Mrs. Day's Daughters
Mary E. Mann
Part 2 out of 6
"In any case, I would not have gone there again," Deleah said. "The girls
are always talking about who their fathers are, and looking down on each
other. Not but what there were some upon whose fathers I also looked down.
The Clarks--the wholesale shoe-makers--you could hardly call them
_professional_, could you? But now--oh, what nonsense it all seems now!"
The education of Franky had been carried on hitherto by Bessie. In a
lamentably desultory fashion it is true; but now that, for economy's sake,
they had restricted themselves to a fire in only one sitting-room the poor
child's tuition had to be abandoned. It would have been impossible to live
within the four walls wherein the elder daughter and the younger son
fought through the difficulties of imparting and acquiring knowledge.
Either Franky, on his back, on the floor, was screaming and dangerously
waving his legs, or an infuriate Bessie was chasing him round the table.
The spelling-book was more often used as a weapon of attack than a primer,
and Bessie's voice screaming out the information that C A T spelt Cat
could be heard in the street.
Economies in coal, economies in every direction they had to practise.
Money, where it had been so plentiful was all at once painfully scarce;
credit, which had seemed unlimited, there was none. George Boult, taking
things in hand, and trying to bring some order out of chaos, handed over
weekly to Mrs. Day two pounds for housekeeping. The change from lavishness
to penury bewildered the poor woman, and the change from a table loaded
with good things to one that was nearly bare was not skilfully made. For a
time, until experience taught her, things they could have done without she
continued to buy, and that which was really necessary they went without.
And that allowance, poor as it seemed to her, could not go on for long. It
was by no means certain that enough legally remained to them to repay Mr.
Boult for these disbursements. If they had been willing to live upon his
means he was not at all a generous man; he did not encourage them to
expect pecuniary help from him.
"What do you advise? Have you no plan? What are we all to do?" Mrs. Day
asked of her husband.
"You must hang on till I come out. If we're lucky it will only be a matter
of a few months."
"But even for a few months, William, what are we to do?"
"You must work," William said. "Earn something. It will be a change for
you. I've kept the lot of you in idleness till now. Now you'll learn what
it is to work. It won't do you any harm."
"All that is so easy to say. But what work are we to do? Where are we to
work? I cannot see that we shall have a roof over our heads."
Then the wretched man, who knew no more than she what would become of them
all, and was infinitely the more wretched on that account, broke into a
torrent of oaths. "Haven't I enough to bear?" he asked her. "Haven't I
myself to think about? Is mine such a pleasant prospect, that you come to
pester me, giving me no peace? How do other women manage? Women that have
never had husbands to slave for them as I have slaved for you."
Poor Mrs. Day, the least pugnacious of women, who at the best of times had
scarcely known how to hold her own with him, fled before the unreasonable,
Bessie, in talking to her brother over the hopelessness of their position,
used the child's time-honoured reproach against the parent. "Papa and mama
should not have had children if they were going to make such a muddle as
this," she argued. Bessie had not wanted to be born, she declared. Her
father and mother were responsible. They must at least say what was to be
done. Papa, she declared to Bernard, should be made to say.
"Papa, when Deleah and I want our hats and dresses for the spring, what
are we to do?" she asked her father, with that note of aggression in her
voice with which he had become familiar from her.
"Do? Go without them," he promptly replied.
"You know very well we can't go without clothes, papa."
"Then go to the devil," papa said, and getting up slouched from the room.
Bernard, too, who was more afraid of the altered man than Bessie, and for
long shrank from any conversation with him, was at last induced by his
mother to consult his father as to his own future.
"There isn't much use that I can see, sir, in my sweating away at my books
for this exam," he said.
"Oh? Why not?"
"Supposing that I get through it, what am I to do then?"
"You must do the best you can. This Senior Cambridge Exam, they tell me,
is a door to any of the professions."
"But you want money to enter a profession, sir. From what I hear we have
"Your hearing has not played you false in that direction. What I had you
managed to spend, among you. I was the goose that laid the golden egg; now
circumstances forbid my laying any more--for a time. You must look after
"But if you could only give us some idea of how to set about it."
Then, upon him, too, his father, having shown a greater measure of
forbearance so far than he accorded the mere women of his family, turned
savagely. The poor wretch did not know how to help them, did not know what
to advise them to do: to frighten them was his only resource.
"Haven't I got enough to think about?" he shouted at the boy. "You and
your mother and sisters come and badger--and badger me--"
"All right, sir. I won't badger you any more."
"All I ask is to be let alone--to be granted a little peace. You have no
But after that conversation the boy gave up even the pretence of studying.
"Where's the good?" he asked of Bessie. "If I passed the blessed thing,
where's the good? I shall have to be an errand boy, I suppose, or sweep a
crossing. I don't want a Senior Cambridge Certificate for that."
The womankind did their best to persuade him to persevere, but he declared
that he could not study in his bedroom without a fire, nor could he so
much as drive a word into his head if he had to sit in the same room as
That room where their pleasant evenings had been passed while Mr. Day
played his cards at the club, presented altogether a different aspect in
these sad times when that unhappy man formed part of the circle. The poor,
bulky wretch sat always over the fire--literally over it, his chair-feet
touching the fender, his own feet as often as not on the bars; the rest of
the family withdrawn as much as possible from the hearth. If there was
talk among them as they sat at their table with their sewing, their
painting, their books--and being young they talked, and even sometimes
laughed--he resented the fact that they could do so, and sometimes snarled
round upon them with a request for silence. But equally, it seemed, did he
resent their silence when it fell, and would make sarcastic remarks to
them when they withdrew on the liveliness of the society they provided for
An undue amount of the weekly two pounds for housekeeping money went to
find the master of the house tobacco. There was some good port wine in the
cellar; he might as well drink it while he had the chance, William Day
thought. What else had he to do but smoke and drink; and he did both, all
He had not been a drinking man, although he had ever taken his share of
the good things of life, nor an idle one. His family looked on now at his
altered habits with fear and a growing disgust. It was surprising how, in
the loss of his own self-respect and the knowledge that he had lost the
respect of those who had loved him, the man altered. With astonishment
they, who had known him all their lives, saw him in a few short weeks
become selfish, greedy, unmannerly, even unclean. The ash from his pipe
fell on his coat, he would not brush it away; he had evidently given up
the use of a nail-brush; his hair hung over his forehead; his untrimmed
beard and whiskers stuck out round the big face which was flabby now, and
Missing the luxuries from his table, he forgot the niceties he had
hitherto observed there. When he came to his meals with unwashed hands,
took to himself, with apparently no thought for the rest, the best of what
he found there, the elder boy and girl would look at each other with angry
condemnation in their eyes. Such lapses from a hitherto observed code of
good manners Mrs. Day bore with an apparently apathetic indifference. For
years, truth to tell, she had ceased to love the man, and the little
deviations, which read so trivially but mean in daily life so much, were
almost unnoticed by her in the stupefying sense of the misfortune which
had befallen them all.
It was only Deleah, devotedly loving her father, who perceived the real
tragedy at the back of this neglect of personal and family obligations;
only she who dimly understood that this disfiguring outward alteration was
but the sign of an inner, more pitiful change; only she who had the
insight to read in her father's savage ways the despair, the scorn of
himself, the rage with destiny, the bitter enmity against a world in which
he was no longer to exist. Only Deleah felt in her heart the sorrow of it
all--Deleah who was a reader of Thackeray, of Trollope, of Dickens, of
Tennyson; whose eyes had wept for imaginary woes before these bitter drops
had been wrung from them for her own; who had learnt that tears were not
the only signs of an anguished heart; and knew that the love of position,
of home, of a fair name even were not the chief things for which they as a
family should have mourned.
And so the slow weeks, even the slow months passed. The muddy, narrow
pavements of Brockenham grew dry and dusty in the biting east winds.
People at whom Mrs. Day and her daughters peeped through curtained windows
walked by with snowdrops, with violets, and presently with cowslips in
their hands. Spring, so slow in coming, yet so dreaded by them all, was
coming at last. Easter was here. Easter too soon was here!--and the Easter
Husband And Father
On the evening before the morning on which his trial was to take place, a
different creature seemed to be in the place lately occupied by William
For one thing, his appearance was improved. A barber, sent for, that
afternoon, had cut off the greasy, disguising locks of sand-coloured hair,
and trimmed the wildly luxuriant beard which had given the man such a
slovenly, unfamiliar appearance. His upper lip was once more shaved.
"I don't mind kissing you now, papa," Franky said, who had shirked
saluting the stubbly face.
This improvement being completed, he made a change in his clothes, and at
their tea-time appeared among them all in his black cloth, long-skirted
coat, his "pepper and salt" trousers. As another outward sign of his moral
degradation he had dispensed with linen at throat and wrists lately, but
now his heavy chin sank once more into the enclosure of a collar whose
stiffly starched points reached to the middle of his cheeks. The pin which
adorned his thickly padded necktie was large in size, consisting of a
gold-rimmed glass case in which was exhibited, braided and intertwined,
hair cut from the heads of his four children. They had all of them clubbed
together to prepare this offering for papa on last St. Valentine's Day.
And with the resumption of a more careful toilette the poor man had gone
back to the decent demeanour of happier days. He said nothing; was,
indeed, in a state of black depression which he made no attempt to hide,
but he outraged no longer the sensitive feelings of his family by his
"Papa is just like what he used to look," Franky said, when he beheld the
renovation of his parent's appearance. "Shall we paint pictures this
They tried to hush the child, but Franky saw no reason why he should not
make his request, nor why it should be refused. He fetched his paint-box
and a store of pictures he had cut from some old papers.
"You do sunsets so much more beautifully than me, papa. If you'd just do
the sunsets for me!"
