whereupon Constance glided
away, self-possessed and graceful, and with a becoming touch of
animation bestowed by the consciousness that she had been mistress of
the situation.

Theodore looked decidedly blank for the moment. No one bestowed any
attention on him. As he sat watching, he was struck by the evidently
familiar way in which Owen Rivers and Mr. Cheffington were talking
together. He himself particularly desired to be introduced to Lucius
Cheffington, but a secret, grudging feeling made him unwilling to owe
the introduction to Rivers. Presently Rivers moved away to join May and
Miss Bertram, who were turning over some music together, and Mr. Bragg
took his place near Mr. Cheffington. This was the opportunity which
Theodore had wished for. He at once rose and walked up to them.
Theodore's manner was never servile, but there was an added gravity in
his demeanour towards certain persons, intended to show that he thought
them worth taking seriously; and this tribute he rendered to Mr. Bragg.
For, although the young man had by no means forgotten Mr. Bragg's
deplorable insensibility to an enlightened view of the currency
question, yet he prided himself on thoroughly understanding that the
great tin-tack maker's claims to consideration rested on a solid basis
quite apart from culture or intelligence.

"I wish," said Theodore, after the first salutations, "that you would do
me the favour to make me known to Mr. Lucius Cheffington. I know so many
members of his family, but I have not the pleasure of his personal

Mr. Bragg eyed him with his usual heavy deliberation. "Oh," said he
slowly, "this is Mr.--I don't call to mind your Christian name--eh? Oh
yes--Mr. Theodore Bransby."

Mr. Lucius Cheffington made an unusually low bow, his pride being of the
sort which manifests itself in the most ceremonious politeness.

He was a small, lean man, with a pale face deeply lined by ill-health
and a fretful temperament. He had closely shaven cheeks and chin; heavy,
grizzled moustaches; and very thick, grizzled hair, which he wore rather
long. His voice was harsh, though subdued, and he spoke very slowly,
making such long pauses as occasionally tempted unwary strangers to
finish his sentences for him. A double eyeglass with tortoise-shell rims
was set astride his nose; and behind the glasses two dark, near-sighted
eyes looked out, somewhat superciliously, upon a world which fell sadly
short of what a Cheffington had a right to expect.

"I have the pleasure of knowing your cousin, Captain Augustus
Cheffington, very well indeed," said Theodore.

Lucius bowed again and adjusted his eyeglass. A shade of surprise and
annoyance passed over his face. His Cousin Augustus had been a sore
subject with the family for years; and latterly such rumours as had
reached England about him had not made the subject more agreeable.

"I have often thought," pursued Theodore, quite unaware that his
listener was regarding him with a mixture of astonishment and disfavour,
"that it is a great pity a man of Captain Cheffington's abilities and
accomplishments should live out of England; unless, indeed, he held some
diplomatic appointment abroad. In my opinion these are times in which
the great old families should hold fast by the public service. As I
ventured to say to one of our county members the other day----" And so
on, and so on. Having thus happily launched himself, Theodore proceeded
in his best Parliamentary style: holding forth with a power of
self-complacent and steady boredom beyond his years. A sensitive person
would have been petrified by the unsympathizing stare from behind those
tortoise-shell-rimmed glasses; but Theodore was not sensitive to such
influences: being fortified by the _à priori_ conviction that he must
naturally make a favourable impression. And since Lucius Cheffington
could not, compatibly with his own dignity, plainly tell him that he
considered him a presumptuous young ass, there was nothing to check his
flow of eloquence.

But at length the cold stare was softened, and the pale, peevish,
furrowed face turned to Theodore with a faint show of interest. Some
casual word of this intrusive young man's seemed to show that he came
from Oldchester.

"Do you know--a--Mrs.--a--Dobbs?" asked Lucius, speaking for the first
time, and edging in this point-blank question between two of Theodore's
neatly-turned sentences setting forth a political parallel between the
late Lord Tweedledum and the present Right Honourable Tweedledee.

It was a shock; but Theodore bore it stoically.

"Not exactly. I have spoken with her. Mrs. Dobbs is not precisely----in
our set," he answered, with a slight smile at one corner of his mouth,
intended to demolish Mrs. Dobbs.

"I thought that, being a native of Oldchester, you might--a--be----"
begun Mr. Cheffington in his low, harsh tones.

"Be acquainted with her? Really----"

"I thought that, being a native of Oldchester, you might--a--be able to
tell me something about her."

"Not much, I fear," replied Theodore. He felt tempted to add that in
Oldchester there were natives and natives.

"She's--a--rich, isn't she?" pursued Mr. Cheffington.

"Not that I know of," answered Theodore, staring a little.

"Rich is, perhaps, too much to say. At any rate, she is--a--quite

"Well off? Oh, as to that----"

"At any rate, she is quite well-to-do, I presume!"

Theodore had never considered the question, but he said, "Oh yes," at a
venture; and then suddenly a light flashed upon his mind. Perhaps Mrs.
Dobbs _was_ rich, after all. Though she lived in so humble a style she
might, perhaps, have laid by money.

"She appears to be a person of--a--great--good sense," said Mr. Lucius
Cheffington, remembering how Mrs. Dormer-Smith had stated that she
declined to give any money-assistance to Augustus. And after that he
made a second very low bow, and brought the interview to an end.

Little had Theodore Bransby expected to hear Mrs. Dobbs discussed and
approved by a member of the noble house of Castlecombe. He had noticed
that Mrs. Dormer-Smith systematically avoided any mention of the vulgar
old woman. But then Mrs. Dormer-Smith was a person of the very finest
taste. And, to be sure, it could scarcely be expected that Mr. Lucius
Cheffington should feel Augustus's _mésalliance_ as acutely as it was
felt by Augustus's own sister. Besides, if, as really seemed possible,
the ironmonger's widow turned out to be a moneyed person----! But it
must be recorded of Theodore, that not even the idea of her having money
reconciled him to Mrs. Dobbs. He said to himself afterwards, when he was
meditating on what he had heard, that nothing so convincingly proved how
much he was in love with Miss Cheffington, as his being ready to forgive
her even her grandmother!


