Mrs. Day's Daughters
Mary E. Mann
Part 3 out of 6
talk always if he could get any to listen. He liked me to sit on his
knee--I was younger then--to walk with him, and wait on him--" Her voice
broke; she waited a minute before she went on. "And so I suppose Mr. Boult
sends these things to me for papa's sake. I could not explain before; but
you understand, do you not?"
He quite understood her point of view, Mr. Gibbon said, looking at the
"I knew you would, when I could explain. I think poor Mr. Boult likes me
to take what he sends, for papa's sake--as if it really came from papa.
You see what I mean? And I can't help thinking there is something
beautiful in that thought of his."
Mr. Gibbon reflectively agreed. It was a beautiful thought, come to think
of it, he said.
"Well, then--?" said Deleah.
"Well then, Miss Deleah, don't you think by mentioning the matter to him,
you'll spoil all that? His intention, his beautiful thought, and the rest
"Perhaps!" Deleah acquiesced seriously. "I must think about what you say."
"You've done me a great honour to mention it, Miss Deleah. You won't think
I'm taking upon myself in any way to give you my opinion?"
"Oh, Mr. Gibbon! How could I ever think such a thing!" Deleah said, but
began at once to be a little ashamed of the confidence she had made. With
a man who could ask if he was "taking upon himself" she ought to have been
more reserved, she thought.
The Gay, Gilded Scene
Mrs. Day, being told that her daughters proposed to go unchaperoned to the
Assembly Rooms that night, declared that for them to do so was unheard-of
and not to be sanctioned. But, under the strain of adversity the poor
woman's will, never a strong one, had weakened. She was painfully
conscious of her own helplessness in the grip of circumstances, and was
always troubled with doubts as to the wisdom of her own judgment. By the
time her day's work was over she was too tired to stand up against any
power she came into collision with. In all that concerned Bessie she was
absolutely feeble. Bessie was victor always, not by reason of superior
strength but through fractiousness, through stubbornness, through a
hysterical determination to talk the opposing voices down, through her
habit of crying like a baby when contradicted, and flinging things about.
So, on this particular occasion, the elder daughter avowing in a high,
excited voice that not many pleasures came in her way, and that when one
did come she meant to take it, let her mother be pleased or let her be
teased, the objections were speedily silenced.
Leaving the shop for once in the care of Mr. Pretty, Mrs. Day went
upstairs for the pleasure of seeing her girls once more in gala attire.
"I have taken the liberty of ordering a fly for the young ladies," Mr.
Gibbon said as he and the mother sat awaiting the appearance of the pair.
"Oh, Mr. Gibbon, if you would go with them, and see them safe to the
Assembly Rooms I should be so much obliged."
Mr. Gibbon, with great solemnity of mien, thoroughly realising the
responsibility of the office, undertook to do so. He, for his part, was
going to take his chance of hearing the great singer with the expenditure
of a shilling only. He would be in the Promenade, but his eyes should be
on the Miss Days, and if protection were required by them he would be at
Mrs. Day was by no means sure in her anxious heart that her daughters
might not need the strong arm of the male to defend them. She thought as
she surveyed them while they awaited the arrival of the fly that no mother
had ever possessed such treasures to guard. Bessie was always especially
comely in evening dress. Her plump, clearly pale cheeks were now pink with
excitement. Her white skin against the black ribbon round her throat and
threaded through the lace over her ample young bosom was dazzlingly fair.
"Mama, I'm afraid my frock is dreadfully short; even now that Emily has
let down the hem," Deleah said, looking anxiously toward her extremities.
"It shows _all_ my feet!"
It showed the ankles too, truth to say; but what did that _matter_ when
the feet were so small and pretty, and the ankles so elegantly slim?
The wonder to the mother was to see how, since that white silk dress had
been worn before, the girl's beauty had grown to perfection.
"Do you think it looks ridiculous, mama?" referring anxiously to the
scantiness of the skirt and the unblushing exposure of the feet.