And presently the father had drawn a chair by the side of his little
son's, and was showing him how to mix his colours, and admonishing him not
to suck his paintbrushes, as on the happy winter evenings before the
It was a landscape with mill and marshland and water, the child had
chosen, and there was a large space to be occupied with the sunset at
which his parent excelled, and much scraping and mixing of carmine and
yellow ochre and cobalt blues. So that Franky's bed-time was here before
the picture was finished. He was sent off as usual, protesting and in
"You'll help me to finish it to-morrow night, papa? Promise you'll help me
to-morrow night!" he entreated, through his weeping. But Bessie, whose
task it was to see him to bed, pulled the child relentlessly from the
room, and slammed the door upon them both.
George Boult had come in, for a last talk with his friend. His presence
was never desired by the family, but it relieved the tension, somewhat, of
that sad evening.
The two men sat with their pipes, and a bottle of that much diminished
store of "eighteen forty-sevens" was broached. But presently it was
noticed that although William Day held his pipe in his hand he did not
smoke. With the other hand he shaded his eyes from the gas light, and he
said nothing. One by one the young people crept off to bed, and presently
Mrs. Day, whose attempt to keep up a conversation with the visitor had
quickly failed, also stood up to go.
"Are you leaving us, Lydia?" the husband said when he became aware of her
"I will not go if you wish me to stay, William."
"No, no. Go, and get some sleep."
Then, as for a moment she stood, hesitating at the door, longing to escape
from that sad presence, yet miserable to go: "Do the best you can for my
poor wife," Day said to his friend. "She has been a good wife to me."
She had lived with him for twenty years, and had, perhaps, never heard a
word of praise from him before. When at last it came it was too much for
her to bear, and she went, sobbing loudly, from the room.
An hour later when the unhappy master of the house had for the last time
attended his friend to the hall-door, watched him down the steps into the
quiet street, given a silent nod to the other's silent gesture of farewell
as he turned to walk down the echoing pavement; when he had put out the
gas in the sitting-room and hall, and dragged himself--who can divine with
what heaviness of heart?--heavily up the stairs, he came upon a little
white night-gowned figure, watching for him on the landing, outside his
It was Deleah who had waited for him there.
"It is only I, papa," she said when he stopped short at sight of her.
"Only your little Deleah that I--I--loves you so."
"Be off to bed, this instant," he said, and pointed an angry finger in the
direction of her room.
But she put her arms about his neck and clung to him with stifled sobbing,
till with the choke of his own sobbing she felt his great chest heave
beneath her clinging form.
When he had flung himself upon the bed beside his wife he was choking and
sobbing still, in a fashion dreadful to hear.
"William!" she said timidly, and put a shaking hand upon his shoulder. "Is
there anything I can do or say that can help you, William?"
He did not answer her, but the bed shook with his rending sobs; and she
lay and sobbed beside him.
When at length such calm as comes from exhaustion fell: "I did it for you
and the children," he said. "I thought, with luck, I could have put it
right. But it was for all of you I did it. You will remember that?"
"I will remember it while I live," she said. "You may be quite sure that
neither your children nor I will ever forget."
"Deleah upset me. She should have been in bed"--it was so he excused his
tears to her--"I should not have broken down like this if she had not
unmanned me. The child should have gone to bed."
She heard him swallow down his tears, and then he began again: "Deleah and
Franky have always been--have always been--"
"The dearest," she supplied, understanding him. "The dearest of your
"Tell them that--after to-morrow, will you?"
She promised. "Bessie and Bernard have not such winning ways, perhaps, but
they love you, William, I am sure."
To this he made no answer. After a time she spoke to him again: "Have you
anything else to say to me, William? There have been too few words between
us of late. It has been my fault, perhaps. But now, have you anything to
say that might comfort us both to remember?"
"Nothing." He said the word drearily, but not unkindly, and she did not
resent his silence. Full well she knew that volumes, if he could have
spoken them, could not have lightened her helplessness in the present and
terror of the future, nor his despair.
She lay for a few minutes, the tears pouring down her cheeks, unchecked in
the darkness, then she forced herself to say the only few words she could
think of which might comfort him in the time to come.
"William, I won't talk to you, I won't disturb you. I want you to go to
sleep, to get a night's rest, if you can; but just this one thing I do
wish to say to you--I do want you to remember. It is that you must be sure
never to think I feel any anger against you. Only pity--only pity,
William; and such a sorrow for you that I cannot put it into words. I have
wanted to tell you all along, but--"
She left it there, and he received what she said in silence.
Only once again he spoke. "This has been Hell," he said, and she knew he
spoke of the weeks he had spent, an alien in his own home, awaiting his
trial. "Hell! Whatever comes, I am glad this is over."
Then he turned on his side, away from her, and lay quite quiet; and
presently she knew with thanksgiving that he slept.
The Way Out
The prisoner in accordance with his counsel's advice pleaded Guilty. It
was only a question of the length of the sentence, therefore, and the
judge before whom William Day appeared did not err on the side of mercy.
The heaviest sentence that it was in his power to allot to a malefactor of
that class he passed upon William Day.
None of his own were present, but the Court was filled with people to whom
the prisoner was a familiar figure of everyday life.
It was all but impossible to look upon this big, important-looking man in
the well-cut clothes, holding till the last few weeks among them the
position of gentleman, and believe that it was a criminal standing before
their eyes. The attraction of gazing at, of gloating upon, such a
phenomenon was great. He had been a hectoring kind of man, walking very
noisily among his fellows, taking to himself a great deal of room. Such an
one gives offence frequently if unconsciously. There was none who saw
William Day standing up for his sentence in the dock that day who bore a
grudge, or remembered.
With some there he had assumed an insolent superiority, with other few,
whose position entitled them to choose their acquaintance, he had been
unwarrantably familiar. For the minute he held his place after sentence
was pronounced his eyes travelled slowly but with a dreadful look of
appeal over the familiar faces. Over faces of tradespeople, with whom he
had dealt; of clients for whom he had done business; of people with whom
he had dined and whom he had entertained in return; of men who had driven
him in cabs, blacked his boots, carried his portmanteaux. The slowly
travelling gaze had in it something of a sick despair, something of a wild
appeal. The men over whom it passed, bore it in absolute, breathless
silence, but they never forgot it.
The great cheeks that had seemed ready to burst with good-living, hung
loose and flabby now, the hands that had been prompt with the grasp of
friendship, that had waved greetings from window or pavement, that had
ever been generous in giving, clung to the rail of the dock, the knuckles
whitened with the tension. The tongue that had been so loud in dispute, so
rough in anger, so boisterous in welcome, lay dry and silent in the mouth
which had lopped open.
There was a feeling upon many of those who momentarily encountered the
dreadful gaze that they were responsible; they longed to exonerate
themselves, to say to him, "I, at least, had nothing to do with it. I am
sorry, William Day. Indeed I am sorry." It was a relief when he turned, at
the warder's touch on his arm, and went below.
In the room where he was allowed to sit for a time before being driven to
prison his lawyer came to speak to him; the confidential clerk from his
own office; his friend, George Boult.
"It is very severe," George Boult kept saying with nervous reiteration.
The prisoner did not speak. He was wearing, arranged across his heavy
paunch, a handsome chain of gold. With fingers stiff from their hold upon
the dock-rail he began, bunglingly, to detach this chain from his
waistcoat. His watch came out with it--a big watch, with a double gold
case. He opened the outer case in an aimless way, mechanically, and for no
object, it seemed, for he did not look at the time. Then, without a word
he held out the watch and chain to his friend, and lifted the fingers
which had fumbled with the watch-case to his lead-coloured lips.
Within a quarter of an hour from the time that William Day had listened to
his heavy sentence of penal servitude he lay on his back, dead.
For The Widow And The Fatherless
At the initiative of George Boult a subscription was opened for "the widow
and children of the late William Day, who had left them without any means
This sad and irrefutable statement was made in an advertisement in the
local newspaper, and was written, in Mr. Boult's own round and clerkly
hand, on the top of the list of subscribers hanging in conspicuous places
in the Banks, the Public Library, the principal shops of the town.
It was said by those competent to form an opinion that the engineering of
this scheme to help poor Mrs. Day and her children should have been in
other hands. That George Boult's social position in the town did not
entitle him to head the list. A banker's name should have figured there,
or the name of the M. P. for Brockenham, or Sir Francis Forcus's name.
With such an influential person to lead the way it was argued that the
smaller fry would have been more willing to follow suit. It was also
whispered that one of such persons of wealth and note would have led off
with at least a hundred pounds. George Boult's name was down for fifty.
It was a large amount for him to give--not because he could not well have
afforded more, but because he was all unaccustomed to giving. He had been
known to be the unhappy man's friend, and because he headed the list with
his fifty pounds it was said that no one liked to outdo that donation. Sir
Francis Forcus, in order to avoid hurting those sensitive feelings with
which Mr. Boult was accredited, had the happy thought to put his own name
down for fifty pounds, and those of his wife and his young brother, each
for the same amount.
There were two more names down for like sums, after which came a few for
ten pounds, a few more for five pounds; there were numerous donations of
one pound; after which the subscriptions dropped to ten shillings, to
Poor Mrs. Day, casting a sick eye down the list as it continued to appear,
once a week, in the local paper, felt ashamed by the paltriness of the
amounts which were being amassed in her behalf. "Collected by a
well-wisher, six and nine." Several people, modestly content that their
initials only should appear, presented two and six.
"Sympathy" was down for a shilling. How degraded she felt as she read!
Though, why a gift of a shilling should have hurt her more than the gift
of fifty pounds she could not have explained.
When, after dragging on far several weeks, the subscription list was
closed the sum collected only amounted to a little over six hundred
George Boult had been ready to pledge himself that it would have risen to
a thousand. He had spared no trouble in the collection of the sum. The
list of subscribers hung in a conspicuous place in his shop. He never
failed to call to it the attention of his well-to-do customers. A case
more needing help was never before the public of Brockenham, he would
point out to them.
