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Margaret Steife Hamilton

BY MRS. HUNGERFORD

.
(«THE DUCHESS”)

MOLLY DARLING,' THE HOYDEN,"
: “ Peter's wife,” “THREE GRACES," ETC.

AUTHOR OF

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MERCANTILE LIBRARY

NEW YORK.

N 332030

PHILADELPHIA

J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY

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ELECTROTYPED AND PRINTED BY J. B. LIPPINCOTT COMPANY, PHILADELPHIA, U.S.A.

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her lap.

“I REALLY think we may congratulate ourselves about this governess," says Lady Maria, leaning back in her chair, and letting her lovely old hands with her knitting drop into

“She seems a most excellent creature." With Lady Maria most people inferior to her are creatures. A“nice” creature, or a “good” creature, if it happens to be the doctor's or the curate's wife, and she approves of her; an “excellent” creature, if it be the butler or the governess; whilst a "worthy' creature does for the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick-maker.

“She's very pretty," returned Mrs. Verschoyle, a tall, handsome, fashionable-looking woman of about forty, with a touch of humour in her clear grey eyes. It is perhaps this touch of humour that has endeared her so strongly to her mother-in-law, with whom she has lived ever since the death of her husband, Lady Maria's eldest son—a death that took place five years ago, and was so much to these two women of the world that they found it impossible to forget it.

“Oh, pretty!" says Lady Maria, with a shrug. “What has prettiness to do with it? Beauty is not necessary in one's governess. In fact, I always think that sort of person should be born plain. To be distinctly plain, without being actually repulsive, would be so wise of them !''

" It is so hard for them to arrange it beforehand,” says Mrs. Verschoyle, “But you haven't looked sufficiently at Miss Royce. She has not been wise! She is not plain.'

" That black little thing !"

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“Very dark, I allow you. But wonderful colouring. The name is English enough, but her face—with those black eyes, and that olive skin, is almost French.”

“ French! Good gracious, Jane, why didn't you say all this before? She has been here for a month now, and -"

· Why should I? She seems an admirable governess, she suits Jinnie (who, as you know, is not very easily suited), and what more do I want ?

“I can see you have taken a dislike to her.”

“ Indeed I have not. Efficiency in a governess is all that one requires, as I have been just saying."

“ For all that,” says Lady Maria, "you are a mass of prejudices."

“Am I?” Mrs. Verschoyle looks amused. “Let me tell you, though, that not one out of the mass would lead me astray in my judgment."

“What an absurd speech: as if prejudices were not made for that special purpose—to lead one astray. I hope you will not set your face against Miss Royce, Jane. Don't, my dear. She sings so well, and is such a quiet creature. Quite a treasure, I call her. One”-raising herself in her chair to give emphasis to her clinching argument—"One never sees her!"

Mrs. Verschoyle smiles.

“You score there," says she. “She certainly is seldom to be seen—a splendid thing in governesses. Miss Royce is wise in her manners, if not in her face.”'

“To drag up one's last words is not good manners, Jane," says Lady Maria, putting down her knitting again-a long, seemingly interminable row of red and black wool, meant for a comforter for some Deep Sea fisherman. " For the rest let me forget Miss Royce for a while. By the bye,” inconsequently, “what a curious Christian name she has ?”

66 Yes! Maden. It suggests the missing I. I am sure it must be an abbreviation of something, but she is very reticent; she will not speak of herself, or let one be friends with her." “Just as well," says Lady Maria, indifferently.

Oh, I don't know! Poor little thing, I am almost sure she has known rough passages in her life.”

“Well, she ought to find it all the smoother here,” says Lady Maria, comfortably. “Don't I see somebody coming

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down the hill? Is it Sidney? By the way, what a rolling stone he is ?”

Mrs. Verschoyle raises her head and glances across the sunny landscape outside, over the flowering beds and the budding rose-trees, over the tennis-courts below already being shaven and rolled in anticipation of the coming summer), to the gentle hill beyond.

Anthony, I think,” says she, peering uncertainly," and, beyond doubt, that is Jinnie"-her daughter's small form being unmistakable—"and Miss Royce, and yes, it is Sidney too

“ Talk of the -" begins Lady Maria, with a shrug. She laughs gaily, checking herself at the naughty word. Her laugh is infectious and wonderfully young, considering that she is a grandmother, and not even a young one at that. Grief and disappointment had failed to check the indomitable spirit that had been born with her as, indeed, with most of the Amyots), and she had had much of both.

The marriage of her elder and favourite son with Jane Brandreth, the daughter and heiress of an old house slightly connected with her own, had been a cause of keen pleasure to her, and had helped to dull the sense of loneliness that had shadowed her after her husband's death, but sorrow follows hard upon the heels of joy, and when the tiny grandchild (a girl, too !) was barely a twelvemonth old, George Verschoyle had gone over to the majority. It was a blow that stunned, and it left its indelible mark on the mother who loved, the wife who adored him.

The child, too, was only a girl! Poor George left no heir. And thus Anthony Verschoyle stepped into his inheritance. At first, when real and honest grief for the brother he loved was full upon him, Anthony cared little for the

and glory of it, though to be head of all the Verschoyles, and master of The Towers, were as good things as a man could come into in these dull days; but later on, as was only natural, he grew to feel and know the meaning of possession, though of all men he would probably be the slowest to give in thus to nature's cruelties. Perhaps he never quite felt or knew that he cared for the change in his fortune until Cecil Fairfax came back to live in her own home-Fairtown--a charming place situated about four miles from The Towers—a fatherless, motherless girl, but rich enough, and of sufficient strength to

pomp

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