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   Chapter 11 No.11

Our Friend the Charlatan By George Gissing Characters: 32170

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:05

It was a week after the departure of Dyce Lashmar. Lady Ogram had lived in agitation, a state which she knew to be the worst possible for her health. Several times she had taken long drives to call upon acquaintances, a habit suspended during the past twelvemonth; it exhausted her, but she affected to believe that the air and movement did her good, and met with an outbreak of still more dangerous choler the remonstrances which her secretary at length ventured to make. On the day following this characteristic scene, Constance was at work in the library, when the door opened, and Lady Ogram came in. Walking unsteadily, a grim smile on her parchment visage, she advanced and stood before the writing-table.

"I made a fool of myself yesterday," sounded in a hollow voice, of tremulous intonation. "Is it enough for me to say so?"

"Much more than I like to hear you say, Lady Ogram," answered Constance, hastening to place a chair for her. "I have been afraid that something had happened which troubled you."

"Nothing at all. The contrary. Look at that photo, and tell me what you think of it."

It was the portrait of a girl with features finely outlined, but rather weak in expression; a face pleasant to look upon, and at the first glance possessing a quality of distinction, which tended however to fade as the eye searched for its constituents, and to lose itself in an ordinary prettiness.

"I was going to say," began Constance, "that it seemed to remind me of-"

She hesitated.

"Well? Of what?"

"Of your own portrait in the dining-room. Yes, I think there is a resemblance, though far-away."

Lady Ogram smiled with pleasure. The portrait referred to was a painting made of her soon after her marriage, when she was in the prime of her beauty; not good as a work of art, and doing much less than justice to the full-blooded vigour of the woman as she then lived, but still a picture that drew the eye and touched the fancy.

"No doubt you are right. This girl is a grand-niece of mine, my brother's son's daughter. I only heard of her a week ago. She is coming to see me."

Constance now understood the significance of Mr. Kerchever's visit, and the feverish state of mind in which Lady Ogram had since been living. She felt no touch of sympathetic emotion, but smiled as if the announcement greatly interested her; and in a sense it did.

"I can quite understand your impatience to see her."

"Yes, but one shouldn't make a fool of oneself. An old fool's worse than a young one. Don't think I build my hopes on the girl. I wrote to her, and she has written to me-not a bad sort of letter; but I know nothing about her, except that she has been well enough educated to pass an examination at London University. That means something, I suppose, doesn't it?"

"Certainly it does," answered Constance, noting a pathetic self-subdual in the old lady's look and tone. "For a girl, it means a good deal."

"You think so?" The bony hands were restless and tremulous; the dark eyes glistened. "It isn't quite ordinary, is it? But then, of course, it tells nothing about her character. She is coming to stay for a day or two coming on Saturday. If I don't like her, no harm's done. Back she goes to her people, that's all-her mother's family-I know nothing about them, and care less. At all events, she looks endurable-don't you think?"

"Much more than that," said Constance. "A very nice girl, I should imagine."

"Ha! You mean that?-Of course you do, or you wouldn't say it. But then, if she's only a 'nice girl'-pooh! She ought to be more than that. What's the use of a photograph? Every photo ever taken of me made me look a simpering idiot."

This was by no means true, but Lady Ogram had always been a bad sitter to the camera, and had destroyed most of its results. The oil painting in the dining-room she regarded with a moderate complacency. Many a time during the latter years of withering and enfeeblement her memory had turned to that shining head in marble, which was hidden away amid half a century's dust under the roof at Rivenoak. There, and there only, survived the glory of her youth, when not the face alone, but all her faultless body made the artist's rapture.

"Well," she said, abruptly, "you'll see the girl. Her name is May Tomalin. You're not obliged to like her. You're not obliged to tell me what you think of her. Most likely I shan't ask you.-By the bye, I had a letter from Dyce Lashmar this morning."

"Indeed?" said the other, with a careless smile.