But the public of Brockenham, severely shocked by the tragic circumstances
of William Day's death, recovered quickly from the blow, to say that the
death had been the best thing which could happen to the family. To be rid
of such a man, to have no more attaching to them the reproach of a father
and husband in prison, removed half the woeful load of misfortune from the
case. That the children were mostly of an age to earn their own livings,
their mother still fairly young and strong, were facts also remembered.
Then the word began to be passed about from mouth to mouth--spoken in a
whisper at first, but presently a word which might be spoken without fear
of rebuke in any ear--that the Day family had always been eaten up with
pride, and that the lawyer's troubles had come about through the
extravagance of his wife.
The sum of six hundred and forty-nine pounds being collected, what to do
with it was the next thing to decide.
The day after the subscription list was closed Mrs. Day went to an
interview with George Boult in order to set before him a proposition, the
result of the unanimous conclusion to which she and her children after
many tearful consultations had come.
"Of course I must have some plan to put before him," the mother had said,
pathetically conscious that however helpless she felt she must by no means
appear to be so. "It would not do for us to have made no plans, after the
interest Mr. Boult has taken; and his fifty pounds."
"I wish we could chuck it in his face," Bernard said; he was well on his
way, poor boy, to exemplify the truth of the proverb that scornful dogs
eat dirty puddings.
"Of all the people who have given, Mr. Boult is the one I would most love
to send his money back to," Bessie agreed. "We may be able to wipe the
rest off our minds in time, but we shall never be allowed to forget the
fifty pounds of the detestable Boult."
"He was poor papa's friend--the only one. He was good to papa," Deleah
said, but to herself alone. For in that unhappy household was a law,
unwritten, unspoken, but binding none the less, that the name of the
husband and father should never be spoken.
"We must remember that the fifty pounds seems a great deal to him," Mrs.
Day reminded them. "The least we can do is to pay him the compliment of
telling him what we intend to do with the money."
However, she found, on interviewing George Boult, that no such delicate
attention was expected from her. The money he had raised was money for him
to handle--for the benefit of Mrs. Day and her children of course, but
without reference to what might be their feelings in the matter.
He was not a man to doubt his own wisdom, or to seek to confirm an opinion
with the approval of others, or to hesitate in the pursuit of a course
which to his perceptions appeared desirable. Also, having mapped out his
plan or set out on his chosen path he never afterwards allowed to himself
that there were others. A simple method which reduced to nothing for him
the chances of regret or mental worry.
He was an eminently successful tradesman. His draper's business, which had
been on a par with the businesses of half a dozen drapers when he had
originally started in Brockenham, was now easily the first of its kind,
not only in the town but in the county. It was natural that he should
believe in trade--natural that he should fix his faith to nothing else as
a means of money-making.
"There's nothing like business," he said to Mrs. Day.
She was seated in his private counting-room on the upper floor of the big
shop--it was half a dozen shops joined into one now. To reach that room
she had to pass through an ante-room full of entering clerks, busy at
their desks. They lifted their heads from their quill-driving to look at
the poor woman as she went by. She went with hanging head, her thick
widow's veil over her face, the thought in her mind, "Perhaps among the
poor clerks that collection of six shillings and ninepence had been made."
Perhaps one of the chilblain-fingered girls behind the counters down below
had been the "Sympathiser" to whom she had been indebted for a shilling.
She was humbled to the earth. It was so she would have described her
condition, as she walked to her interview with George Boult. If she had
been told that her heart, on the contrary, was filled with pride, and
beating high with rebellion, and that it was just the want of humility
within her, who yet contrived to present a humble bearing, which made
everything so unnecessarily painful, she would not have believed.
When, seated opposite to him at the small square leather-covered
writing-table in the draper's counting-house, she turned back her veil, he
noticed at once the ravages which grief and shame and anxiety had made in
her face. He was quick to notice, because, practical, hard-working,
hard-headed widower as he was, he had an eye for female beauty, and the
handsome dark face of his friend's wife--the woman who, in the days of her
haughtiness, had turned her back on him and kept him at arm's length--he
had unwillingly admired.
The face of Lydia Day now was that of a woman who had been plump but was
so no longer. The cheeks which had been firm and full were pendulous, the
healthily pale but brunette complexion was of a leaden pallor; in the
darkened skin beneath the deep-set, large dark eyes, little puckers
showed. Her figure, too, had fallen away. She had lost her proud,
"It's finished her off, as far as looks go," George Boult said to himself,
not entirely without satisfaction. He was one of those who firmly believed
his friend's ruin lay at her door. William Day had robbed to minister to
his wife's extravagance and pride. It was well that she should be humbled.
"There is nothing like business," he repeated. "And I have decided to
invest the little capital of six hundred and forty-nine pounds and a few
odd shillings I have raised for you, in a business which will yield a good
return, and enable you to make a living for your two younger children. A
groshery business, in short."
"Grocery?" repeated Mrs. Day, gazing blankly at him.
"Groshery," he said shortly, and looked hardily at her with his lips set,
his chin stuck out, and his quick observant eyes on her face.
"Grocery?" she reiterated faintly, at a loss for anything else to say.
"You know that nice bright little business in Bridge Street? Carr's. Old
Jonas Carr's. He is retiring, you know--or perhaps you don't know--it's
been kept secret for business purposes. I am glad to have got hold of it
in the nick of time, and I am putting your little capital into the
"It's a stroke of wonderful luck, I consider--its falling in, just now."
"But I do not quite understand. Will someone who is taking the shop allow
a good interest, do you mean?"
"Not exactly that, ma'am." He gave a sound that might have been caused by
a smothered chuckle, or have been meant for a snort of contempt, and going
from the table, placed himself upon the hearthrug, where he paused, making
a prayer perhaps for patience to be given him to deal with this fool in
her untrained, untaught folly.
"Not exactly," he went on. "I am taking the business for you to work,
ma'am. Jonas Carr is an old man now, but he has lived out of the business,
and brought up his children out of it, and this with only antiquated
methods. With new life put into the concern, and with altogether
up-to-date management, there is the making there, in my opinion--and I
think I may say my opinion on such a matter is of value--of an excellent
"For me to work?" Mrs. Day asked in feeble protest. "Me? A _grocery_
"Why not?" He eyed her relentlessly, biting his finger nails. "What did
you think you were going to do with the money which I have collected for
you? Spend it? And collect again?"
"Not that, Mr. Boult. Certainly not that." She looked down at the
black-gloved hands which lay in her lap. They trembled; to keep them
steady she caught them one in the other. "I have been talking it over with
my children, and we have decided, if you approve, to take a good-sized
house by the sea, where we could all live together, and take in lodgers.
That would be a way of making a living which would come easier to my girls
and me than any other."
"Easier? Yes. The misfortune is, ma'am, that the things which are easier
in the beginning are always difficult to finish up. We'll begin the other
way round, if you please." He bit the nail a minute longer, looked at it,
put it out of sight behind his coat tails. "Ah no; that scheme won't do at
all," he said, quite pleasantly. "I know these lodgings, and the miserable
women who keep them, and can only make ends meet by thieving the lodgers'
mutton. The groshery line is altogether on another shelf. You and your
daughters can not only make a living at it, you can make money. Make
Mrs. Day lifted her head, tried to capture something of her old bearing,
tried to get a note of firmness into her voice. "I do not really think I
could keep a shop," she said. "Above all, a grocery shop. I could not
undertake it, Mr. Boult; and I am sure the girls would not like it at all;
nor my son."
"What then?" he asked her, very quiet.
"I think my own plan. The house by the sea. We should escape from
Brockenham, which we much wish to do; we should begin again where
we--where our story--is not known. For the children's sake it would be
best. For us all it would be more--suitable."
"But I have told you, ma'am, the plan is out of the question." He turned
from her and kicked the coal in the grate, working off his irritation in
that harmless fashion. Then, facing the poor lady again he adopted a tone
intended to show her he was not to be trifled with. "Understand at once,
Mrs. Day, I will be no party to the money subscribed on the tacit
understanding that it is to be properly invested for you and your
children, being thrown away in any such hopeless, silly fashion. Your
husband asked me to stand your friend; to do my best for you. As I
understand the position, you have no one else to look to?"
He paused, but she said nothing. William Day's relatives had been poorer,
less well placed than he. As he had risen he had left them behind,
forgotten them. Mrs. Day had been the only child of parents long since
"Since there is no one else, I am willing to be your friend--within
limits, of course. I have been instrumental in securing for you this sum
of money--many fortunes have been made with less. To begin with I did not
have half the capital. In doing so I made myself responsible for its being
put to a proper use. I intend to see that it is done."
Mrs. Day was mute. The eyes looking out from their dark-stained orbits
Mr. Boult having paused for the reply which did not come, went on in a
lighter tone. "There is a very good-sized house over Carr's shop. I went
over it, and in deed into everything before deciding. There are six
bed-rooms and a living room of unusual size. This gives you the
opportunity of taking a lodger. I have already spoken to my new buyer
about it. My Manchester man. He is anxious to board with a pleasant
family, he tells me. So there you have a lodger ready to your hand, ma'am;
since you fancy lodgers."
Mrs. Day had a feeling of oppression in the breathless air of the
counting-house, of being smothered by George Boult. She untied the broad
strings of ribbon and crape of her widow's bonnet, and looked round
anxiously for a window. There was none, the counting-house being lighted
by a sky-light. Two big tears rolled down her cheeks, she drew a long
breath like a great sigh.
"I am giving my Manchester man a good salary," the draper went on. "He
would easily be able to spare you thirty shillings a week for board and
lodging, and I should not advise you to take a penny less."
Mrs. Day with an effort pulled herself together. "The man who is to manage
the shop would want a room in the house, I suppose?" she suggested.
"Manage the shop? What shop?"
"The shop you have been speaking of--the grocer's shop."