George Frederick Cheffington, fifth Viscount Castlecombe, was, in many
ways, a very clever old man. He was extremely ignorant of most things
which can be taught by books. But he had a thorough acquaintance with
practical agriculture, considerable keenness in finance, and a quick eye
to detect the weaknesses of his fellow men. On the other hand, his
overweening self-esteem led him to think that what he knew comprised
what was chiefly, if not solely, worth knowing, and his avarice
occasionally overrode his native talent for business. In his youth he
had been idle and extravagant. The former vice gave him the reputation
of a dunce at school and college, and, by a reaction which belonged to
his character, made him defiantly contemptuous of bookish men, with one
single exception, presently to be noted. As to his extravagance, that
was effectually cured by the death of his father. From the moment that
he came into possession of the family estates, which he did at about
thirty years of age, his income was administered with sagacious economy,
and by the time his two sons arrived at manhood Lord Castlecombe was a
very rich man.

If he had a soft place in his heart, it was for his son Lucius, who
resembled his dead mother in features, and also, unfortunately, in the
delicacy of his constitution. George, his heir, was like
himself--strong, tough, and hardy. Lord Castlecombe secretly admired
Lucius's talents very much, and had been highly gratified when his
second son took honours at his University. That this success had not
been followed by any particularly brilliant results later, and that
Lucius had, as it were, stuck fast in his career, had even decidedly
failed in Parliament, and had finally been shelved in a Government post
which, although lucrative, was inglorious, his lordship attributed to
the increase of folly, incapacity, and roguery which he had observed in
the world during the last twenty years or so. That a Cheffington of such
abilities as Lucius should remain undistinguished was part of the
general decadence. In politics Lord Castlecombe was a Whig of the old
school; and though he continued to vote with his party, yet the only
point on which he was thoroughly in sympathy with the Liberals--a word,
by the way, which he had come greatly to dislike, as covering far too
wide a field--was that they fought the Tories.

The person whom Lord Castlecombe most detested in all the world was his
nephew Augustus. He disliked his extravagance, his poverty, and the
biting insolence of his tongue. This antipathy had latterly added
poignancy to the old man's desire that his son should marry, and
transmit the Castlecombe title and estates in the direct line; for
Augustus was the next heir after his two cousins. It was true that the
contingency of Captain Cheffington succeeding seemed remote enough.
George Cheffington was only his senior by a couple of years, and Lucius
was his junior. But neither of them had married; and they were well on
in middle life. Lucius, indeed, seemed to have settled down into
incorrigible old bachelorhood. And although George, in answer to his
father's exhortations on the subject, always replied that he really
would think seriously of looking for a wife on his next visit to England
(persons suitable for that dignity not being to be found, it appeared,
in the particular portion of the globe where his official duties lay),
yet the years went by, and still there came no daughter-in-law, no
grandson to inherit the coronet and enjoy the broad acres of
Castlecombe. The idea that Augustus Cheffington might ever come to enjoy
them was gall and wormwood to their present owner. But he had never
breathed a word on this subject to any human being.

Mrs. Dormer-Smith was gratified by her uncle's gracious acceptance of an
invitation to dine with her, soon after his arrival in town, about the
middle of June. Lord Castlecombe did not visit her often; but that was
from no ill-will on his part. In fact, he was rather fond of Pauline. He
considered her a bit of a goose. But he thought it by no means
unbecoming in a woman to be a bit of a goose. And she had thoroughbred
manners, a gentle voice, and was still agreeable to look upon. The old
lord disliked ugly women, and maintained that the sight of them
disagreed with him like bad wine.

This consideration influenced Pauline in the choice of her guests to
meet her uncle. It was understood there was to be no large party. It had
been agreed that they should invite Mr. Bragg, who had bought a good
deal of land in Lord Castlecombe's county, was director of a company of
which the noble viscount was chairman, and of whom his lordship was
known to entertain a favourable opinion, as being a man who made no
disguise about his humble origin, and was free from the offensive
pretensions of many _nouveaux riches_. For, although Lord Castlecombe
willingly admitted that money could buy everything on which most people
valued themselves, he greatly disliked the notion that it could be
supposed to buy the things on which _he_ most valued himself.

"Well, then, Frederick," said Mrs. Dormer-Smith, "that makes four men:
my uncle, Lucius, Mr. Bragg, and yourself. Then May and I; and I thought
of having that handsome Miss Hadlow. Uncle George likes to see pretty
faces. We want another woman, but really I don't know who there is
available at this moment. There are so few odd women who ain't frights,"
pursued the anxious hostess plaintively. "If it were a man, now----There
are plenty of odd men to be had." Then, struck by a sudden inspiration,
she said, "Why shouldn't we have an odd man instead of another woman?
Uncle George gives me his arm, of course. You take Miss Hadlow, Mr.
Bragg takes May, and Lucius and the odd man go in together. Positively,
I think it would be the best arrangement of all."

"I suppose Lucius wouldn't mind, eh?"

"It certainly would be the best arrangement for _me_, at all events; for
if there are only those two girls, I can simply put my feet up on a sofa
when we go into the drawing-room, shut my eyes, and be quiet for half an
hour, which, of course, would be out of the question if there was any
woman who required to have civilities paid her; and in all probability I
shall be in a state of nervous prostration by Friday. This season with
May has tried me severely."

Mr. Dormer-Smith offering no objection, there only remained to make
choice of the "odd man," and, after a moment's reflection, Pauline
decided on young Bransby.

