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Flesh and blood, however, are not so easy to match as Dresden china, and though Mrs. Beckett couldn't see it, or rather would not, there was an obstacle to her good intentions. Though one of the young people was willing enough to meet her views, the other was not. A Scotch lady, whose daughter was recently married, was asked by an old friend whether she might congratulate her upon the event. “Yes, yes,' she answered, "upon the whole it is very satisfactory; it is true Jeannie hates her gudeman, but then there's always a something. Mrs. Beckett took a similar view; she was aware that Mary Marvon had no love for Charley, but that circumstance did not deter her from pursuing her plan. When one has thirty thousand a-year the will is strong. There was • always a something,' she said to herself, and though her protégée might feel no great affection for the young man at present, it would surely come in time. She knew from her own case that a marriage could be happy without much previous attachment on the lady's part; and, alas, could be unhappy with it. Mary Marvon did not hate her possible gudeman; on the contrary, she liked him very much, except when he showed symptoms of liking her too well, when she always put a stop to his advances. This state of affairs puzzled her patroness not a little. She would have suspected any other girl in Mary's position of " looking a little higher 'than at a clerk in the Probate Office, especially as she might have looked with success, for Miss Marvon's beauty and accomplishments, and perhaps the consciousness that she was the friend and protégée of a millionaire without a relative, had already brought more than one eligible suitor to her feet; but Mrs. Beckett knew Mary too well to impute any such motive to her. The girl was of a proud and independent spirit, very susceptible to kindness, but of a nature that would have resented patronage from an archangel.

The wealth that surrounded her, notwithstanding that until the last few months she had been altogether unaccustomed to it, affected her no more than summer sunshine. She admitted to herself that it was pleasant and enjoyable enough, but if it came on to rain or even to snow, there were ways of passing one's existence within doors; she had resources of her own and was independent of the weather.

These, however, were not material resources; she had no patrimony, indeed she had never known either father or mother. The one had died six months before she saw the light, and the other when she was but an infant. Mrs. Sotheran, who had been

her mother's friend, had put her out to nurse, educated, and in a manner adopted her. But though she had shown her every kindness, and taken the utmost care in the selection of her home as regarded her well-being and comfort, that home had been a school. Though Mrs. Sotheran had often come to see her, she had never taken the orphan to her own house. The reason she had given for this was the state of her health, which indeed was delicate enough, the number of her family, and the calls upon her time made by an invalid husband; but the circumstance, taken in connection with the undoubted affection Mrs. Sotheran entertained for her, had been to Mary always unaccountable, and of late years, and since she had begun to think for herself, even mysterious. Mr. Sotheran had now long been dead, the children (of whom Charley was the youngest) had followed their father to the grave, and there was plenty of room in the cottage at Letcombe Dottrell for Mary Marvon. Yet she had never been invited thither.

Mary's school, although not a fashionable one, had been a highclass establishment. She had been well treated, well brought up, and had wanted for nothing. Mrs. Sotheran's explanation of the matter was that only a moderate sum had been placed in her hands as provision for the orphan, and that it had been Mrs. Marvon's dying wish that it should be expended so as to shield her daughter's youth from the pangs and pains' of poverty (from which she had herself suffered bitterly), and to fit her as best might be for the battle of life. There was not enough for Mary to live upon, but there was enough to keep her in comfort till she could provide for her own maintenance. A few hundred pounds, as Mary vaguely understood, was all that was left to her when, at eighteen years of age, she had exchanged the modest comfort of Minerva Seminary, Harrowgate, for the splendours of Beckett House. To Mrs. Sotheran she owed-as she owed everything else-her present position, and for this she was more grateful to her than for all the rest. Not because it had opened for her the door of luxury, but for its introduction to one who had proved herself a gentle, considerate, and loving friend. Only on one subject had Mrs. Beckett and her young companion disagreed since the latter had come to share her home; namely, as regarded the young gentleman who was now escorting Mary down to luncheon. That Mr. Charles Sotheran was good-looking, good-tempered, agreeable, and very much a gentleman, Mary admitted; she had not a word to say against him except as a lover,

When Mrs. Beckett had gone on to hint that, though Charley's salary was small, and increased by no means by leaps and bounds,' a few strokes of her pen would soon alter all that, and that it would give her great pleasure to make them, Mary had demurely observed that Mrs. Beckett could not bestow her bounty upon a worthier object than Mr. Charles Sotheran ; but that, so far as she (Mary) was concerned, he might have ten thousand a year but would still be unacceptable to her as a husband.

“Then you must be either a born-fool, Mary,' cried the widow, for the first time losing her temper with her young favourite, or you must have had


brain turned by romances.' • As we were never allowed to read romances at Minerva House, my dear Mrs. Beckett,' returned Mary, cheerfully, but with a spot of red on each cheek, “I suppose I must accept the former of your two alternatives.'

And she added a little courtesy by way of acknowledgment.

The courtesy, I think, went even further with Mrs. Beckett than her words; as a reproof, it affected her not one whit, for very rich people are rarely thin-skinned; but it showed the other's coolness and determination. Though the widow by no means gave up her object, from that moment she ceased to press it; she knew that, notwithstanding all the resources of science, there are some fruits which can never be brought on by forcing, and was compelled to believe that this was one of them. Henceforth she trusted to the sunshine and the showers : circumstance and opportunity.