"You yourself will manage it," Boult said. "Nice bright little concern as
it is, the business won't keep a man; you will manage it, assisted on busy
days by your eldest daughter."
But although Mrs. Day could not fight for herself, she was capable of
defending her children. "To that I could not consent," she said; "I would
never allow Bessie--Bessie!--to wait in a grocer's shop."
"It would not hurt her, ma'am. It would do her good."
Mrs. Day was silent, but her silence was eloquent. With shaking fingers
she tied her bonnet strings--the wide black strings that wanted pulling
out, the narrow white ones which must be arranged above them.
Boult, seeing that she was preparing to depart, assumed a more friendly
tone. "You must not feel that you are being hustled into this thing," he
said. "The money is, of course, in a sense, yours, although I have had to
decide what to do with it."
Mrs. Day rose to go, Boult came forward with his hand extended.
"Anything that has to do with the people's food or drink _pays_," he said
encouragingly. "If I had my time over again I would take up with the
groshery line instead of the drapery. People must have food, ma'am. They
must have it, even before frocks and furbelows."
"About Bernard?" Mrs. Day asked, waiving, not without dignity, the other
"I have thought of sending Bernard to Ingleby. I have opened a branch
there. It is not a big concern at present, of course, but the boy can
learn the business there, and if he has anything in him--I shall keep my
eye on him--he can come to us later."
Then he grasped the hand she unwillingly extended.
"You see I promised poor William," he told her, by way of explaining his
kind interest in her affairs. "And however thankless the task may be, I
shall keep my word."
She could not answer him, but when he released her hand she bowed her head
and went away.
Before Mrs. Day betook herself home she turned her feet in the direction
of Bridge Street. It was situated in a busy part of the town, but was only
a short and not by any means prosperous thoroughfare connecting two of the
principal streets. Standing on the opposite pavement Mrs. Day contemplated
the grocer's shop from which Mr. Jonas Carr was retiring. His name in
small white letters was painted on the black lintel of the door: "Jonas
Carr, licensed to sell tobacco and snuff." A dingy-looking little shop;
not such a shop as any of those on which the wife of William Day had
bestowed her custom, and she had never been within its door.
The three windows above the shop looked dirty, and closely over them were
stretched dirty lace curtains. The windows on the higher floor were
dirtier still, and in place of the lace curtains were crooked-hanging
Poor Mrs. Day set her lips tightly as she looked. Then she crossed the
street and entered the shop. Mr. Carr, behind the counter, a toothless,
unpleasant-looking old man, was exhibiting in an apathetic manner a piece
of fat bacon to a customer.
"You can have the streaky if you prefer it," he said.
The customer did prefer the streaky, and took it, half wrapped, under her
shawl, and went.
"And what for you, pray?"
Mrs. Day asked for a quarter of a pound of tea, and while he served her
looked about at the dark little dirty shop with its mingled odours.
When she left the establishment of Jonas Carr her spirits had risen. The
whole thing was ludicrous. Imagine the name of Lydia Day, "licensed to
sell tobacco and snuff," painted over the door! Imagine her--her!--behind
the counter of that squalid little shop! Imagine Bessie, and her exquisite
young Deleah passing their lives in that upper room behind the net
curtains! It was ridiculous, grotesque, impossible, and could not be.
But she was to find with astonishingly small waste of time that it could
And it was.
Exiles From Life's Revels
For the first year that Mrs. Day waited behind the counter of the Bridge
Street shop more trade was done there than in the most prosperous period
of old Jonas Carr's tenancy. Quite half the ladies of Brockenham left
their particular grocers to bestow their custom on the widow. From
kindness of heart, from curiosity, from the impulse to do as others were
doing, people flocked to purchase their tea and sugar of Lydia Day,
licensed also to supply them, if desired, with tobacco and snuff. George
Boult's prognostications of the success of the venture seemed to be more
Bessie stoutly refusing to go into the shop--it took more than George
Boult to manage Bessie!--he was constrained to sanction the engaging of a
youth to assist behind the counter. Mr. Pretty, therefore--he was called
"Mr." for business purposes, his tender years hardly entitling him to the
designation--and a boy to go errands, composed the staff.
From eight in the morning till eight at night the shop was open; and even
when it was supposed to be closed, Mrs. Day could not enjoy an undisturbed
rest with her daughters and Franky in their upstairs sitting-room. For the
neighbouring tradesmen, all of whom had stretched out friendly hands to
the poor lady so unwillingly becoming one of them, had the bad habit of
forgetting to make their purchases till after shop hours, when they would
send their maids-of-all-work to the private door for the supper cheese, or
the breakfast coffee they had too late discovered they were "out of."
Bessie and Deleah fought against the humouring of these out-of-season
customers. Often they attempted to hold their tired mother forcibly in her
chair when she would arise to go to them. "Let people get their goods at
regulation hours, or refuse to serve them," said the Manchester man, now
an inmate of the Day household. But when the grievance was put before
George Boult he was of a different opinion.
"Refuse to serve them over-night, and they go somewhere else in the
morning," he asserted. "The maxim I have held by all my life is, 'Business
is Never Done.' And you may take my word for it, ma'am, _successful_
business never is done. Write that out on a card, Miss Bessie, and hang it
over your mantelpiece."
"No, thank you," from a scornful Bessie with an averted head. "As it
happens I don't at all agree with you, Mr. Boult."
So poor Mrs. Day, who did not grumble, but who nevertheless knew herself
to be a martyr, would rise from her delicious rest in her chair over the
fire, accompanied by Deleah to hold the candle, would descend to the
cellar to cut the cheese--both the women were terrified of the cellar, the
unilluminated caves and corners, the beetles, the rats. In the shop again,
they would take down one of the monster green canisters, purchased of the
retiring Jonas Carr for the purpose of striking awe into the bosoms of
customers, but a few of which did, of a truth, hold tea, and select the
special mixture to the taste of the laggard customer. It was an
aggravation of the hardship when, in place of the maid, the mistress would
run in. In that case Mrs. Day must stand for a half hour to listen to talk
of the neighbour's children's colds, the neighbour's servant's
delinquencies, the neighbour's husband's shortcomings.
Bessie was always cross with her mother when she returned. "It makes
everything so uncomfortable and spoils the evening," she complained. "The
only time we have for comfort, mama. You might remember!"
As the Christmas season approached Mr. Boult was inspired with an idea
which was productive of good commercial results, but was the cause of
added extreme discomfort to them all. Mrs. Day, he ordained, was not only
to advertise home-made mincemeat, but to make the mincemeat at home, and
of a quality not procurable in shops. The housewives of Brockenham made
their own mincemeat because the article on the market was not palatable,
the tyrant of the family declared. Every one of them would be glad to be
saved trouble. Then, let Mrs. Day, for whom he had procured an excellent
receipt, make it for them. The sale would be enormous.
So they advertised the precious stuff from the beginning of December; and
from a fortnight before this time to the end of the second week in
January, the little family worked at stoning raisins (there were no
machines to make the task easy then), chopping almonds and suet and apples
and orange peel, late into the night, and sometimes on into the early
hours of the morning.
For the sale, as predicted, was great. It taxed the powers of the women to
their utmost to keep up the supply. Orders poured in, orders were
repeated; customers called to assure Mrs. Day that while she lived to do
it for them they would never be bothered to make the stuff again. Others
came with the intention to wheedle the receipt from the shop-woman. Such
was the unbusiness-like disposition of the poor creature, she would at
once have surrendered it, had the prescription been hers to give. But
George Boult, knowing with whom he had to deal, had laid an embargo on the
It was during the stress of that first Christmas in Bridge Street that the
relations between the Days and their boarder, the Manchester man, hitherto
somewhat strained and distant, became easy and familiar.
Beside the comfortable chair in the chimney corner which had been
apportioned him, a small table was drawn up which held, always ready to
his use, his tobacco jar, his pipe, his book, his papers. To this, the
evening meal which he shared with the family over, he would retire,
preferring silence and, generally pretended, absorption in his book to the
obtrusion of his conversation on the widow and her daughters. But in the
harassment of the time of mincemeat the lodger's shyness evaporated or his
reserve broke down. He could not see women, dropping with sleep and
weariness, working themselves half to death over their hated tasks while
he sat at ease with his pipe and his newspaper.
"Why should you ladies spend your evenings in the kitchen?" he asked. "It
is comfortabler in here. Chop your plums and grate your nutmegs and things
here. You won't disturb me."
Bessie at once demurred. "We will keep our sitting-room, at least, free of
the shop, thank you," she said.
"If Mr. Gibbon doesn't like being in here alone, mayn't he bring his pipe
and see us chop in the kitchen," Franky suggested.
The lodger had become possessed of a pistol, bought second-hand, with a
view to practise on the stray cats who made a happy meeting-place of the
Days' back yard. But, one of the girls proving tender-hearted on the
subject of cats, bottles were substituted, Franky being admitted to the
perfect joy of seeing Mr. Gibbon try to hit them from his bedroom window.
An honour and privilege highly appreciated by the child.
Mr. Gibbon would not bring his pipe, but presently he appeared among them,
and drew up a chair to the table between Bessie and Deleah, and proceeded
quite cleverly to cut up the orange and lemon peel, a task allotted him by
"It is quite the nicest and least messy of all the things," she told him.
Deleah was careful at all times to show little special politeness to their
boarder. She had it on her mind that he lived among them, lonely and
apart, and often anxiously she pondered in her own mind the question did
poor Mr. Gibbon get his money's worth?
"Deleah always chops the candied peel herself," Bessie explained. "She
eats it, and feeds Franky on it. Mama, I should think Deda will soon take
all the profit off your mincemeat if she eats the citron peel."
"Don't eat the citron peel, my dear," mama dutifully admonished the pretty
"Only the tiniest little bit, mama. Kind of hard bits that you can't cut
up. Bessie can take my place, and I can grate the nutmegs if she likes."