"I like his way of writing. It's straight-forward and sharp-cut, like his talk. A man who means what he says, and knows how to say it; that's a great deal nowadays."

Constance assented with all good-humour to Lady Ogram's praise.

"You must answer him for me," the old lady continued. "No need, of course, to show me what you write; just put it into a letter of your own."

"I hardly think I shall be writing to Mr. Lashmar," said Miss Bride, very quietly.

"Do you mean that?"

Their eyes met' and Constance bore the other's gaze without flinching.

"We are not such great friends, Lady Ogram. You will remember I told you that I knew him but slightly."

"All right. It has nothing to do with me, whether you're friends or not. You can answer as my secretary, I suppose?"

And Lady Ogram, with her uncertain, yet not undignified, footfall, went straightway from the room. There was a suspicion of needless sound as the door closed behind her.

Constance sat for a minute or two in a very rigid attitude, displeasure manifest on her lips. She did not find it easy to get to work again, and when the time came for her bicycle ride, she was in no mind for it, but preferred to sit over a book. At luncheon Lady Ogram inclined to silence. Later in the day, however, they met on the ordinary terms of mutual understanding, and Constance, after speaking of other things, asked whether she should write Lady Ogram's reply to Mr. Lashmar.

"Mr. Lashmar? Oh, I have written to him myself," said the old lady, as if speaking of a matter without importance.

Three days went by, and it was Saturday. Lady Ogram came down earlier than usual this morning, but did not know how to occupy herself; she fretted at the rainy sky which kept her within doors; she tried to talk with her secretary of an important correspondence they had in hand (it related to a projected society for the invigoration of village life), but her thoughts were too obviously wandering. Since that dialogue in the library, not a word regarding Miss Tomalin had escaped her; all at once she said:

"My niece is due here at four this afternoon. I want you to be with me when she comes into the room. You won't forget that?"

Never before had Constance seen the old autocrat suffering from nervousness; it was doubtful whether anyone at any time had enjoyed the privilege. Strange to say, this abnormal state of things did not irritate Lady Ogram's temper; she was remarkably mild, and for once in her life seemed to feel it no indignity to stand in need of moral support. Long before the time for Miss Tomalin's arrival, she established herself on her throne amid the drawing-room verdure. Constance tried to calm her by reading aloud, but this the old lady soon found unendurable.

"I wonder whether the train will be late?" she said. "No doubt it will; did you ever know a train punctual? It may be half an hour late. The railways are scandalously managed. They ought to be taken over by the government."

"I don't think that would improve matters," said the secretary, glad of a discussion to relieve the tedium. She too was growing nervous.

"Nonsense! Of course it would."

Constance launched into argument, and talked for talking's sake. She knew that her companion was not listening.

"It's four o'clock," exclaimed Lady Ogram presently. "There may be an accident with the brougham. Leggatt sometimes drives very carelessly-" no more prudent coachman existed-"and the state of the roads about here is perfectly scandalous"-they were as good roads as any in England. "What noise was that?"

"I heard nothing."

"I've often noticed that you are decidedly dull of hearing. Has it always been so? You ought to consult a what are the men called who see to one's ears?"

Lady Ogram was growing less amiable, and with much ado Constance restrained herself from a tart reply. Three minutes more, and the atmosphere of the room would have become dangerously electric. But before two minutes had elapsed, the door opened, and a colourless domestic voice announced:

"Miss Tomalin."

There entered very much the kind of figure that Constance had expected to see; a young lady something above the middle height, passably, not well, dressed, moving quickly and not ungracefully, but with perceptible lack of that self-possession which is the social testimonial. She wore a new travelling costume, fawn-coloured, with a slightly inappropriate hat (too trimmy), and brown shoes which over-asserted themselves. Her collar was of the upright sort, just turned down at the corners; her tie, an ill-made little bow of red. About her neck hung a pair of eye-glasses; at her wrist were attached a silver pencil-case and a miniature ivory paper-knife. The face corresponded fairly well with its photographic presentment so long studied by Lady Ogram, and so well remembered by Constance Bride; its colour somewhat heightened and the features mobile under nervous stress, it offered a more noticeable resemblance to that ancestral portrait in the dining-room.