As the three took their seats at the well-spread board, Charley nodded in his off-hand way to a vacant chair : 'What Banquo is sitting there?' he inquired.

The Dornays promised to be here,' said Mrs. Beckett curtly.

Oh, indeed, Banquo and Fleance ! Then I've got one of their chairs.'

• Of course you have, sir ; you were not expected though we are very glad to see you, and they were.'

* It is better to come to a feast when you are not asked,' observed Charley, with a philosophic air, 'than to be asked and not come.

• And much better manners,' assented Mrs. Beckett, warmly. • For my part I don't understand such conduct. Guests who come late to lunch are almost as bad as those who come late to dinner, and they are unpardonable. For my part I cannot understand why Society tolerates it.'

'Still it is a sign of good position,' remarked Charley, with a twinkle in his blue eyes. It is only important people who venture to do it. They are titled and say to themselves, “ Our host is an inferior person, so will not resent our rudeness," or they are rich, and he owes them money and dares not.'

“How can you be so foolish, Charley ? ' said Mary reprovingly.

‘But, my dear Mary, it must be so,' continued the young man gravely, or why does the host wait for them to the inconvenience of his other guests, and though he knows the dinner is spoiling. For my part I always endure the extra half-hour with great patience for my host's sake; for I say to myself, “ His debts will be made easier to him on this account, or perhaps forgiven to him.” He can't be so foolish or so slavish as to put up with such behaviour for nothing.'

Upon my word, I think Charley's observations are very sensible, remarked Mrs. Beckett, grimly. *If people can get to a railway station in time, they can come in time for dinner. A quarter of an hour for the difference of clocks I do allow, but beyond that I would not wait for a Rothschild or a Royal Highness.'

“Yes, but then you see you don't owe Rothschild anything, Mrs. Beckett, and Royal Highnesses are always in time.'

“Quite true,' replied the hostess, with approval. 'It is only your parvenus who take such liberties.'

Still there are such things as accidents, put in Mary, apologetically.

• Accidents and offences,' muttered Charley.

"That is only another reason why nobody should wait,' argued Mrs. Beckett; 'I always say to persons who are so ill-bred as to be behind time, “I was sure that nothing but an accident would have detained you, and therefore we sat down.” Nobody but a madman, for example, would think of waiting for a doctor, who may be sent for at a moment's notice. Harris, let those two dishes be taken out and kept warm.'

• Justice tempered with mercy,' observed Charley.
"You are a very impudent young man,' said the hostess smiling,

My dear Mrs. Beckett, you are altogether in error: it is native shyness; a thing that is often mistaken for sheer impertinence. I should not have dreamt of coming here to-day for example—and without an invitation-and especially at luncheon time'(his hostess was hospitality itself, but here she smiled satirically), “if I had not had something to communicate to you of the last importance. I had news to-day from Letcombe Dottrell.'

"Good news I hope,' inquired Mrs. Beckett with interest. * The last time I heard from your mother, she wrote in what was for her fairly good spirits.'

She's lost them now, poor thing!' sighed the young man.

But what has happened ?' cried Mary. 'I heard from her only the other day. I am quite sure there's not much the matter, Charley, or, to do you justice, you would have told us long ago, instead of talking such nonsense.'

" That is the first civil word you have spoken to me, Mary; I'm so much obliged. It is so nice to hear you say you believe I have some natural affection. It puts one quite on a level with the brutes.' Will

you tell us your news, sir ? 'broke in Mrs. Beckett, impatiently. Though we care nothing about you, you know how interested we both are in your dear mother. If you kept her in a state of suspense like this it would frighten her to death.'

“That's just what's the matter with her,' answered Charley. She is almost frightened to death, and no wonder. There's a giant at Letcombe Dottrell.'

A what?' exclaimed both ladies simultaneously.

“A giant! eight feet, nine feet, ten feet—I don't know how many feet he is—who takes his seven-leagued strides about the parish quite composedly. And he don't live in a caravan either, as you may think, but at the hall itself. He is Mr. Beryl Paton's last protégé.

Oh, Charley, this is too absurd !' ejaculated Mrs. Beckett.

It's as true as that I sit here, madam, eating apricot omelette. In addition to the Archæologist, the Metaphysician, and the Everythingarians, whom the squire has gathered about him, there is now - last, but by no means least a Giant.'

But why? There is nothing in being nine feet high, or even ten feet, to excite good Mr. Paton's sympathies. There must be merit, or at least presumed merit, or some pitiful misfortune to do that.'

"I don't know about that, Mrs. Beckett ; perhaps he's an orphan giant; but there he is. Looking down the cottagers' chimneys as he takes his walks abroad; and, what is worse, into the bedroom windows at the rectory. Mr. Wells has complained about it, but the giant says he can't help it; it's his natural focus; he's not in the same plane with his fellow-creatures.'

Why, Mr. Paton must be going mad!' exclaimed Mrs. Beckett.

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