"Not at all ridiculous, my dear." What did any imperfection of raiment
matter with a face and head like Deleah's; as exquisitely moulded, as
delicately poised on her slender throat as a flower on its stalk? "There's
a tiny bit of hair awry," the mother said, caught the girl's little chin
in her hand and passed her fingers over the shadowy black hair for the
mere pleasure of caressing it.
When Mr. Gibbon came in presently it was seen he had changed into
dress-clothes, in which attire he had never before appeared.
"But, Mr. Gibbon, you need not have taken the trouble to dress for the
shilling places!" Mrs. Day told him.
"I am to have the honour of escorting the two young ladies," he said.
He was red in the face, and appeared bashful and ill at ease in the
costume which they saw was a new one.
"To think of his a-gettin' hisself up like that!" Emily said with an
amused scorn of the poor man as the cab containing the three drove off.
"There's no doubt what he've set his mind on, 'm. But Miss Bessie ain't
for such as him. She'll look higher."
When Mr. Reginald Forcus came into the Assembly Rooms with his brother and
the sister who since the death of Lady Forcus kept house at Cashelthorpe,
and made his way to seats not very far removed from those the sisters
occupied, Bessie impulsively seized a bit of Deleah's bare arm in her
finger and thumb. She pinched it unconsciously but with such painful
emphasis that in the morning Deleah discovered the place to be black and
"There he is! Quite close to us! _Now_ perhaps you will believe! I always
knew it was he who sent the tickets, and sent all the flowers and things!
and he sent them for me--only you always took them to yourself, Deda."
She was very smiling, very happy and excited and flushed, through the
concert. She looked so pretty, so like the Bessie of the "party" days of
old, that Deleah thought not only Reginald Forcus but every man who saw
her must admire her pretty sister.
When the "half" arrived, and the ten minutes in which the audience is
permitted to stretch its legs and crane its neck, and acknowledge the
presence of its acquaintance, behold the younger Forcus eagerly
recognising the sisters, and bowing in response to Miss Bessie's delighted
smiles and nods.
"Oh, what a pretty girl!" a woman's voice said. There had come a sudden
lull in the buzz of talk, and the exclamation reached the ears of many
more than his for whom it was intended.
Deleah felt sure it was Bessie who was being admired. She looked quickly
at the speaker. It was that middle-aged sister with the pleasant, kind
face who had come to take the place of Sir Francis Forcus's dead wife. It
was to Sir Francis she had spoken, but she might have been proclaiming the
fact of her discovery of a pretty girl, for the general benefit; so
complete had been the temporary calm into which her speech had broken.
Heads were turned, and several pairs of eyes were fixed upon Deleah.
By a good many present the sisters were recognised, and here and there a
smile was turned on them, and here and there a cool, discreet little bow
was made. And more often the people who knew them, having involuntarily
looked, looked away again; for them the girls' presence there, in a
fashionable company and the most expensive seats, was an offence.
"People we were asked a little time ago to keep from starving!" they said
to themselves. "If Mrs. Day's daughters can afford this sort of thing, we
might as well have kept our guineas in our pockets."
When the audience resumed their seats Bessie kept her eyes pretty
constantly directed upon the smooth fair head of Reggie Forcus. Perhaps he
was conscious of her gaze and found it a compelling one, for again and
again he turned round to look at the sisters, and always Bessie's eyes
caught and held his.
Except to the accompaniment of the singing of her own heart the poor girl
was unconscious of the music. If it was to the evening's nightingale she
listened or to the twittering of the inferior songstresses of the grove
who lifted up their voices when the queen was silent she could hardly have
said; the melody her heart was chanting triumphantly drowned every note of
"It has been heavenly," she said, when it was all over, and they stood up
for the singing of "God Save the Queen." "In all my life, Deleah, I have
never enjoyed a concert so much before."
While she said it she was lingering in her place, stopping the gangway for
people anxious to make their way out, pretending to arrange her own cloak
and her sister's, in the endeavour to time their exit to that of the
Forcus family. She did manage it too; and in the crush as they all
approached the door Bessie's happy shoulder was rubbing against the
shoulder of the attractive Reggie.