Lady Ogram had risen; she took a tremulous step or two from the throne, and spoke in a voice much more senile than its wont.

"I am glad to see you, May-glad to see you! This is my friend and secretary, Miss Bride, whom I mentioned to you."

Constance and the new-comer bowed, hesitated, shook hands. Miss Tomalin had not yet spoken; she was smiling timidly, and casting quick glances about the room.

"You had an easy journey, I hope," said Miss Bride, aware that the old lady was sinking breathless and feeble into her chair.

"Oh, it was nothing at all."

Miss Tomalin's utterance was not markedly provincial, but distinct from that of the London drawing-room; the educated speech of the ubiquitous middle-class, with a note of individuality which promised to command itself better in a few minutes. The voice was pleasantly clear.

"You had no difficulty in finding the carriage?" said Lady Ogram, speaking with obvious effort.

"Oh, none whatever, thank you! So kind of you to send it for me."

"I wanted to see you for a moment, as soon as you arrived. Now they shall take you to your room. Come down again as soon as you like; we will have tea."

"Thank you; that will be very nice."

Miss Tomalin stood up, looked at the plants and flowers about her, and added in a voice already more courageous:

"What a charming room! Green is so good for the eyes."

"Are your eyes weak?" inquired Lady Ogram, anxiously.

"Oh, not really weak," was the rapid answer (Miss Tomalin spoke more quickly as she gained confidence), "I use glasses when I am studying or at the piano, but they're not actually necessary. Still, I have been advised to be careful. Of course I read a great deal."

There was a spontaneity, a youthful vivacity, in her manner, which saved it from the charge of conceit; she spoke with a naive earnestness pleasantly relieved by the smile in her grey eyes and by something in the pose of her head which suggested a latent modesty.

"I know you are a great student," said Lady Ogram, regarding her amiably. "But run and take off your hat, and come back to tea."

She and Constance sat together, silent. They did not exchange glances.

"Well?" sounded at length from the throne, a tentative monosyllable.

Constance looked up. She saw that Lady Ogram was satisfied, happy.

"I'm glad Miss Tomalin was so punctual," was all she could find to say.

"So am I. But we were talking about your deafness: you must have it seen to. Young people nowadays! They can't hear, they can't see, they have no teeth-"

"Miss Tomalin, I noticed, has excellent teeth."

"She takes after me in that. Her eyes, too, are good enough, but she has worn them out already. She'll have to stop that reading; I am not going to have her blind at thirty. She didn't seem to be deaf, did she?"

"No more than I am, Lady Ogram."

"You are not deaf? Then why did you say you were?"

"It was you, not I, that said so," answered Constance, with a laugh.

"And what do you think of her?" asked Lady Ogram sharply.

"I think her interesting," was Miss Bride's reply, the word bearing a sense to her own thought not quite identical with that which it conveyed to the hearer.

"So do I. She's very young, but none the worse for that. You think her interesting. So do I."

Constance noticed that Lady Ogram's talk to-day had more of the characteristics of old age than ordinarily, as though, in her great satisfaction, the mind relaxed and the tongue inclined to babble. Though May was absent less than a quarter of an hour, the old lady waxed impatient.

"I hope she isn't a looking-glass girl. But no, that doesn't seem likely. Of course young people must think a little about dress-Oh, here she comes at last."

Miss Tomalin had made no change of dress, beyond laying aside her hat and jacket. One saw now that she had plenty of light brown hair, naturally crisp and easily lending itself to effective arrangement; it was coiled and plaited on the top of her head, and rippled airily above her temples. The eyebrows were darker of hue, and accentuated the most expressive part of her physiognomy, for when she smiled it was much more the eyes than the lips which drew attention.