"Bransby!" exclaimed Mr. Dormer-Smith. "He's a dreadful prig."

"I think he's very nice, Frederick. But really that is not the point.
He's engaged, or wants to be engaged, or something of the sort, to Miss
Hadlow, so of course----"

"What? You don't mean to say that handsome girl would have such an
insignificant fellow as Bransby?"

"I mean to say nothing about it. The subject has only a faint interest
for me, Frederick. But what _is_ important is that, in any case, _he
will help to take her off_."

Mr. Dormer-Smith stared; he understood his wife's phrase, but not her
allusion. "Why, you don't suppose there's any danger of her setting her
cap at Lucius?" said he.

"I should have no objection to her doing so."

"Well, there's nobody else."

"We need not discuss it, Frederick. Please give your best attention to
the wine; you know that Uncle George is terribly fastidious about his
wine, and the worst is that if he is discontented, he will not hesitate
to say so before everybody."

That really did seem to her the worst. Most of the evils of life, she
thought, might be more endurable if people would but be discreet, and
say nothing about them.

The evil of Uncle George's public reprobation of her wine did not,
however, befall her. Lord Castlecombe was content with his dinner, and
looked round him approvingly as he sat on his niece's right hand.

"A couple of uncommonly pretty girls those," said his lordship. "They've
got on pretty frocks, too; I like a good bright colour."

Pauline had begged Miss Hadlow beforehand not to wear black, or any
sombre hue, her uncle having a special dislike to such; and Constance,
perfectly willing to please Lord Castlecombe by looking as brilliant as
she could, had arrayed herself in her favourite maize-colour.

"You have a very nice gown on, too, Pauline," added his lordship

Mrs. Dormer-Smith privately thought her own toilette detestable. It was
a gaily-flowered brocade (a gift from her husband soon after Wilfrid's
birth), which had been hidden from the light for several years. But she
had self-denyingly caused Smithson to furbish it up for the present
occasion, and was gratified that her virtue did not go unrewarded.

"I knew you liked vivid colours, Uncle George," said she softly.

"Of course I do. Everybody does, that has the use of his eyes. Don't
believe the humbugs who tell you otherwise. Your upholsterer now will
show you some wretched washed-out rag of a thing, and try to persuade
you to cover your chairs with it, because it's _æsthetic_! Parcel of
fools! Not that the fellows who sell the things are fools. They know
very well which side their bread is buttered." Then glancing across the
table with his keen, sunken, black eyes, he continued, "That little
Miranda--what is it you call her? May? Well, May is a very good name for
her--is remarkably fresh and pretty. Good frank forehead. Not a bit like
her father. Different type. But the other girl is the beauty. Uncommonly
handsome, really."

"I'm glad you think May nice," said Mrs. Dormer-Smith. "Of course I was
anxious that you should like her. She is poor Augustus's only
child--only surviving child. You know there were five or six of them,
but the others all died in babyhood."

Lord Castlecombe did know it, and remembered it now with grim
satisfaction. At least Augustus had no male heir to come after him.

"Ah! Gus made a pretty hash of it altogether," said the old man.

But he did not say it unkindly. He would not willingly have been harsh
or brutal towards Pauline. She really was a very sweet creature, and
had, he thought, almost every quality that he could desire in the women
of his blood. For, it must be observed, Lord Castlecombe did not know
that Pauline admired æsthetic furniture, nor that she considered
Augustus to have been rather hardly treated by the Castlecombes.

"Of course," replied that gentle lady. "My poor brother's unfortunate

"Oh! Ah! Yes. But that, at all events, seems to have turned out better
than could have been expected. Lucius tells me there is a grandmother
who has money, and is generous."

"Not to Augustus, Uncle George; Mrs. Dobbs positively refuses to assist

"H'm!" grunted Uncle George, his opinion of Mrs. Dobbs's good sense
taking a sudden leap upward. "Well, my dear, people have to think of
their own interests, you know." Then, in a louder tone, "Frederick, send
me that white Hermitage. It's a very fair wine, as times go--a very fair
wine indeed."

When the ladies had left the table, young Bransby felt what he would
have called, in speaking of any one else, "a little out of it." My lord
talked with Mr. Bragg, Lucius and Frederick were discussing some item of
club politics, in the midst of which the host would now and again
interpolate some parenthetical observations addressed to young Bransby,
obviously as a matter of duty. At length, in declining the claret which
Mr. Dormer-Smith pushed towards him, Theodore took the opportunity to

"Do you think I might venture to go upstairs? I have a message for Mrs.
Dormer-Smith about a little commission with which she entrusted me."

"No more wine, really? Oh, my wife will be charmed to see you," replied
Frederick, with alacrity. And, thereupon, the young man quietly left the

It was true that he had undertaken a commission for Mrs. Dormer-Smith;
but he would not have prematurely withdrawn himself from the company of
a peer and a millionaire, on that account. He was moved by a far
weightier purpose. He had made up his mind to propose to Miss
Cheffington; and, if the Fates favoured him, he might do it that very
evening. For some time past--before May left Oldchester--Theodore had
been sure that he wished to marry her. There were drawbacks. She had no
money (or at all events he had not reckoned on her having any money),
and she had connections of a very objectionable kind. But he rather
dwelt on these things, as proving the disinterested nature of his
attachment. He was so much in love with May, that he liked to fancy
himself making some sacrifices on her account. As to her feelings
towards him, he was not without misgivings. But he watched her in
society at every opportunity, and had convinced himself that she was, at
all events, fancy-free. She did not even flirt; but enjoyed herself with
child-like openness:--or was bored with equal simplicity and sincerity.
As to her aunt, Theodore did not doubt that his suit would be favourably
received by Mrs. Dormer-Smith. She must, long ago, have perceived his
intentions; and he felt that his being invited to that intimate little
dinner--almost a family dinner--was strong encouragement.