"But last night, Miss Deleah grated her thumb as well. We can't have any
of your thumbs, Miss Deleah, in the mincemeat."
It was Emily who made that observation. Emily who had gone into the family
nineteen years ago as nurse to the eldest child. She had stuck by them in
their reverse of fortune--indeed it had never entered either her mind or
theirs, so completely had the long service made her one of them, that she
could do anything else--and she now occupied the position of "general" in
the upstairs kitchen of Bridge Street. She was chopping suet at the
present moment, standing apart, at a side table, because Bessie had
declared that to see the suet cut made her feel ill.
"Miss Bessie's more nice than wise," Emily commented; but she removed her
material from the young lady's vicinity.
"I'm glad to know that I'm nice, at any rate," Bessie said, with her head
on one side. "So long as I'm nice, Emily--?"
"Oh there's more than me in the world that think you that, I suppose, Miss
"I don't know, I'm sure," Miss Bessie languidly murmured. "I only know I'm
"Give up for to-night then, dear, and go to bed."
"Nonsense, mama. As if I could leave you all! Why should not I work as
well as poor Mr. Gibbon, for instance?"
"Some are made for work and some aren't, I suppose," that gentleman said,
with a side glance at Bessie's white hands. "I'm one of the workers. I
don't mind tackling your nutmegs after I've finished my lemons, if you'll
say the word, Miss Bessie."
"Mama, I wonder what Mr. Boult would say if he came in now and found me
working like a slave at ten o'clock at night?"
"Nothing complimentary, dear, I fear."
"Horrid, rude man! Yesterday afternoon he found me sitting over the fire
reading. I was in your comfortable chair, Mr. Gibbon--I hope you don't
"I hope you'll always do it the honour of sitting in it, Miss Bessie; and
you, Miss Deleah--"
"I was gloriously comfortable; and Mr. Boult took upon him to lecture me."
"Well, he doesn't stop at much! but how he ever screws up his courage to
lecture _you_, Miss Bessie, passes everything," said the polite Manchester
"I thought you'd be surprised," and Miss Day smiled obliquely at the
nutmegs. "He called me names, too."
"Names, Bessie! Surely not! What can you mean by 'names'?"
"He called me a drone, mama. A drone in a busy hive."
"And how did you answer him, Bessie?"
"I just went on, toasting my toes at the fire, and reading my book."
"And what then, Miss Bessie?"
"Oh, then he sat down opposite to me and preached me a sermon. A sermon of
five minutes, by the clock. He said--"
"We don't want to hear any sermons, thank you," from a petulant, tired
Franky. In the stress of their work the poor child's hour for retiring was
"Go to bed, Franky. Go off, this minute. Mama, send Franky to bed."
"Oh, go at once to bed, my darling boy."
Franky, crying that he wanted to sit by Deleah and see her cut the citron
peel, was removed: "I hate Bessie," he announced at the door.
"Go! spoilt little wretch!" cried Bessie, threatening him with the nutmeg
grater. "Mama, Franky is becoming as rude as a horrid little street boy."
"Never mind, my dear. Tell me what Mr. Boult said in the sermon."
"He said my happiness as well as my duty was to work. He said my
'peevishness,' and my 'nervy fits'--wasn't it rude of him!--came from
idleness. He did, Mr. Gibbon, he said it in so many words."
"I hope you gave him one for hisself, Miss Bessie?"
"Oh, I hope not!" from an alarmed mother.
"It is what he wants, ma'am; and it is what he never gets. It is bully,
bully, bully, all the day, with the governor. And unless Miss Bessie
stands up to him--"
"You may trust me not to be afraid. All the rest are afraid. Not I! I just
raised my eyes to him, and said 'I wonder you dare to use such words to
me, Mr. Boult!' You should have seen him look! 'It's because I take an
interest in you,' he said; quite quiet, like any other man. It does him
good to snub him, mama."
"It was kind of him to say he takes an interest," Deleah put in.
"Now if he was only a handsome young gentleman, and Miss Bessie could take
an interest in him, there'd be more sense," Emily remarked from her side
"Don't be such a ridiculous old thing, Emily!"
"Well, he've got his kerridge!"
"And a pretty sight he looks driving in it! podgy, fat, vulgar man!"
"Miss Bessie would never look twice in that direction, I'm sure," Mr.
Gibbon declared, and Mrs. Day gave one of her now seldom heard laughs.
"How can you all talk such nonsense?" she said.
"Oh, do let us do it!" Deleah pleaded. "It so helps with the citron peel,
Deleah said very little in those days. The shock, the grief for the cruel
end of a father, for all his faults most dearly loved, told more on her
than on any of his other children. She had not felt the sense of injury
against him which had helped Bessie to support the tragedy of his death,
nor had she Bessie's engrossing preoccupations with herself, her looks,
her fancies, her love affairs. Bernard at George Boult's little branch
shop in the country town of Ingleby, chained body and soul to the heavy
drudgery of uncongenial occupation, thought of his father only with rage
and resentment. Franky, childlike, had apparently forgotten.
Deleah could not forget. Night by night her pillow was wet with tears shed
for him on whose neck she had sobbed for those never-to-be-forgotten
minutes of his last night on earth. She tortured herself with a secret,
unearned remorse. Forgetting her habitual love and dutifulness, her mind
would dwell on some remembered occasion when she told herself she had
failed him. When she had pretended not to notice a hand held out for hers,
or had shirked some little service she might have done him.
Of none such small sins against him had the father been aware, but she was
tormented by the belief that she had wounded him. He seemed ever to be
looking at her with reproachful eyes. She forgot his ill temper, his
unlovableness, his want of consideration for any one but himself, during
the last wretched weeks of his sojourn among them, and saw him only as he
had been upon that last night before his trial, heard always the great sob
which had seemed to rend his chest as she had leant upon it.
Her seventeenth birthday was past now, and it seemed to her mother that
her young daughter had grown of a still more exceeding prettiness. Poor
Mrs. Day often longed for a sympathetic ear into which to breathe her
maternal admiration. With Bessie the subject of Deleah's beauty was like a
red rag to a bull. Emily, the general and confidential friend of the
family, was not an altogether satisfactory confidante on that matter,
because in her eyes, blinded by affection, the whole family was equally
"You've got handsome children, ma'am. I've knowed it since folk used to
crowd round my pram to have a look at them when I wheeled 'em out, times
gone by, as babies. Ofttimes the pavement got blocked, as you've heard me
mention before. There's no two opinions about their looks, and we know
which side they got them from."
There were no two opinions about that, at any rate. Not even the most
charitable critic could have credited poor William Day with good looks;
and the tired pathetic face of his widow was a handsome face still.
The Attractive Bessie
Having been permitted to take his place among them, and to chop material
for mincemeat at their kitchen table, it was felt by them all that their
boarder could never be a stranger to the widow and her children again.
Through pride and through shyness they had held him at arm's length, but
now that they had joked together about George Boult's peculiarities, and
he had ventured with playful force to take the nutmeg grater from Bessie's
weary fingers, valiantly completing her task himself, it would have been
impossible, even if desirable, to return to their earlier relations.
Bessie, who had treated him with a carefully masked hauteur in the
beginning, was among the first to place him on terms of easy familiarity.
She had strongly resented the inclusion of a stranger in their family
circle, and presently was welcoming his presence there as supplying the
one item of interest in the _menage_.
"A year ago, mama, we should not have admitted Mr. Boult's Manchester man
to the same table with us. And now, here we are keeping his plates hot, if
he comes in late, and telling him all our secrets."
"Mama and I don't tell Mr. Gibbon any secrets," Deleah said.
"I dare say Mr. Gibbon does not want to hear them. As for me I find, when
you live in the same house with a man, it's impossible to keep him at
"Who wants to keep him at arm's length? I only mentioned I did not feel
called upon to tell him any secrets."
"And I only said he wouldn't care to hear your secrets--if you have any."
"I haven't," Deleah admitted, laughing.
"I have, then. And I shall tell them to who I like, spite of Deda's
"Say to 'whom you like,' Bessie."
"Mama, will you speak to Deleah? She is being impertinent to me again."
How impossible it would have been to entertain Reggie Forcus and Mr.
Gibbon at the same board, Bessie often felt. But the days when Reggie had
dropped in to meals with the prosperous Days in Queen Anne Street were
over for ever. Half a loaf was better than no bread. To know that a male
creature, who could not be indifferent to her, was an inmate of the house
was as she often said to herself--something.
She took no interest in him, of course. A young man out of a draper's
shop! But it was more amusing to subjugate even such an one as he than to
have no one at her feet.
So, at the hour when Boult's great shutters went up over the front of the
six shops in Market Street, and the Manchester man was free to go to his
evening meal, Bessie took an extreme care to be ready to receive him. She
had allowed herself to become a little slovenly over her appearance in the
day-time--who was there to look at her, or care what she wore in the
sitting-room over the shop? But by supper-time she would have changed into
her most becoming frock, would have arranged her hair to the greatest
advantage, would have rubbed with a rough towel, or beaten with a
hair-brush the plump, fair cheeks she considered too pale.
There was always an irregularity about the meals in the Day family. The
shopkeeper was often kept below for an hour after the time she should have
been seated at the board above, and when she was detained in such a way,
Deleah would always stay too, to help her mother. But Bessie had ordained
that the meal should go on without them. It was not right that a man, at
work all day, should be kept waiting for his food at night. And so it
often happened that he and she would sit, _tete-a-tete_, over the cold
meat and pickles, of which, with the addition of bottled beer for the
boarder, the meal consisted.
Many intimate items of her own heart history did Bessie confide to the
politely attentive ear of Mr. Charles Gibbon. She did not receive
confidences in return, or ask for them. What could the young shopman have
to relate to compare with the interest attending Bessie's revelations?