"Come and sit here, May," said Lady Ogram, indicating a chair near the throne. "You're not tired? You don't easily get tired, I hope?"

"Oh, not very easily. Of course I make a point of physical exercise; it is a part of rational education."

"Do you cycle?" asked Constance.

"Indeed I do! The day before yesterday I rode thirty miles. Not scorching, you know; that's weak-minded."

Lady Ogram seemed to be reflecting as to whether she was glad or not that her relative rode the bicycle. She asked whether May had brought her machine.

"No," was the airy reply, "I'm not a slave to it."

The other nodded approval, and watched May as she manipulated a tea-cup. Talk ran on trivialities for a while; the new-comer still cast curious glances about the room, and at moments stole a quick observation of her companions. She was not entirely at ease; self-consciousness appeared in a furtive change of attitude from time to time; it might have been remarked, too, that she kept a guard upon her phrasing and even her pronunciation, emphasising certain words with a sort of academic pedantry. Perhaps it was this which caused Lady Ogram to ask at length whether she still worked for examinations.

"No, I have quite given that up," May replied, with an air of well-weighed finality. "I found that it led to one-sidedness-to narrow aims. It's all very well when one is very young. I shouldn't like to restrict my study in that way now. The problems of modern life are so full of interest. There are so many books that it is a duty to read, a positive duty. And one finds so much practical work."

"What sort of work?"

"In the social direction. I take a great interest in the condition of the poor."

"Really?" exclaimed Lady Ogram. "What do you do?"

"We have a little society for extending civilisation among the ignorant and the neglected. Just now we are trying to teach them how to make use of the free library, to direct their choice of books. I must tell you that a favourite study of mine is Old English, and I'm sure it would be so good if our working classes could be brought to read Chaucer and Langland and Wycliffe and so on. One can't expect them to study foreign languages, but these old writers would serve them for a philological training, whi

ch has such an excellent effect on the mind. I know a family-shockingly poor living, four of them, in two rooms-who have promised me to give an hour every Sunday to 'Piers the Plowman'-I have made them a present of the little Clarendon Press edition, which has excellent notes Presently, I shall set them a little examination paper-very simple, of course."

Miss Bride's countenance was a study of subdued expression. Lady Ogram-who probably had never heard of 'Piers the Plowman'-glanced inquiringly at her secretary, and seemed to suspend judgment.

"We, too, take a good deal of interest in that kind of thing," she remarked. "I see that we shall understand each other. Do your relatives, Mr. and Mrs. Rooke, work with you?"

"They haven't quite the same point of view," said Miss Tomalin, smiling indulgently. "I'm afraid they represent rather the old way of thinking about the poor-the common-sense way, they call it; it means, as far as I can see, not thinking much about the poor at all. Of course I try to make them understand that this is neglect of duty. We have no right whatever to live in enjoyment of our privileges and pay no heed to those less fortunate. Every educated person is really a missionary, whose duty it is to go forth and spread the light. I feel it so strongly that I could not, simply could not, be satisfied to pursue my own culture; it seems to me the worst kind of selfishness. The other day I went, on the business of our society, into a dreadfully poor home, where the people, I'm sure, often suffer from hunger. I couldn't give money-for one thing, I have very little, and then it's so demoralising, and one never knows whether the people will be offended-but I sat down and told the poor woman all about the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, and you can't think how interested she was, and how grateful! It quite brightened the day for her. One felt one had done some good."

There was silence. Lady Ogram looked admiringly at the girl. If anyone else had talked to her in this way, no vehemence of language would have sufficed to express her scorn; but in May Tomalin such ideals seemed to her a very amiable trait. She was anxious to see everything May said or did in a favourable light.

"Have you tried the effect of music?" asked Constance, gravely, when Miss Tomalin chanced to regard her.