Theodore was fortifying himself with this reflection as he mounted the
stairs to the drawing-room. His foot fell more and more lingeringly on
the soft, soundless carpet as he neared the door. He was on an errand
which can scarcely be undertaken with cool self-possession, even by a
young gentleman holding the most favourable view of his own merits and
prospects. One can never certainly reckon on one's soundest views being
shared. A servant carrying coffee, preceded him, and opened the
drawing-room door just as he arrived on the landing; and Theodore felt
positively grateful to the man for, as it were, covering his entrance,
and relieving him from the embarrassment of walking in alone. He entered
close behind the footman, and was, for a few moments, unperceived by the

The room was a little dim; all the lamps being shaded with rose-colour.
Mrs. Dormer-Smith was reclining on a sofa, with closed eyes. But she was
not asleep; for beside her in a low lounging-chair, and talking to her
in a subdued voice, sat Constance Hadlow. May was at the other side of
the room, leaning with both elbows on a little table which stood in a
recess between the fireplace and a window, and apparently absorbed in a
book. Theodore thought she made a charming picture, with the soft light
falling on her fair young face and white dress; and his pulse, which had
been beating a little quicker than usual all the way upstairs, became
suddenly still more accelerated.

May looked up.

"Is that you?" she said. "Where are the others?"

It was not a very warm or flattering welcome; but Theodore was scarcely
conscious of her words. He was thinking what a fortunate chance it was
which left May isolated, so far away from the other ladies as to be out
of earshot, if one spoke in a suitably low tone. At the sound of her
niece's voice Mrs. Dormer-Smith languidly turned her head.

"Oh, please don't move, Mrs. Dormer-Smith," said Theodore, speaking in a
quick, confused way, very different from his accustomed manner. "If I am
to disturb you, I must go away at once. But I--I don't take much wine,
and he said--Mr. Dormer-Smith said he thought I might--if you don't mind
my preceding the other men by a few minutes, I will be as quiet as a

He crossed the room and sat down by May in the shadow of a heavy

The hostess murmured a gracious word or two and then closed her eyes
again. She had been a little vexed by the young man's premature arrival;
but if he was content to be quiet, and whisper to May, she need not
stand on ceremony with him. The fact was, she was listening with great
interest to Constance's account of a feud which had arisen between Lady
Burlington and Mrs. Griffin's daughter, the duchess. Constance had the
details at first hand, from Mrs. Griffin herself, on the one side, and
from Miss Polly Piper on the other: for the feud had arisen about Signor
Vincenzo Valli. The fashionable singing-master had thrown over one of
the great ladies for the other, on the occasion of some _soirée
musicale_; and the quarrel had been espoused by various personages of
distinction, whose sayings and doings with regard to it Mrs.
Dormer-Smith considered to be at once important and entertaining. She
mentally contrasted with a sigh the intelligence, tact, and correctness
of judgment which Constance brought to bear on this matter, with the
nonchalance--not to say downright levity and indifference--displayed by
May. It was impossible to get May to interest herself in the bearings of
the case. In fact, she had abandoned the discussion, and gone away to
her book; whereas this provincial girl, with not one quarter of May's
advantages, understood it perfectly, remembered the names of all the
people concerned, had a very sufficient knowledge of their relative
importance, and was able to impart to her hostess a variety of minute
circumstances, narrated in a low, quiet tone, free from emphasis or
emotion, which was delightfully soothing.

May, for her part, was by no means pleased to have her reading
interrupted; but politeness, and the sense that she was, in her degree,
responsible for the hospitality of the house, impelled her to close her
book at once, and to turn a good-humoured countenance towards her

"Isn't Uncle Frederick coming?" she asked, finding nothing better to say
at the moment.

"Presently. Are you in a great hurry to see him?" returned Theodore.

"Oh no; I was amusing myself very well."

"Are you angry with me, for interrupting you?"

"Oh no," answered May again. But this second "Oh no" was not quite so
hearty as the first.

"May I see what you have been reading?"

She pushed the book towards him.

"'Mansfield Park.' Whose is it?"

"Good gracious! You don't mean to say that you don't know?"

"I don't read novels," said Theodore loftily, but not severely. It was
all very well for women to have that weakness.

"But this is an English classic! Mr. Rivers says so. You really ought to
know who wrote 'Mansfield Park,' even if you have never read it. It is
one of Jane Austen's works."

"Ah! Do you--do you like it?" said Theodore, scarcely knowing what he
said. He was playing nervously with a little ivory paper-knife which lay
on the table, and his whole aspect and manner--had not both been to some
extent concealed by the shadow of the velvet curtain--would have
betrayed to the most indifferent observer that he was agitated and
unlike himself. He felt that the precious minutes of this chance
_tête-à-tête_ were passing swiftly; he longed to profit by them; and
yet, now that the moment had come, he feared to stand the hazard of the
die, and kept deferring it by idle words.

"Oh yes! I like it, of course," answered May. "Not so much, perhaps, as
'Emma,' or 'Pride and Prejudice.' Mr. Rivers advised me to read it."

It was the second time she had mentioned Rivers's name, and this fact
stung Theodore unaccountably. It acted like a touch of the spur to a
lagging horse. He burst out, still speaking almost in a whisper, but
with some heat--

"Rivers is a happy fellow! What would I give if you cared enough about
me to follow my advice!"

"You have only to advise me to do something which I like as much as
reading Jane Austen," replied May archly. But his tone had struck her
disagreeably. She peered at him furtively as he sat in the shadow,
trying in vain to see his countenance clearly. The idea crossed her mind
that he might have taken too much wine at dinner. But it was so
repulsive an idea to her, that she felt she ought not to entertain it
without better foundation.