"It's been first-rate, hasn't it?" he said, as if the two years in which
he had had no speech with the girl were as nothing, and they had parted
yesterday. "Wasn't _She_ fine! Glad I came. I wouldn't have missed her for
"Heavenly!" Bessie acquiesced, then quickly introduced the personal note.
"I wonder you knew me! I thought I was quite forgotten, and was surprised
when you bowed."
"Ages since we met, isn't it? I did think about coming to call, but I
suppose Mrs. Day is busy?"
"I'm not busy. And I'm always at home. Do come."
"Rather! Shall I call your carriage?"
So the words "Miss Days' carriage" were passed from mouth to mouth; men
yelled it in the street, the officials in the porch of the Hall bawled it
to one another, a man in the crowd nearer the door turned his head and
shouted "Miss Days' carriage" into the concert room. The air was
reverberating with the cry, it seemed to poor Deleah. How could Bessie
have made them conspicuous in that way!
Sir Francis Forcus had been looking with some curiosity at the girl to
whom his brother was speaking, wedged into the crowd just in front of him;
the younger girl at her sister's back was by his side. He glanced at her
now, and saw it was she to whose loveliness his sister had called public
attention. The Days, of course! He remembered when he heard the name
called; remembered all about them.
"Good-evening. How do you do?" he said, looking down upon Deleah.
And Deleah, recalling the last occasion on which she had heard his voice,
lifted a pale and speechless face to him, for all her answer.
Some big and important Person at the back, impatient of the delay, here
attempted to battle her way through the crowd congested by the too narrow
doors. Sir Francis turned and looked at her reprovingly.
"It's no good, Lady Elizabeth. You'll have to wait like the rest of us.
It's only a matter of a few minutes."
"Oh, do hurry up in front there!" Lady Elizabeth called back to him,
laughing, but imperious. The pressure she and her party were making still
continued, with the result that Deleah was driven roughly forward.
"Gently! Gently!" Sir Francis called again, and Deleah felt that his hands
were on her shoulders and he was shielding her with his arms as much as
possible from the crushing of the crowd.
A minute, and they were through the doorway into the spacious porch, where
individual movement was possible, and the fresh night air blew, and Deleah
could see the light from the big lamp over the archway flaring on the top
of her shabby old fly, while behind it was a long line of handsome
carriages whose drivers vituperated the driver of the cab, in his broken
hat. At the window was Bessie's face. Bessie's excited voice was heard
shrilly calling on Deleah's name.
"Deda! Deda! Where _on earth_ have you got to?"
"Miss Days' carriage stops the way"--the cry which made one Miss Day long
to hide her minished head in the earth--woke the echoes again.
Deleah half turned her head on its long neck, whispered a shy "thank you"
to the tall gentleman at her back; and darted away.
"Oh here you are, Deleah! Come along," Reggie Forcus cried, appearing
before her. "We thought we'd lost you. Take my arm."
But before Deleah could comply another arm was proffered, and proffered in
a manner so brusque and so determined that the young Forcus fell back
"Thank you. Miss Deleah is in my charge," a voice said; and Deleah felt
herself dragged through the crowded porch, and over the pavement to the
cab-door, on the arm of Mr. Charles Gibbon.
"You'll excuse me," he said, looking in upon the sisters through the cab
window when the door was shut. "I hope you young ladies did not think I
intruded. But your mother had asked me to keep an eye on you."
"And pray why didn't you come with Reggie?" Bessie demanded indignantly as
the fly at last moved on.
Deleah laughed hysterically. "I was torn away from him," she said. "He all
but knocked Reggie down, and seized upon me." She indicated the form of
Mr. Gibbon, dimly seen, seated sentinel on the box beside the
"Impertinence!" Bessie said. "We have to be civil to him at home, but when
we are among other people I think he might leave us to our friends."
"Reggie Forcus hasn't been much of a friend."