"Oh, we haven't forgotten that. Next winter we hope to give a few concerts in a schoolroom. Of course it must be really good music; we shan't have anything of a popular kind-at least, we shan't if my view prevails. It isn't our object to amuse people; it would be really humiliating to play and sing the kind of things the ignorant poor like. We want to train their intelligence. Some of our friends say it will be absurd to give them classical music, which will weary and discontent them. But they must be made to understand that their weariness and discontent is wrong. We have to show them how bad and poor their taste is, that they may strive to develop a higher and nobler. I, for one, shall utterly decline to have anything to do with the concerts if the programme doesn't consist exclusively of the really great, Bach and Beethoven and so on. Don't you agree with me?"

"In principle," replied Lady Ogram, "certainly. We shall have lots of things to talk about, I see."

"I delight in talk about serious things!" cried May.

But Lady Ogram's physical strength was not equal to the excitement she had gone through. Long before dinner-time her voice failed, and she had no choice but to withdraw into privacy, leaving Constance Bride to play the hostess. Alone with a companion of not much more than her own age, Miss Tomalin manifested relief; she began to move about, looking at things with frank curiosity, and talking in a more girlish way. The evening was cloudy, and did not tempt forth, but May asked whether they could not walk a little in the garden.

"This is a beautiful place! I shall enjoy myself here tremendously! And it's all so unexpected. Of course you know, Miss Bride, that I had never heard of Lady Ogram until a few days ago?"

"Yes, I have heard the story."

"Do let us get our hats and run out. I want to see everything."

They went into the garden, and May, whilst delighting in all she saw, asked a multitude of questions about her great-aunt. It was only in the intellectual domain that she evinced pretentiousness and grew grandiloquent; talking of her private affairs, she was very direct and simple, with no inclination to unhealthy ways of thought. She spoke of her birth in Canada, and her childish recollections of that country.

"I used to be rather sorry that we had come back to England, for the truth is I don't much care for Northampton, and I have never been quite comfortable with my relatives there. But now, of course, everything is different. It seems a great pity that I should have had such a relative as Lady Ogram and known nothing about it doesn't it? Strange how the branches of a family lose sight of each other? Can you tell me Lady Ogram's age?"

Constance replied that it was not far from eighty.

"Really, I should have taken her for older still. She seems very nice; I think I shall like her. I wonder whether she will ask me often to Rivenoak? Do you know whether she means to?"

When she came down after dressing for dinner, Constance found Miss Tomalin in the dining-room, standing before her great-aunt's portrait.

"Surely that isn't-can that be Lady Ogram?" exclaimed the girl.

"Yes; more than fifty years ago."

"Do you know, I think she was rather like me!"

Constance smiled, and said that there was certainly a family resemblance. It appeared more strongly in the girl's face attired as she now was, her neck at liberty from the white linen collar, and her features cast into relief by a dress of dark material. Having felt a little apprehensive about the young lady's evening garb, Constance was surprised to find that it erred, if anything, on the side of simplicity. Though, for several reasons, not at all predisposed to like Miss Tomalin, she began to feel her prejudice waning, and by the end of dinner they were conversing in a very friendly tone. May chatted of her friends at Northampton, and several times mentioned a Mr. Yabsley, whom it was evident she held in much esteem. Mr. Yabsley, it appeared, was the originator of the society for civilising the ignorant poor; Mr. Yabsley lectured on very large subjects, and gave readings from very serious authors; Mr. Yabsley believed in the glorious destinies of the human race, especially of that branch of it known as Anglo-Saxon.

"He is an elderly gentleman?" asked Constance, with a half-smile of mischief.

"Old! Oh dear, no! Mr. Yabsley is only about thirty-not quite that, I think."

And May suddenly turned to talk of Browning, whom she felt it a "positive duty" to know from end to end. Had Miss Bride really mastered "Sordello?"

"I never tried to," Constance answered. "Why should I worry about unintelligible stuff that would give me no pleasure even if I could understand it?"