"It is a most fortunate chance for me to have this--this blessed
opportunity," pursued Theodore. (He had hesitated for the epithet, and
was not by any means satisfied with it when he had got it). "I have long
been wanting to speak to you."

"To me? Well, that need not have been very difficult," answered May,
edging a little away, and trying to obtain a good view of his face.

"Pardon me. It is not easy to have the privilege of a private word with
Miss Cheffington. When we meet in society, you are surrounded, as is but
too natural. And latterly, in your own home, you have been a good deal
engrossed. I could not say what I have to say before----"

He glanced over at Constance Hadlow as he spoke. This was an immense
relief to May who had been growing more and more uncomfortable, and
vaguely apprehensive. She thought she understood it all now. Conny had
been treating him with coolness and neglect. She herself had noticed
this, and now he wanted to enlist the sympathies of Conny's friend.

"Oh, I see!" she exclaimed. "It's something about Constance that you
wish to say to me."

"About Constance? Ah, May, you are cruel! You know too well your power!"
he said, endeavouring to give a pathetic intonation to his voice, but
producing only an odd, croaking, throaty sound. Then May decided, in her
own mind, that he _had_ been taking too much wine; and, angry and
disgusted, she tried to rise from her chair and leave him. But she was
hemmed in by the little table, and on her first movement, Theodore took
hold of the skirt of her dress to detain her. May turned round upon him
with a pale, indignant face, and flashing eyes.

"Don't touch my dress, if you please. I wish to go away."

"Miss Cheffington--May--you must hear what I have to say now. You must
know it without my saying, for I have loved you so long and so
devotedly. But I have a right to be heard."

May was thunderstruck. But she perceived in a moment that she had, in
one sense, done him injustice--he had not drunk too much wine. But
this----! This was worse! How far easier it would have been to forgive
Theodore if he had even got tipsy--just a little tipsy--instead of
making such a declaration! She supposed she had no right to be
disgusted; she had heard that properly behaved young ladies always took
an offer of marriage to be a great honour. But she was disgusted,
nevertheless; and so far from feeling honoured, she was conscious of a
distressing sense of humiliation. She tried, however, to keep up her
dignity, and at the same time to say what was right to this--this
dreadful young man, who had suddenly presented himself in the odious
light of wanting to make love to her.

"Oh, please don't say any more. I'm very much obliged to you. I mean I'm
extremely sorry. But I beg you won't say another word, and forget all
about it as quickly as possible."

"Forget it! Nay, that is out of the question. I could not if I would."

Theodore began to recover his self-command as May lost hers. She was
agitated and trembling. Well, he would not have had her listen to his
words unmoved. She was very young and inexperienced. And he had, it
seemed, taken her by surprise.

"Is it possible," he continued softly, "that you were quite unprepared
to hear----"

"Quite unprepared. But that makes no difference. And you really must
allow me to go away. I'm very sorry, indeed, but I can't stay here
another moment."

"Am I so repulsive?" said he, with a sentimental beseeching glance. But
he met an expression in her face which made him add quickly, in quite
another tone, "Well, well, I will prefer your wishes to my own," at the
same time drawing himself and his chair to one side.

She had looked almost capable of leaping over the table to escape. May
brushed past him, and darted away out of the room without another word.

Theodore seized hold of the book she had left behind her, and bent his
head over it. He saw not one word on the printed page beneath his eyes,
but it saved him from appearing as confused as he felt. Had he been
rejected? And, if so, was it a rejection which he was bound to consider
final? Or had he received no real answer at all? Gradually, as his
throat grew less dry, his head less hot, and his brain more clear, he
arrived at the conclusion that he had virtually had no answer. May was
little more than a child, and he had startled her. Then he remembered
that word of May's, "It is about Constance you wish to speak to me."
Could she be under any misapprehension as to his position with regard to
Constance? The idea was fraught with comfort. That, at least, he could
set right, and without delay. He rose and walked across the room at once
to Mrs. Dormer-Smith's sofa.

At this moment the procession of men, headed by Lord Castlecombe,
arrived from the dining-room. Constance glided away, leaving her vacant
chair for Theodore, who immediately occupied it, thus cutting off Mrs.
Dormer-Smith from the rest of the company. That lady looked anxiously
across his shoulder.

"_Would_ you," she said to Theodore, "would you be so very good as to
ask my husband to inquire where Miss Cheffington is? My uncle would like
to talk to her, I know; and----Oh, there she is! Thanks. Don't trouble

May had returned to the drawing-room; but instead of going near her
noble grand-uncle, she perversely seated herself in a remote nook beside
Mr. Bragg, with whom she presently began a conversation, keeping her
face persistently turned away from every one else. Her noble grand-uncle
did not seem to care. His lordship marched straight up to Miss Hadlow,
and stood before her, coffee-cup in hand, with his curious air of
perfectly knowing how to behave like a fine gentleman whenever he should
think it worth while. Lucius and Frederick were continuing their club
discussion, which possessed the advantage--for persons of leisure--of
having neither beginning nor end, and of being indefinitely elastic.
Pauline took in the whole room with one comprehensive glance, and then
leant back against her cushions with a sigh, which, if not contented,
was resigned. She made no effort to recall May to her duty towards Lord

"You must forgive me, Mr. Bransby," she said graciously, "if I have been
selfish in engrossing Miss Hadlow. If you don't take care, my uncle will
do the same! Lord Castlecombe admires her very much."

Theodore cleared his throat, settled his cravat with a rather unsteady
hand, and looked at her as solemnly as if he were about to commence an
oration. But all he managed to say was--

"There has been a mistake, Mrs. Dormer-Smith."

"A mistake?"