"He is going to be for the future. He asked leave to call. It is a little
awkward as you are always at the school, and mama is always
downstairs"--(Bessie had never yet brought herself to say "Mother is in
the shop") "I would have asked him to come in the evenings, but _he_"
(again a nod towards the figure of the guardian-angel on the box-seat) "is
"Well, why not?"
"Can't you understand that Reggie might not care to meet a young man out
of a draper's shop?"
"But he comes to call on people in a gro--"
"That's different," Bessie quickly announced. "We weren't always there,
"Wednesday afternoons I am at home after three. Saturdays I am at home all
"I know," Bessie said, but did not promise to avail herself of the
protection offered by her sister's presence on those occasions.
A Tea-Party In Bridge Street
His time being so fully occupied in his own business during the week, and
those hours he had been wont to pass with his friend William Day being
still unfilled, Mr. George Boult had fallen into the evil habit of coming
to hold a business consultation with the widow on the Sunday afternoons.
The Day family complained bitterly of this custom. The poor grocer-woman's
one blessed day was no longer hers, to be passed from morn to eve in the
midst of her children, in rest and peace and forgetfulness of business
She was too tired for church, she always pleaded; but it was not fatigue
alone which kept her from public worship. She was accustomed to her place
behind the counter now, and in the work-days of the week was too busy for
regret, too anxious to sell her goods to feel any shame in the occupation.
But on that day when the rest of the world of women went forth with
husbands and children to take their places, dressed in their best, in
family pews, she felt that she lacked the courage to show her face. She
who had queened it with the best of them; she who was the widow of a man
who had killed himself to escape from prison! She for whom "sympathisers"
and "well-wishers" had collected their sixpenny-pieces that she and hers
might be saved from starving.
So she sent the girls to church with Franky, on the Sunday morning, while
she, prayer-book in hand, would sit in Deleah's favourite window-seat,
beneath the canary's cage, to watch the smart and prosperous Sabbath
people airing their newest clothes on the opposite pavement of the street.
Presently Emily, her preparations for dinner made, would come to stand
beside her mistress's chair, to turn a critical eye upon the passers-by
beneath. Emily knew the names of most of the people of any consideration
who passed; knew, and could at length relate the history of themselves and
their domestic economies.
"There's Mrs. Hamley, m'm. I haven't never seen her in that black lace
"Perhaps she's laid it by from last summer," Mrs. Day would suggest.
"Not she!" Here Emily would lean over the back of her mistress's chair and
crane her neck to get a better view of the raiment in question. "Bran'
new, I'll lay a guinea! And her still fifteen pound in your debt!"
"Here come the Briggses! Look out, m'm!" presently she would cry. "Well,
and ain't they figged out! The whole four of the girls--and every one of
'em in a new bonnet! And them buyin' a pound-and-a-half of butter a week
for the whole fam'ly! Tha's what I always say, m'm; the Briggses is a
fam'ly that save out of their insides to put it on their bids. Now, here
come the best-lookin' young ladies and young gentleman we have set eyes on
yet." And then Mrs. Day's own daughters, with Franky clinging to Deleah's
arm, would be seen to approach.
"We think so, don't we, Emily? It's because they're our own, you know,"
the mistress would say, with her deprecating smile. "It's because they're
ours, that they seem to look so nice."
But in her heart she heartily agreed with Emily that hers was indeed a
In the evening Bessie would go off to church again, escorted by Emily, but
Deleah would stay with her mother. They would sit together in peaceful,
delicious idleness over the winter fire, or, it being summer, they would
go forth, escaping by backways and narrow lanes of the old town from the
crowded pavements to the quiet roads with their formal rows of trees,
their flower-packed gardens and trim hedges. Slowly they would pace along,
enjoying the sweeter air of the suburbs, or, gardenless themselves, would
stand to peep through garden-gates at the well-ordered array of geranium,
calceolaria, verbena; sniffing the fragrance from the serried rows of
stocks, the patches of mignonette, or the blossoming lime-trees overhead.