"Oh! Oh! Don't speak like that!" cried the other, distressfully. "I'm sure you don't mean it!"

"I care very little for poetry of any kind," said Constance, in all sincerity.

"Oh, how I grieve to hear that!-But then, of course we all have our special interests. Yours is science, I know. I've worked a good deal at science; of course one can't possibly neglect it; it's a simple duty to make oneself as many-sided as possible, don't you think? Just now, I'm giving half an hour before breakfast every day to Huxley's book on the Crayfish. Mr. Yabsley suggested it to me. Not long ago he was in correspondence with Huxley about something-I don't quite know what but he takes a great interest in Evolution. Of course you know that volume on the Crayfish?"

"I'm afraid I don't. You arrange your day, I see, very methodically."

"Oh, without method nothing can be done. Of course I have a time-table. I try to put in a great many things, but I'm sure it's no use sitting down to any study for less than half an hour-do you think so? At present I can only give half an hour to Herbert Spencer-I think I shall have to cut out my folk-lore to make more time for him. Yet folk-lore is so fascinating! Of course you delight in it?"

"I never had time for it at all," replied Constance.

"Just now I'm quite excited about ghost-worship. Mr. Yabsley doesn't think it is sufficient to explain the origin of religious ideas."

"Mr. Yabsley," remarked Constance, "has pronounced opinions on most things?"

"Oh, he is very wide, indeed. Very wide, and very thorough. There's no end to the examinations he has passed. He's thinking of taking the D. Litt at London; it's awfully stiff, you know."

When they parted, about eleven o'clock, Miss Tomalin went upstairs humming a passage from a Beethoven sonata. She declared herself enchanted with her room, and hoped she might wake early, to make the coming day all the longer.

At ten next morning, Constance was summoned to the upstairs room where Lady Ogram sometimes sat when neither so unwell as to stay in bed nor quite well enough to come down. A bad night had left the old lady with a ghastly visage, but she smiled with grim contentment as her secretary entered.

"Come, I want you to tell me what you talked about. Where is she now? What is she doing?"

"Miss Tomalin is in the library, rejoicing among the books."

"She is very intellectual," said Lady Ogram. "I never knew anyone so keen about knowledge. But what did you talk about last night?"

"Of very many things. Canada and Northampton, religion and crayfish, Huxley and-Yabsley."

"Yabsley? Who's Yabsley?"

"A gentleman of Northampton, a man of light and leading, a great friend of Miss Tomalin's."

"An old man, I suppose?" asked Lady Ogram, sharply.

"Not quite thirty."

"But married? Of course married?"

"I didn't ask; but, I fancy, not."

Lady Ogram flushed, and fell into extreme agitation. Why had she not been told about this Yabsley? Why had not that idiot Kerchever made inquiries and heard about him? This very morning she would write him a severe letter. What, May was engaged? To a man called Yabsley? Constance, as soon as interposition was possible, protested against this over-hasty view of the matter. She did not for a moment think that May was engaged, and, after all, Mr. Yabsley might even be married.

"Then why," cried Lady Ogram, furiously, "did you begin by terrifying me? Did you do it on purpose? If I thought so, I would send you packing about your business this moment!"

Constance, who had not yet taken a seat, drew back a few steps. Her face darkened. With hands clasped behind her, she regarded the raging old autocrat coldly and sternly.

"If you wish it, Lady Ogram, I am quite ready to go."

Their eyes encountered. Lady Ogram was quivering, mumbling, gasping; her look fell.

"Sit down," she said imperatively.

"I am afraid," was Miss Bride's reply, "we had better not talk whilst you are feeling so unwell."

"Sit down, I tell you! I wasn't unwell at all, till you made me so. Who is this Yabsley? Some low shopkeeper? Some paltry clerk?"

The old lady knew very well that Constance Bride would never tremble before her. It was this proudly independent spirit, unyielding as her own, and stronger still in that it never lost self-command, which had so established the clergyman's daughter in her respect and confidence. Yet the domineering instinct now and then prompted her to outrage a dignity she admired, and her invariable defeat was a new satisfaction when she calmly looked back upon it.