"Yes. I have some reason to believe that you are under a wrong
impression about me."

His hostess faintly raised her eyebrows, and answered with a smile, "I
hope not: for all my impressions of you are very pleasant."

Theodore bowed gravely. "You are very kind," said he. "It is important
to me to set this matter right. You perhaps imagine--some one may have
told you that I and Miss Hadlow--there has been, I believe, some idle
gossip coupling our names together."

"Not very unnaturally," said Mrs. Dormer-Smith, still smiling. But she
began to wonder what he could be driving at.

"Well, I do think it hard that one cannot be on friendly terms with a
person one has known all one's life without being supposed to be engaged
to her."

"Or him," put in Pauline quietly.

"Of course. I mean, of course, that it is particularly unfair to the
lady. But it puts a man in a false position too. I have just been
speaking to May----"

Then, in an instant, the true state of the case flashed on Mrs.
Dormer-Smith, to her unspeakable consternation. This, then, was her
model young man, whom she had pronounced to be so "nice" and so "quiet;"
and who, moreover, had always expressed the most proper sentiments on
the subject of unequal marriages! She felt herself to be of all ladies
the most persecuted by fate.

"Oh," she said, coldly interrupting him; "it was scarcely necessary to
say anything to Miss Cheffington on the subject."

But Theodore was beyond taking heed of any snub or check of that kind.
"One moment," he said, breathing quickly. "If you will allow me to
finish what I was saying, you will see----I am, as you must have
perceived, deeply attached to your niece."

"No, no," protested Mrs. Dormer-Smith faintly. "I never perceived it."

"Then that must have been because you were looking in a wrong direction.
You were misled about Constance Hadlow; otherwise, the nature of my
attentions could scarcely have escaped you."

"And you say that you have been speaking to--to my niece?"

"I have this evening told her how devotedly I love her."

"Good heavens!" whispered Mrs. Dormer-Smith, letting her head sink back
among the sofa-cushions. "And what was her reply?"

"Her reply was--well, practically, it was no reply at all. May was
agitated and startled, and I think she had believed that foolish gossip
about my engagement to Miss Hadlow. But I trust to you to explain----"

"Pray, Mr. Bransby, say no more. I regret extremely that this should
have happened."

"Oh, but I don't know that I have any reason to despair," he answered

This was almost more than Pauline could endure. She got up from the
sofa, and plaintively murmuring, "Say no more; pray say no more. I
really am not equal to it at present," fairly walked away from him.

That night when the guests were gone, Mrs. Dormer-Smith sent for her
husband to her dressing-room, and revealed to him what young Bransby had
said. His indignation at the young man's presumption was equal to her
own: although not wholly on the same grounds.

"You will have to talk to him, Frederick," she said. "When he went away
he said something about requesting an early interview. _I_ cannot stand
any more of it. It upsets me too frightfully. Of course, you won't
quarrel with him. Just give him politely to understand that it is out of
the question. Fortunately, May appears to have been as much _outrée_ by
this preposterous proposal as I could desire. May behaved very nicely
to-night altogether. I was pleased with her."

"H'm! Oh yes; but I thought she might have paid a little more attention
to your uncle. She never went near him after we came upstairs. I think
she talked to old Bragg more than to any one else."

"Frederick," said his wife slowly, "do you know that Lady Hautenville is
making a dead set at Mr. Bragg for Felicia?"

"Is she?"

"Yes. Mrs. Griffin told me all about it. They are moving heaven and
earth to catch him."

"Really? Well, _bonne chance_!"

"It would be _mauvaise chance_ for him, poor man! Felicia has a
frightful temper, and incredibly extravagant habits. She must be over
her eyebrows in debt. But I fancy Mr. Bragg has better taste."

Her meaning tone made her husband look at her with sudden earnestness.
"What do you mean?" he asked brusquely.

Mrs. Dormer-Smith put her hand to her forehead. "Let me entreat you not
to raise your voice!" she said. "I have had quite enough to try my
nerves this evening. I mean that I think Mr. Bragg is interested in May.
It would be a splendid match for her."

"_What?_" cried Frederick, disregarding his wife's request, and raising
his voice considerably. "Old Bragg!"

Pauline turned on him impressively. "Frederick," she said, speaking with
patient mildness, as one imparting higher lore to some untutored savage,
"Mr. Bragg is barely fifty-four; and his income--entirely within his own
control--is over sixty thousand a year."


Theodore did not take his rejection meekly. In his interview with Mr.
Dormer-Smith he pressed hard to see May again, and insinuated that she
was under undue influence. Moreover, he conveyed, with stiff civility,
that he considered himself to have been badly treated by the whole
family, who had first encouraged his attentions and then rejected them.

"He really is a fearful young man!" said May to her aunt on hearing the
report of the interview. "What does he mean by insisting on 'an answer
from my own lips'? Could he not believe what Uncle Frederick said?
Besides, he has had his answer from me. The truth is, he is so
outrageously conceited that he can't believe any young woman would
refuse him of her own free will."

"The idea of his dreaming for an instant that _I_ encouraged him is too
preposterous," said Mrs. Dormer-Smith, shaking her head languidly. "I am
sadly disappointed. I thought him quite a nice person. I fancied he had
sufficient _savoir vivre_ to understand----However, it is one more proof
that one can never reckon on half-bred people who don't know the world."

It was privately a great relief to May to know that her aunt took her
part in this affair. Aunt Pauline's motives and views were still very
mysterious to May on many points. She did not even now fully understand
the grounds of her aunt's virtuous indignation against Theodore Bransby,
although she was thankful for it. "Aunt Pauline thought him good enough
for Conny," said May to herself innocently; "and Conny is so beautiful,
and so much admired!"