When on that scented Sabbath peacefulness the warm dark would begin to
descend, it sometimes happened that the boarder, Charles Gibbon, who also
loved the scent of flower and of shrub, and enjoyed the soft air of
evening upon his cheek, would meet or overtake Mrs. Day and her daughter
as they sauntered homewards; and in a very friendly and pleasant way the
three would finish their walk together.
But about the Sunday afternoons there was a less agreeable tale to tell.
The young ladies retired with their books to their bedrooms, on those
occasions; Franky took refuge with Emily in the kitchen, a store of
oranges and nuts having been laid in by that faithful retainer for his
entertainment there. The Manchester man saw more than enough of his
employer on week-days, and would have preferred to pass a Sabbath
afternoon in the cellar with the coals, to spending that portion of his
precious holiday with his employer. Poor Mrs. Day was compelled therefore
to receive her taskmaster and benefactor alone.
Then had her books to be produced, her order-sheet criticised; then was
comparison made between this week's takings and those of the corresponding
week last year. If, as too often happened, alas! the sales had been less,
the poor apologetic tradeswoman had to suffer for it.
"You are losing custom. You must not lose it," the tradesman would
bluster. Or "Your expenses are too much. You are eaten up with expenses,"
he would insist. "You don't see how you can reduce them? Do with less
help, my good lady. What do people do who can't afford help? Go without
it, and do the work themselves. It's what you must do. It is indeed, I do
assure you. Cut down your expenses. Cut them down! Cut them down!"
"It is easier to say that than to do it," poor Mrs. Day would demur. "We
have nothing superfluous."
"You will be surprised how much you can do without if you really make the
effort. Get rid of your assistant in the shop. Get rid of your servant. A
servant is a very pleasant possession, but if we can't afford to keep one,
we can't. What is Miss Bessie doing all day long?"
"Bessie is useful in the house. Bessie is not strong," Bessie's mother
would plead; and George Boult would snort the suggestion to scorn.
"A little extra work would be the best physic for Miss Bessie." She had
put on a good stone of flesh since he had seen her last, he would declare.
Work never killed half the women that idleness killed.
On a Sunday afternoon soon after that concert to which the girls had been
escorted by the lodger, George Boult, his business exhortation finished,
sprang on the poor mother the news that her son at the branch shop at
Ingleby was not giving satisfaction.
A complaint of incivility to a customer had come to the ear of the local
manager, who had reported to the Head at Brockenham, delivering himself of
the opinion at the same time that the young man played billiards at the
Rose and Crown more than was consistent with his means, or the devotion he
should have shown to his employer's interests.
Lydia Day listened, her dark, handsome face of a lead white, while the man
seated at the table opposite to her condemned her son utterly as one who
was flinging away a fine chance. He, George Boult, had been thrown, at
Bernard's age, on his own resources. Never that he could recall had a
helping hand been held to him. (Men of the stamp of George Boult never
recognise the helping hand.) Work had been his pleasure. Had he played
billiards? Had he shown temper before a customer? No! Or thought of his
own pleasure before his employer's advantage? Never!
Very eloquent he was on the strenuous period of his own youth, recounting
the virtues he had displayed and the vices he had shunned, holding up his
shining example before the dimmed eyes of the poor mother, listening with
sick politeness, her heart so heavy in her breast. The excuses she made
for her Bernard to herself she dared not put forward. The fact that he was
his father's son; the contrast between the life he had known and that he
was called on to live; his youth; his exile from home and home influences;
his empty pockets; his tastes which had been formed when money seemed
"I implore you to be patient with the boy," was about all she thought it
wise to say; that and the promise she made to write at once to Bernard to
beg of him to consider his circumstances and Mr. Boult's goodness, and to
change what was amiss.
Bernard, her darling, handsome son! While she said it she saw him in a
thousand pictures stored in her mother's heart. All that was desirable he
had seemed to her; she had never thought of wishing him to change!
"Let him know he is on his trial," George Boult said.
"He is being carefully watched and reported on. Do not tell him this, but
tell him the impression he has made on Adams" (Adams was the manager at
Ingleby) "is not a satisfactory one; and Adams is a man whose opinions I
hold very high. Tell him he is having the chance of his life; warn him not
to abuse it."