He was no prince in disguise as it would have been so pleasant to discover
him to be--this short, thickly-made, middle-aged man, with the prominent,
bright, dark eyes, the large dark head, the knobbly red forehead, whose
parents had kept a small draper's shop in a small market-town in the
What could a man so born and nurtured have to give Bessie in return for
the stories of the high life to which she had been accustomed? But he must
consider himself flattered by Bessie's condescension, he must see how
attractive she looked seated beneath the three-branched bronze gas-burner
to preside at his supper.
Emily, bringing in the hot sweet pudding to replace the cold meat, would
wag a facetiously warning head at the young lady behind the back of the
unconscious Mr. Gibbon. "Don't you go leading that nice young chap on to
make a fool of hisself over you, Miss Bessie," she would caution the girl,
the next day.
"He can take care of himself. Make your mind quite easy," Bessie would
answer, well pleased. She loved to discuss such topics with her devoted
admirer, Emily, and liked to be accused of breaking hearts.
"We shall be late for supper again," Mrs. Day, busy with daybook and
ledger in the shop, would say to the young daughter beside her.
"Never mind, mama. Perhaps it is charity not to hurry," Deleah on one
"Oh, nonsense, dear!" said Mrs. Day, looking up with alarm in her tired
"Well, if Mr. Gibbon is in love with Bessie?"
"That will be the end of it. You'll see."
"The end indeed, Deleah!"
"You think Bessie would not take him?"
"Bessie will, at least, wait till he asks her."
"But should you object, mama? He is not a gentleman, I suppose; Bessie
says he's not. But I think we've got to accept things and people and our
place, as we are; not always to be looking back to what used to be. I
often wish Bessie would see it like that, mama."
"We should be all happier if we could, I have no doubt," poor Mrs. Day
sighed. The poor lady could not always keep before her mind the fate of
Lot's wife, and often cast longing eyes towards the pleasant, easeful land
that had been home.
"And I am not always inclined to take Bessie's opinion as to what is a
lady or what is a gentleman."
"Bessie does not think so much as you do, Deleah."
"I don't know that I think: I feel," Deleah explained.
While she waited for her mother to finish her books she was weighing out
and making up into half-ounce packets the tobacco Lydia Day was licensed
to sell. She dropped her voice to a more confidential tone, although she
and her mother were alone in the shop, where they were doing their
evening's work by the aid of the one melancholy gas-burner, to which they
restricted themselves after business hours. It gave insufficient light for
the low-ceilinged, narrow length of the place.
"Do you think, mama, Bessie ought to be always saying horrid things about
Mr. Boult? Making fun of him, mimicking him, complaining of everything he
does; not only to you and me, but to Mr. Gibbon? to Emily--to any one who
will listen? Do you think a lady--what you and I think a lady, not what
Bessie thinks--would do that?"
"Bessie is sensitive--and very proud. We must not forget that--poor
Bessie! And Mr. Boult's methods are not always pleasant, Deleah."
"No. But he has been our friend. He has stuck to us. Who else has, of all
the people with whom we were friendly? And we were never nice to him, in
the old days--not asking him to our parties, you remember, and never being
friendly to him on Sunday afternoons. Oh, how I wish we had been, mama!"
Mrs. Day acquiesced, but not with enthusiasm. She did not like George
Boult well enough to regret having kept him at arm's length while she
"I am sure we ought to be grateful to him," Mrs. Day admitted. She was
very tired; the scent of the tobacco Deleah was pulling about, staining
the tips of her small white fingers, was in her nostrils; she did not feel
"Then, when Bessie is laying down the law about what a lady should do I
wish you would remind her, mama, that a lady must show gratitude for
"And why, my dear, are you suddenly fighting the battles of poor Mr.
"That is a secret," Deleah said. "But one day, if you are good, I will
The sitting-room, with supper nicely laid, with Bessie nicely dressed,
fair and plump and attractive in the gas light, happily chatting to Mr.
Gibbon, looked a Paradise of Rest in the eyes of poor wearied Mrs. Day.
The room was in fact a very pleasant one; long, low, with broad seats
before each of the three windows looking into the street; with a tall and
narrow oak mantelpiece opposite the three windows; with panelled oak
walls, heavy oak rafters, supporting the low ceiling, old brass finger
plates high up on the oaken door--all as in the days when old Jonas Carr's
grandfather first kept shop in Bridge Street. It was made sweet with
flowers too. A basket of pink tulips set in moss occupied the central
position on the supper-table, and some pots of primulas, fully in bloom,
were on the window-seats; above that window upon the corner of whose seat
Miss Deleah Day liked to sit, her slight and supple body curled into as
small as possible a space in order not to incommode the primulas, a brass
birdcage holding a canary was hung.
Bessie was carrying on an animated but evidently confidential conversation
with the boarder, as mother and daughter came into the room.
"He was riding past again to-day," she was saying. "I took care that he
should not have the pleasure of thinking I was looking out for him; but
peeping behind the curtains I could see him gazing up at the window. What
consolation the poor thing finds in just looking at a window I'm sure I
"He sees you there, Miss Bessie. Or hopes to see you."
"You can't see me from the street."
"From the opposite pavement you can. I know, because I have seen Miss
Deleah sitting there; with her book, and the bird, and the flowers."
Bessie's attention was caught by that piece of intelligence. "Can you? Are
you sure?" she asked; and at that moment, unpropitious for her, Deleah
appeared with her mother.
"Mama! When Deda sits on the window-seat in the corner she can be seen
from the street!"
"Well, my dear?"
"Well, mama! You don't wish Deda to make herself conspicuous, I suppose?"
"Who says I make myself conspicuous?" an ireful Deleah demands. "Who has
been saying anything about me?"
"I," the Manchester man hurriedly admits. "I did not say you were
conspicuous, Miss Deleah. I only said I had seen you sitting there with
your book--among the flowers."
"She is not to sit there again, mama. Will you please say so? Deda, you
are not to sit in the window again. We can't help living above a grocer's
shop, but we need not make a display of ourselves."
"If it offends Mr. Gibbon he does not need to look at the window. I shall
certainly sit there if I wish."
"Come, come, my dears. There is enough about it. Pray let us have supper
"You've had a tiring day, ma'am," says Mr. Gibbon. "Let me persuade you to
have a glass of ale with your beef, to-night. Just to revive you. Forcus's
Family Ale is the finest pick-me-up."
"Reggie Forcus has ridden past three times this afternoon, mama," Bessie
informed her parent. Then turned sharply on her sister, "You were at
"I met him as I came away," said Deleah, seating herself at the table. "I
wish the pleasure had been yours instead of mine, Bessie."
"Did he stop to speak?"
"Of course he stopped. He always stops."
"He asked for you."
"He always does, I suppose?"
"There!" said Bessie on the note of triumph, looking round.
"There!" echoed Deleah as she helped herself to the mustard Mr. Gibbon was
"Mama, do you hear Deda? She is not to mock me."
"Bread, Miss Deleah? Pickles, Mrs. Day?" hastily interposes an obsequious
Mr. Gibbon. He was assiduous in his attentions on the ladies, ever
anxiously polite and kind. That he found his happiness among them and was
eager to gain and to retain their favour he plainly showed. If he
sometimes jarred on their fastidiousness he did not know it.
"Any interesting incident in the day's trade, ma'am?" he asked, as he
busied himself in supplying their wants.
Nothing much. The Quaker lady had been again for sugar. Again Mrs. Day had
unconditionally pledged herself that the canes from which it had been
derived had not been grown by slaves.
"And have they?" Deleah asked.
"I'm sure, my dear, I don't know if they have or they haven't," a harassed
grocer-woman acknowledged. Her conscience was becoming blunted in the
stress and strain of business life. "She took a pound of it as usual, and
that's all I can say about it."
"But, mama! For the sake of the profit on a pound of sugar!"
"There's no profit on it at all, Bessie. If she had taken a quarter of a
pound of tea with it there would have been three-ha'pence into our
pockets. But she did not. So you see I perjured myself for nothing."
"Don't let the thought trouble you for an instant, ma'am," Mr. Gibbon
advised. "None of us can afford to be too nice in trade. We've got to
live, Miss Bessie. Customers don't think so--they'd skin us if they
could--but we have. I'm of Mr. Boult's mind on that subject, although
there isn't much I uphold him in. 'Let us do our best for the public while
it pays reasonable prices,' he says, 'and when it won't, let us _do_ the
"All that is so low, Mr. Gibbon."
"But it's business, Miss Bessie. Business is low."
"Oh, don't let us talk about it now," Deleah pleads.
"Deleah has a secret. She's dying to tell us all," Deleah's mother said.
"It's something Deleah's been up to!"
"No, Bess. Calm yourself. Calm all yourselves."
"But how can we? Out with it, darling."
"It's nothing, mama."
"Only an idea of mine."
"Something you've been and made up, Deda!"
"Something I'm as sure of, Bessie, as I am that you're always dying to
find fault with me. Thank you, Mr. Gibbon, I've got _three_ pieces of
bread already, look!"
"You've handed Deleah bread three times in as many minutes, Mr. Gibbon."
"Hand the bread _only_ to Bessie, Mr. Gibbon. (Mama, I _must_ answer
"We're waiting for the secret, dear."
"It's about our mysterious presents, mama. Mr. Gibbon, you have heard us
talk about our unknown benefactor who loads us with delightful things, and
yet is so ungenerous he won't give us the pleasure of saying 'thank you.'"
Yes. Mr. Gibbon had heard that there was some one who sometimes sent Miss
"They're always sent to Deleah--but I suppose they're meant for all of
us," Bessie said.
"And because they came in my name only, gave me the first clue," Deleah
said. "Let me see, we began with violets, didn't we? And in January, when
they were scarce and expensive. Lovely bunches of violets 'for Miss
Deleah.' Miss Deleah's name done in printing characters, so that no one
should discover by the handwriting. Then we went on to a basket of
sweets--sweets of my very most particular kind, such as none of us can
afford any longer to look at. Oh, my mouth waters to think of them even
now! No, I didn't ask for any more water in my glass, thank you, Mr.