It was true that--thanks, in the first place, to Mrs. Griffin--Constance
had enjoyed a more brilliant season than she had ever ventured to dream
of. Fashionable houses, of which she had read in the newspapers, but
which had appeared to her as unattainable as though they were in another
planet, had opened their doors to her; and old connections of her
mother's family, finding her in the aforesaid houses, discovered that
she was a charming girl, and were delighted to open _their_ doors to
her. She had accepted several invitations to country houses, and would
probably not be at home again until late in the autumn.

Mrs. Griffin watched this young lady's progress with considerable
interest. She opined that Miss Hadlow was a shining instance of the
advantages of "race."

"In spite of having been brought up in the pokiest way in some
provincial town, as I understand, that girl has a thoroughbred
self-possession quite remarkable," said Mrs. Griffin. "She never makes a
blunder. You are never nervous about her. She has no trace of that loud,
bouncing style, which I detest, and which so many underbred-people take
up nowadays, mistakenly imagining it to be the proper thing. She doesn't
'go in' for anything. And," added Mrs. Griffin musingly, "there's a
wonderful look of her grandfather, poor Charley Rivers, about the brow
and eyes."

The season was rapidly drawing to a close when Mrs. Dobbs received two
letters; one from her grand-daughter, and the other from Mrs.
Dormer-Smith. Jo Weatherhead, arriving one evening at his usual hour in
Jessamine Cottage, was told by his old friend that she had had a letter
from May, and that she meant to read him a portion of it. No proposition
could have been more welcome to Mr. Weatherhead. He drew his chair up to
the grate--filled now with fresh boughs instead of hot coals; but Jo
kept his place in the chimney-corner winter and summer--and prepared to

Mrs. Dobbs read as follows:--"You must know, dear granny, that I told
Aunt Pauline yesterday that I really must go home at the end of this
season. She has been very kind and so has Uncle Frederick; but granny is
granny, and home is home."

Here Mr. Weatherhead slapped his leg with his hand, and took his pipe
out of his mouth as though about to speak; but on Mrs. Dobbs holding up
her hand for silence, he put his pipe back again, and slowly drew his
forefinger and thumb down the not inconsiderable length of his nose.

Mrs. Dobbs read on: "To my amazement, Aunt Pauline answered that it was
my father's wish that I should remain with her altogether! That is not
my wish. And it isn't yours--is it, granny dear? And if we two are
agreed, I cannot think my father would object. I mean to write to him
about it. I should have done so already, but I have not his address, and
Aunt Pauline can't or won't give it to me. Please send it. I shall tell
my father just what I feel. I don't care for what Aunt Pauline calls
Society. I was happy enough as long as it was only like being at the
play, with the prospect of going home when it was over, and living my
real life. But to go on with this sort of thing and nothing else, year
in, year out--it would be like being expected to live on wax fruit, or
those glazed wooden turkeys I remember in a box of toys you gave me long
ago. Please answer directly, directly. There's an invitation for me to
go in August to a place in the Highlands, where Mrs. Griffin's daughter
has a shooting-box. At least, I suppose it is Mrs. Griffin's daughter's
husband who has the shooting-box. Only nobody talks much about the duke,
and everybody talks a great deal about the duchess." ("Fancy our Miranda
among the dukes and duchesses!" put in Jo Weatherhead, softly. And he
smacked his lips as though the very sound of the words had a relish for
him.) "Aunt Pauline wants to go to Carlsbad; Uncle Frederick is to join
a fishing-party in Norway; the children are to be sent to a farmhouse;
and Mrs. Griffin has offered to take care of me in the Highlands. But I
would far, _far_ rather come back to dear Oldchester, and be amongst
people who know me, and care for me, and whom I love with all my heart.
Do write and ask for me back, granny darling! And mind you give me
papa's address. I am resolved to write to him, whatever Aunt Pauline may
say. He is _my_ father, and I have a right to tell him my feelings."

"That's all of any consequence," said Mrs. Dobbs, slowly refolding the
letter. "Oh, of course she writes at the end 'Love to Uncle Jo.' She
never forgets that."

There was a brief silence. Mr. Weatherhead, who was very tender-hearted,
blew his nose and wiped his eyes unaffectedly. "Of course you'll have
the child down, Sarah," said he; "anyway, for a time. She's pining,
that's where it is; she's pining for a sight of you."

Mrs. Dobbs sat choking down her emotion. She had cried privately over
that letter herself, but she was resolved to discuss it now with
judicial calmness; and it was provoking that Jo endangered her judicial
tone of mind by that foolish, soft-hearted way of his, which was
terribly catching. But she loved Jo for it, nevertheless, and scolded
him so as to let him know that she loved him.

"It's a good thing your feelings are righter and kinder than most
folks', Jo Weatherhead, for you're sadly led by 'em, my friend. If you'd
wait and hear the whole case, you might help me with your advice." Then
Mrs. Dobbs pulled another letter from her pocket, and handed it to her
brother-in-law. This second epistle was from Mrs. Dormer-Smith, and ran


     "I think it right to let you know how very important it is for
     May not to miss her visit to Glengowrie. There will be among
     the guests there a gentleman who has been paying her a good
     deal of attention--a man of princely fortune. I have some
     reason to think that May is disposed to look favourably on this
     gentleman; but he must be allowed time and opportunity to
     declare himself. No better opportunity could possibly be found
     than at Glengowrie; and I may tell you, _in confidence_, that
     the duchess has, at my friend Mrs. Griffin's request, invited
     them both _on purpose_. I trust, therefore, that, in my niece's
     interests, you will induce her not to relinquish this chance.
     As to her writing to her father, it is absurd, and would only
     irritate my brother after his giving me _carte blanche_ to do
     the best I can for her. If the visit to Glengowrie turns out as
     we hope, I shall have procured for her a settlement which many
     a peer's daughter will envy. My husband and I have such
     confidence in your good sense, that we are sure you will second
     our efforts as far as you can. Of course you will consider this
     letter _strictly private_, and will not, above all, mention it
     to May.