"You mustn't mind me," she said presently, when Constance had quietly refused to make conjectures about the subject under dissuasion. "Isn't it natural enough that I should be upset when I hear such news as this? I wanted to have a talk with May this morning, but now-"

She broke off, and hung her head gloomily.

"In your position," said Constance, "I should find out by a simple inquiry whether Miss Tomalin is engaged or likely to be. She will answer, I am sure, readily enough. She doesn't seem to be at all reticent."

"Of course I shall do so; thank you for the advice, all the same. Would you mind bringing her up here? If you prefer it, I will ring."

Scrupulousness of this kind always followed when Lady Ogram had behaved ill to her secretary. The smile with which Constance responded was a ratification of peace. In a few minutes the old lady and May were chatting together, alone, and without difficulty the great doubt was solved.

"I'm thinking of going to London for a week or two-" thus Lady Ogram approached the point-"and I should rather like to take you with me."

"It's very kind of you," said May, with joy in her eyes.

"But I want to know whether you are quite independent. Is there anyone-beside Mr. and Mrs. Rooke that you would have to consult about it?"

"No one whatever. You know that I am long since of age, Lady Ogram."

"If you like, call me your aunt. It's simpler, you know."

"Certainly I will. I am quite free, aunt."

"Good. I may take it for granted, then, that you have formed no ties of any kind?"

May shook her head, smiling as though at a thought which the words suggested, a thought not unpleasing, but not at all difficult to dismiss. Thereupon Lady Ogram began to talk freely of her projects.

"I shall go up to town in a fortnight-at the end of this month. Of course you must have some things, dresses and so on. I'll see to that. Before we leave Rivenoak, I should like you to meet a few people, my friends at Hollingford particularly, but in a very quiet way; I shall ask them to lunch with us, most likely. Shall you want to go back to Hollingford before leaving for London?"

"Oh, it isn't at all necessary," answered May, with sprightliest readiness. "I haven't brought many things with me, but I could send-"

"As for clothing, don't trouble; that's my affair. Then we'll settle that you stay on with me for the present. And now tell me, how do you like Miss Bride?"

"Oh, very much indeed! I'm sure we shall soon quite understand each other."

"I'm glad to hear that. I hope you will. I may say that I have a very high opinion indeed of Miss Bride, and that there's no one in whom I put more confidence."

"Will she go to London with us?"

"Certainly, I couldn't get on without her help."

May was relieved. The prospect of living alone with her great-aunt, even in London, had mingled a little uneasiness with her joyful anticipation. Now she abandoned herself to high spirits, and talked until Lady Ogram began to have a headache. For an hour before luncheon they drove out together, May still gossiping, her aged relative now and then attentive, but for the most part drowsily musing.

That afternoon, when an hour or two of sleep had somewhat restored her, Lady Ogram sketched several letters for her secretary to write. Pausing at length, she looked at Miss Bride, and, for the first time, addressed her by her personal name.


The other responded with a pleased and gratified smile.

"From Mr. Lashmar's talk of him, what sort of idea have you formed of Lord Dymchurch?"

"Rather a vague one, I'm afraid. I have heard him only casually mentioned."

"But Mr. Lashmar has a high opinion of him? He thinks him a man of good principles?"

"Undoubtedly. A very honourable man."

"So I hear from other sources," said Lady Ogram. "It's probably true. I should rather like to know Lord Dymchurch. He would be an interesting man to know, don't you think?"

As not infrequently happened, their eyes met in a mute interchange of thought.

"Interesting-yes," replied Constance, slowly. And she added, pressing the nib of her pen on her finger-nail, "They say he doesn't marry just because he is poor and honourable."

"It's possible," Lady Ogram rejoined, and, after a moment's reflection, said in an absent voice that the day's correspondence was finished.

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