"We all know what you had, Deleah; we thought we were going to hear who
"Patience! Patience, good people all! Let me see, what came next? Oh, the
bird in the cage. And there he is still in his cage for you all to see,"
and Deleah leant back in her chair, and threw her pretty head over her
shoulder to look at the canary hanging above the left-hand window where
was her favourite seat. "Then the azalea. The lovely rose-pink azalea; and
after that--oh, I forget. But always something coming--something that we
cannot afford to buy, but which has made our sitting-room delightful; and
horrid Bridge Street a bearable place to live in. Now you have all been
dying to find out who it is that has given us these delightful things; but
I have always known; and at last I am going to tell you."
"Then, if you knew you should have told us. Deda ought not to have been so
sly about it, mama, if she knew."
"We shall each have one guess; and Bessie, as a reward for her
good-nature, shall have the first. Now, Bessie?"
"I've known all along, too, miss. And what's more, I've known that
although they were sent to you, they were meant for me. Reggie Forcus."
"Wrong. Here is Emily with the pudding. Emily, you shall have a guess; who
is it who sends the flowers, and the books and the birds in the cages--?"
"One of the masters at the school that has fell in love with you, Miss
Deleah." Emily gave her opinion without hesitation, going on with her
business of changing the plates.
"Wrong again, Mr. Gibbon? Now, I give you a tip. Think of the least likely
person in all the world."
"The Quaker lady who objects to slave-grown sugar."
Deleah laughed as she shook her head. "That is most ingenious. And would
be delightful; but it is wrong. Now, mama. The least likely person in all
the world, remember."
"Mr. George Boult."
"Mama has it. It is Mr. Boult."
"Oh, my dear child, I hope not!"
"Scrooge?" cried Bessie. "Never!" Bessie herself had bestowed the name of
Scrooge on the successful draper, to whom, as far as his personal
appearance went, it was absurdly inappropriate.
"It is Scrooge;--a converted Scrooge; and I, I suppose, am Tiny Tim. And
he has heaped benefits on me, mama; meaning thereby to benefit the
"Oh, my dear, it can't be! I am sure you are wrong, Deleah. Mr. Gibbon, do
say she is wrong. It can't possibly be Mr. Boult."
Mr. Gibbon only threw back his head and loudly laughed.
Deleah was a little hurt that the boarder should have forgone his usual
careful politeness to receive the exposition of her idea with ridicule.
She contemplated him gravely till he stopped laughing and gazed with an
apologetic, anxious gravity in his protruding, extraordinarily speaking
eyes back at her. Then she turned from him to her mother.
"Why do you think it impossible, mama? Because Mr. Boult can't _say_
agreeable things is no reason he cannot do them. Don't you know that there
are poor shut-up souls who want to be nice, who long to be loved--who have
to speak in the dumb language because they can't articulate?"
"Miss Deleah is right. That is so. That is so!" Mr. Gibbon eagerly
"Well, then, Mr. Boult isn't blessed with a tongue to say smooth things;
but the bird in the cage, the basket of sweets, the rose-pink azalea--they
are his kind and polite speeches."
"My dear, what nonsense!" cried Mrs. Day, who did not wish to believe in
Mr. Boult as the author of such agreeable attentions.
But the Manchester man assented with enthusiasm: "Miss Deleah is right,
ma'am," he said. "A man who could not get at Miss Deleah to say things to
her might try to say them so."
"And you think Mr. Boult wants to say things to Deleah?" a scornful Bessie
"No, I don't, since you ask me. No, Miss Bessie."
"I should think not! And why, pray, should he have pitched on Deda?"
"Oh, why should any one pitch on me?" Deleah asks, lays down knife and
fork, spreads hands abroad, as if inviting with exaggerated humility an
inspection of her poor claims to favouritism.
"But--if it were Mr. Boult I think I can understand why it might be
Deleah," Mrs. Day said slowly, looking down. She was remembering how her
poor husband had made no secret of the fact that the younger girl was his
pet; and she recalled also that for her father's sake it was Deleah who
treated the arrogant, tyrannical man with unfailing respect and courtesy.
"Yes. And I can understand it too, mama," Deleah softly said.
"Well, them that live'll see," Emily remarked sententiously as she removed
the remains of the sago pudding.
The Attractive Deleah
An engagement had been secured for Deleah Day as assistant English
governess at a ladies' school. At Miss Chaplin's seminary she was employed
in hearing lessons learnt by heart from Brewers' _Guide to Knowledge,
Mangnall's Questions_, Mrs. Markham's _History of England_; in reading
aloud while her pupils tatted or crocheted mats and antimacassars; in
struggling with them through the intricacies, never mastered by herself,
of Rule of Three and Vulgar Fractions, from nine every morning till five
every afternoon; with the exception of the Wednesday, when there was a
half-holiday, and the Saturday, when there was no school at all.
The slightness of Deleah's figure and the fragility of her small face,
with its innocent, unconscious allurement, were increased by the black
garments she still wore. To cast off her mourning for her unhappy father
would be, she felt, a slight to him.
"It is as if Bessie had forgotten," she said to herself, seeing her sister
in the blues and pinks in which she began as summer came on again to array
herself, for supper and the Manchester man. "I do not forget."
Black was not a fashionable wear in that age, only being used for
mourning. A woman wearing black did it to proclaim she sorrowed for the
dead. The sentiment attached to her sable garments heightened the interest
awakened by Deleah's slight form and her winsome face;--made her clear
skin paler; made her eyes shine more jewel-like beneath the fine line of
her black brows.
Among the members of her own sex were, at the period of her eighteenth
birthday, all the captives to her charms of which Deleah was aware. There
is no such ardent lover as a schoolgirl when she conceives a passion for
another girl at school; and half a dozen of the little pupils at Miss
Chaplin's were head over ears in love with Deleah Day. They sighed at her,
their adoring eyes clung to her face, they suffered agonies of jealousy
through her. They were cast down by a word, elated by a smile.
One of the girls then acquiring a polite education at Miss Chaplin's
seminary remembers to this day how she slept, night after night, with a
glove--such a worn and shabby glove--of the young English teacher beneath
her pillow. She possesses still an album called "The Deleah Book," wherein
is pasted an atrocious photograph--all photographs (cartes-de-visite they
were called)--were libellous and atrocious in those days--of a girl in a
black frock, the skirt a little distended at the feet by the small hoop of
the day, a short black jacket, with black hair parted in the middle over a
smudge of a face and gathered into a net at the back of the neck. Beneath
it is written Deleah's name and the date.
In "The Deleah Book," too, are treasured, scrawled there in the schoolgirl
writing, the words of wit and wisdom gathered from the idol's lips,
together with such precious items of information and memorabilia as the
"Tennyson is the favourite poet of D. D."
"Of all flowers the rose is the Queen, and is the best loved of D. D."
"To remember to keep back unkind words. D. D."
"If we knew all we should find there are excuses for all. D. D."
"(Note). Burnt almonds are the favourite sweet of D. D. and 'Abide with
Me' is D. D.'s favourite hymn."
Their ways lying in the same direction, it was this young devotee who was
privileged to walk home with the passionately admired D. D. On a certain
afternoon as they made their way through the quiet streets of the old town
their talk was of a long-advertised concert to take place that evening, at
which a great singer was to appear.
"How much you will enjoy it, Kitty," Deleah was saying with a little
girlish longing. "Not only the concert, but everything. Let me picture it.
You will run home when you leave me--me in horrid Bridge Street!--and in
your bedroom there will be a fire lit, and on the bed your pretty evening
frock will be spread, and your lace petticoat, and your silk stockings--"
"Oh, how do you know all that, Miss Day? You know everything! But I shan't
enjoy the concert a bit. I shall not. Do you know why? Because you will
not be there."
"Oh, nonsense, Kitty! Nonsense! Nonsense!"
"I shall be thinking of you all the time, and wishing--oh wishing! Miss
Day, do you believe it is true that if we keep on wishing with all our
strength--not a selfish pig of a wish, you know, but something nice for
another person--the wish ever, _ever_ comes true?"
"Every wish is as a prayer with God," quoted Deleah, unquestioning in her
child's heart the literal truth of the words.
"Then, Miss Day, this is not Kitty Miller walking with you any longer, but
one big solid Wish--Oh, there he is again, Miss Day! There is young Mr.
"I see him. I am not going to stop. Let us walk on quicker, Kitty."
"Isn't it strange that he should always be riding here, just when we come
out of school, Miss Day?"
"Never mind. No; you are not to look round, Kitty."
"How _beautifully_ he pulls off his hat! He had a most dreadfully
disappointed look when you would not stop, Miss Day. I think you are very
"Never mind. No, Kitty! Don't, dear. No lady looks back when a gentleman
(A new entry appeared in "The Deleah Book" that night: "No lady looks
round when a gentleman passes her. D. D.")
"Miss Day!"--with a soft, irrepressible giggle--"He has turned his horse
and is riding after us."
"Never mind. Let us hurry on."
But when the mare was pulled up beside her, her hoofs clattering on the
cobble-stones of the street, Miss Day, in spite of herself, must stop.
"How do, Deleah?" Kitty Miller had again the privilege of seeing how
beautifully the hat came off, exposing for quite an appreciable time the
young man's fair, smooth head. "Whoa, Nance!" to the satin-skinned, black
mare, who objected to being pulled into the gutter running by the side of
the pavement. "I say--there was something I particularly wanted to say to
you, Deleah. Whoa! Steady, old girl! I say--how's Bessie?"
"Bessie is very well, thank you, Mr. Forcus."
"'Mr. Forcus?' Come, I say, Deleah! you aren't going to put me at arm's
length, that fashion! I was going to ask you--How is Bessie?"