     "I am, dear Mrs. Dobbs,

     "Yours very truly,


"You see that alters the case, Jo," said Mrs. Dobbs, when he had
finished reading the letter.

Jo nodded thoughtfully, and rubbed his nose. "Of course, what you want,
Sarah, is for the child to be happy. That's the main thing," said he.

"Of course I want her to be happy. And I want her to have her rights,"
answered Mrs. Dobbs, setting her lips firmly.

"Ah! Yes, to be sure! Her rights, eh?"

"My son-in-law brought no good to any of us in himself. If his name can
do any good to his daughter, she ought to have the benefit of it--and
she shall."

"Ay, ay. Her rights, eh? To be sure. Only--only it ain't always quite
easy to know what a person's rights are, is it?"

"I know well enough what May's rights are," answered Mrs. Dobbs sharply.

"Nor yet it ain't quite easy to be sure whether they'd enjoy their
rights when they got 'em," pursued Jo, with a thoughtful air. "Everybody
likes to be happy. There can be no manner of doubt about _that_. And
somehow the dukes and duchesses don't seem to be enough to make Miranda
quite--not _quite_ happy, humph?"

"I wonder you should confess so much of your dear aristocracy!" returned
Mrs. Dobbs with some heat.

"Why, you see, Sarah, it may be--I only say it _may_ be--that the way
Miranda has been brought up, living here in the holidays in such a
simple kind of style, and all that, makes her feel not altogether at
home among these tip-top folks."

"If you mean she isn't good enough for them, that's nonsense; downright
nonsense. And I wonder at a man with your brains talking such stuff! If
you mean they're not good enough for her, that's another pair of shoes.
As to manners--why, do you imagine that that aunt of hers, who--though
she _is_ a fool, is a well-born fool, and a well-bred one--would be
taking May about, presenting her at Court, and introducing her to the
grandest society, if the child didn't do her credit? Not she! I'm
astonished at you, Jo! I thought you knew the world a little bit better
than that."

Mrs. Dobbs leant back in her chair, and fanned her flushed face with her
handkerchief. Mr. Weatherhead, having smoked his pipe out, put it in its
case, and then sat silent, slowly stroking his nose, and casting
deprecating glances at his hostess. At length the latter resumed, in a
calmer tone, "But May's future is what I've got to think of. I'm an old
woman. I can leave her next to nothing when I die. I want her to marry.
All women ought to marry. Nobody in my own walk of life would suit her.
And what gentleman fit to match with her was ever likely to come and
look for her in my parlour in Friar's Lane? You ought to know all about
it, Jo Weatherhead. We've gone over the whole ground together often

They had done so. But Jo Weatherhead understood very well that his old
friend was talking now, not to convince him, but herself. "Well, Sarah,"
he said, "there seems a good chance for May to marry well, according to
this good lady. 'Princely fortune,' she says. That sounds grand, don't

"Ah! And it isn't a few thousands that Mrs. Dormer-Smith would call a
princely fortune."

"Not a few thousands you think, eh, Sarah? Tens of thousands I shouldn't
wonder, humph?" And Mr. Weatherhead pursed up his mouth, and poked
forward his nose eagerly.

"Not a doubt of it."

"Bless my stars! To think of our little Miranda!--and her aunt says that
May is disposed to look favourably on the gentleman."

"So she says. But I can tell you that May doesn't care a button for him
at present."

"Lord! How do you know, Sarah?"

"How do I know? That's so like a man! No girl in love would give up the
chance of meeting her lover, as May wants to give it up. If she'd rather
come to Oldchester than go to Scotland, it is because--so far, at any
rate--she doesn't care a button for him."

"I never thought of that. But perhaps, Sarah, she doesn't know that he
is to be invited."

Mrs. Dobbs seemed struck by this remark. "Well now, that's an idea, Jo!"
said she, nodding her head. "It may be so. They seem to have had the
sense not to talk to her about the matter. May's just the kind of girl
to fling up her heels and break away, if she suspected any scheming to
make a fine match for her. But she might come to care for him in time.
There's no reason in nature why a rich man shouldn't be nice enough to
be fallen in love with. And by his taking to May--and she without a
penny--I'm inclined to think well of the young man."

After some further consideration it was agreed that Mrs. Dobbs should
write and propose a middle term: in the interval between her aunt's
departure for Carlsbad, and the date of her invitation to Glengowrie,
May should come down to Oldchester, on condition that she afterwards
paid her visit to the Duchess. This arrangement would be a joy to Mrs.
Dobbs, would satisfy May's affectionate longing, and could not prejudice
the girl's future prospects. A letter to May was written, as well as one
to Mrs. Dormer-Smith. This letter was very short, and may as well be


     "I have to acknowledge yours of the 5th. I agree with you that
     it would be a pity for my grand-daughter not to accept the
     invitation you speak of. Some good may come of it, and I do not
     think that any harm can come. If May spends the three or four
     weeks with me after you start for the Continent, I will
     undertake for her to meet the lady who is to take charge of her
     to Scotland, at any place that may be agreed upon. I wrote to
     May by this post, and she will tell you what I propose. With
     regard to her father's address, I have had none for some time
     past, except, 'Post-Office, Brussels.' This much I shall tell
     her, as I think she has a right to know it. You need not
     disturb yourself about her writing to her father, as I think,
     from what I know of Captain Cheffington, that he is not likely
     to answer her letter.

     "I am, dear Mrs. Dormer-Smith,

     "Yours truly,


The proposal was accepted, and within a fortnight after the despatch of
this letter, May Cheffington was in Oldchester once more.


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ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.