"Very well, thank you."
"I haven't seen Bessie for ages."
"Is it so long?"
"I was wondering if I might look in sometimes on Mrs. Day--"
"Mama is always busy, thank you."
"At your place, then?--Just to see--Bessie?"
"I'm sure I don't know. You'd better ask Bessie herself."
"I'll ask her when I call. Whoa! Steady, you fool! Steady! What time could
I come when I shouldn't be in the way?"
"We're always busy. Always. I think perhaps you'd better not come at all."
"Thank you! Why?"
"You used to come, if you remember; and you gave up coming," Deleah said.
The small face turned to him was unsmiling and proud. The clear eyes of
pale hazel looked past the fine young man on the beautiful fidgeting
"I'm more my own master now," he said. "I should like to look in upon you
all again, Deleah."
"You had better not. Good-bye."
"Wait! Wait! One minute! I say, are you going to this concert to-night?"
"Of course. All of us. Even Franky. Half-guinea places. Why need you ask?"
"But if I get you some tickets? You and Bessie and Mrs. Day? I will, you
know. I will, Deleah, if you'll say you'll go--"
"The tickets were all sold a fortnight ago. You're too late," she said;
and then she smiled her winning smile, in spite of herself, upon him and
Kitty was waiting for the older girl a few paces farther on. "There!" she
said, her eyes wide with awe. "There, Miss Day! My wish nearly came true!
Oh, if he could have got you tickets and you would have gone, how
heavenly, heavenly everything would have been to-night!"
Tea was ready in the sitting-room above the shop when Deleah reached home.
Tea with thick bread-and-butter, dry toast, water-cress, little dishes of
sliced ham, and pastry-tarts made in Emily's best fashion; and Bessie and
Franky were already seated at the table.
By Deleah's plate a letter was lying. A letter at which she looked
dubiously, shrinking a little from opening it; for it was addressed, in a
fashion which had become embarrassingly familiar to her, in carefully
"It's money, this time, we think," Franky cried, jumping in his chair.
"Make haste, Deda."
"We're simply dying to know what he's sent you. How slow you are!" Bessie
Reluctantly Deleah broke the envelope and drew forth two tickets for the
"The ten-shilling places!" Bessie cried. "We'll go, Deleah. We'll go!"
Deleah looked with a little distrust at the tickets lying beside her
plate. "It's all very well, but I should so much prefer presents without
all this mystery about them. Months ago I would have thanked Mr. Boult if
you and mama would have allowed me. I am sure it would have been better. I
am sure we ought to thank him."
"That doesn't matter now. We've got to think about the concert. I'm going
to it, and I can't go without you."
"I don't know if we ought to go, Bessie--"
"Why not, pray?"
Deleah was silent.
"Because of papa? He's been dead nearly two years. Are we never to show
our noses among other people again? You do carry things to extremes,
Deleah accepted the reproach meekly, having nothing to say--nothing, that
is, which Bessie would understand.
Then the boarder came in, for it was early closing afternoon, and took his
place by the side of Franky.
"Some more mysterious presents," Bessie said, smiling upon him. "Very
useful ones, this time, and just what I should have wished for."
"Tickets for the concert," Deleah explained, pushing them across to him.
"Ten-shilling ones. Poor Mr. Boult hates music. I heard him say once that
he believed every one hated it, and that when they pretended to like it it
was only affectation and humbug. What pleasure can he possibly get in
giving us these tickets for which we may not even thank him?"
"He'll have the pleasure of knowing that you are happy, and that he has
made you so, Miss Deleah. And you too, of course, Miss Bessie."
"But Mr. Boult no more sent those tickets, than he sent the bird in the
cage, or the--!"
"Oh, you're thinking of Reggie Forcus again," Deleah interrupted
impatiently. "Such nonsense, Bessie!"
"She thinks a lot more of him than he does of her," Franky announced,
munching his bread-and-butter.
Bessie got up from her place at the tea-tray and with purpose in her eyes
walked round the table. "You take that for impertinence, sir!" she said,
and administered a stinging slap to Franky's cheek. His intention of
immediate retaliation was frustrated by Mr. Gibbon's seizing the tea-spoon
he was about to hurl at his assailant.
"I hate Bessie," Franky said; but he was used to having his face slapped
by his elder sister, and went on munching his bread-and-butter and
water-cress, not much the worse.
"We can't go to the concert, Bessie," Deleah was presently saying. "We've
got no evening frocks."
"Oh, but we have!" Bessie quickly reminded her. "The frocks which were new
for our party and never worn again."
"We _can't_ wear them!" Deleah pleaded. She felt that she could never
endure even to look at those garments again.
"But we can, and we will," Bessie declared. She was a very practical
person in matters connected with millinery and dressmaking, and in a
minute had planned the slight alterations and additional furbishings
required for their party frocks. Black ribbons instead of blue run in the
lace of the bodices. Deleah's skirt would be short, but who would see that
if Deleah were sitting down?
Deleah drooped as she listened, leaving the tea in her cup and the
bread-and-butter untouched on her plate.
"Elbows off the table, Deda," Franky reminded her, who was frequently
commanded to remove his own.
Deleah took no heed. She sat with brow leaning upon the hand which
screened her face, looking back upon that evening before the shadow of
misfortune and disgrace had touched them all; when she had worn her new
white silk frock, and papa had played the tambourine.
Bessie had gone, leaving her tea also, untasted; hurrying away to Emily,
who would help her to pull off the forget-me-nots from her frock, and to
substitute the black ribbon which would be more decorous. Bessie's pale,
full cheeks were pink with excitement, her eyes shone.
"Black will look better than blue, even--although that _was_ your
colour--against your white skin," Emily encouraged her.
Mr. Gibbon had made himself a neat sandwich of water-cress and thin
bread-and-butter. He paused in the act of daintily sprinkling it with salt
pinched in finger and thumb, and looked at Deleah across the table, her
hand hiding her face. So long he looked at her, so long she remained
unconscious of him, that Franky ventured in their preoccupation to help
himself to a third piece of cake, his allowance being two.
"Miss Deleah, if you don't want to go to this concert to-night, why go?" at
length the boarder ventured to ask. Deleah dropped the shielding hand; she
had for the moment forgotten the presence of Mr. Charles Gibbon.
"Bessie wants to go. Of course, I must go with her," she said.
"But why 'of course,' if you don't wish? Whoever sent those tickets--"
"Mr. Boult sent them."
"Well, then, Mr. Boult sent them to make you happy; not unhappier."
"I know. I am really quite grateful, Mr. Gibbon. It was only those
dresses. We wore them at a dance at our house--the evening
before--everything. I can't think how Bessie can! But she does not feel
things as I do. She never did feel like--dying--of pity--and sorrow--as I
did." She lifted her cup to her lips to hide the fact that tears were
rolling down her face.
Mr. Gibbon sighed heavily. He pushed his own cup away from him as a signal
perhaps that for him also the tea was spoilt. "But why need you go in that
particular frock, Miss Deleah?"
"I haven't another."
"The one you have on."
"This one? Oh!"
She laughed with the tears in her eyes, and looked down at her school
frock--a black skirt and a white muslin "garibaldi" (the garment so called
at that time being extremely like the shirt blouse, or waist, as the
Americans have it, of to-day). "Oh, how funny men are!" she said. "To
think I could go in the half-guinea places in such a dress!"
"It's a beautiful dress, isn't it! It seems so to me. And I don't think it
matters at all what you wear, Miss Deleah."
He spoke in a hushed voice, as if conscious of saying something of
tremendous import. Deleah accepted the remark as a simple statement of a
"It doesn't matter, perhaps, really. But Bessie thinks differently. Most
people do. I shall have to wear what Bessie wishes."
"I notice you are always the one to give way, Miss Deleah."
"No--not always, Mr. Gibbon."
"Can I do anything? I would do _anything_--" He spoke in the same hushed
voice; with his arms extended on each side of his plate, he was gripping
the edge of the table tightly, "Anything!"
"I know. I know you are a true friend. I know she talks to you. She talks
about Mr. Reggie Forcus. Bessie can't see that things are different with
us--at least she sees, of course, but she does not realise that they must
be different; not only now, but for ever. She never sees us with other
people's eyes. It never comes home to her that the friends we had we can
never have again. What have people like the Forcuses to do with us!"
"I think that Mr. Reggie Forcus, mighty as he thinks hisself, or the
Prince of Wales, come to that, might feel hisself honoured to be taken
notice of by you, Miss Deleah--or by Miss Bessie."
Deleah laughed in spite of herself. "You are too kind, Mr. Gibbon."
She got up from her chair and picked up the concert tickets and twisted
them about in her fingers with a little distaste of them. "All this is
very kind of Mr. Boult, of course," she said: "and one likes to be sure
there is a generous heart beneath that--well, that atrocious manner of
his. But we're under mountains of obligation to people already, and we can
do without concert tickets. We can do without--" She was going to say
without flowers, but she leant across the table and stooped her face above
the pot of heliotrope that graced the centre of the humble board, then
lifted it, shaking her head. "No; we could not do without the flowers,"
she said. "I do thank the good man for his flowers; and I shall tell him
so the first time I see him. I have made up my mind."
"I would not if I were you, Miss Deleah."
"But why not? Do tell me why not?"
"Mr. Boult is a good business man. He's my chief, and I'm not going to
speak against him; but I don't quite see him buying you flowers."
"You know he loved my poor father, don't you?" she asked him in a lowered
voice. She had never mentioned the dead man's name to him before; her
cheek paled, he saw, as she did so now. "And I was my father's pet. You
will not think me vain for saying that, will you? Mama will tell you it is
not my selfish fancy alone. Mama will tell you it is true."
"Indeed, Miss Deleah, I can quite believe it."
"He was a good father to us all, and fond of us all, but of me he would
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