He was still trampling the poor woman's heart beneath the prancings of his
own eloquence, when the ringing of the street-door bell created a
Downstairs went Miss Bessie, her fair hair ruffled, her cheek flushed from
its pressure upon her pillow, to take in, as she imagined, in the absence
of Emily, the afternoon's milk.
It was not the anticipated milk, however, that Bessie found upon the
doorstep, but no less a delightful surprise than the exquisite person of
Mr. Reginald Forcus.
"Ah, how do, Bessie? I thought I'd give you a look. I hope I am not _de
trop?_" he asked. He pronounced the last words as they are spelt, not
because he did not know better, but because he liked to be amusing, and
the mispronunciation of words was the kind of fun he appreciated.
With effusion, Bessie bade him enter; but in her mind were distracting
thoughts of the condition of her chignon, and the present occupancy of the
"There's some one upstairs with mama," she told him, anxiously smiling
upon him, her grey-green eyes glinting with pleasure. "The Mr. Boult, you
know, who helps her with her books and things when she'll let him. You
"Happy, I'm sure. You're all alone, week-days," he said as he mounted the
stairs behind her--stairs very dark and very steep, starting from the
almost unmitigated blackness of the hall upon which the front door opened.
"I thought if I looked in on the Sunday afternoons I should find the
others as well, perhaps."
"You'll find mama," Bessie said, wondering a little at his concern for the
proprieties. "Here is Reggie, mama," she said. And Mrs. Day, her heart
full of her own unhappy boy, went forward with a weary step, and
smilelessly held out a welcoming hand.
"You are very kind to come, Reggie," she said. "This is our good friend,
Mr. George Boult; Mr. Reginald Forcus."
"I take it young Mr. Forcus and I don't need any introduction," the draper
The Forcus family did not deal at his shop; the deference therefore which
the draper never failed to pay his customers was not needed here. He shook
poor Reggie's hand mercilessly, and inquired after Sir Francis. Mr. George
Boult had recently been made a magistrate; Sir Francis and he sat on the
"You are extremely well known to me by sight," he went on, still
exercising the visitor's hand. "I should say there are few people in
Brockenham better known to me by sight."
"I go past your place pretty often," Reggie admitted.
"You'd see me four or five times a day if you were looking out."
"Oh, I'm not always behind my own shop window," Mr. Boult said, not too
well pleased. When he was not talking to a customer why should he be
reminded of the shop? Since he had been able to write J.P. after his name,
he had more than once been secretly desirous of temporarily forgetting the
successful drapery establishment.
He was always disposed to lose himself in wonder at his own marvellous
achievements. Time was when the members of the great brewery firm were as
far above his head as the stars of heaven above the pebbles of the street.
Yet here he was now, to all intents and purposes on a par with them. Where
was the difference? A successful business man, he was--what more were
they? Still, since Sir Francis had taken to addressing him as "Boult"
without any prefix to the name, when they met in the magisterial room, the
desire to ingratiate himself with any member of the Forcus family was very
warm within him.
"Whenever I do see you, I am struck with the handsomeness of the animal
you ride, Mr. Forcus," he was saying presently. "I think this young
gentleman rides the handsomest animal in the town, Miss Bessie. I'm a
great admirer of handsome animals, Mr. Forcus."
"Is that so? Really?" said Reggie, supremely indifferent. He had no
objection whatever to make the acquaintance of old Boult, the
linen-draper--although, of course, that difference between a successful
draper and a successful brewer which Mr. Boult was incapable of discerning
was quite clear to him--but he was not in the least interested in him; and
what should the old fellow know about a horse?
"Isn't Deleah at home to-day? I thought I should have caught Deleah. That
is why I dropped in on the Sunday."
Deleah was out walking with Franky, Mrs. Day told him, thankful that
Bessie, who had slipped away with a view to the adjustment of the
disarranged chignon, was not present to hear that explanation.
"I meet Deleah sometimes as she comes home from school," the young man
artlessly continued. "I dare say she's told you I sometimes meet her?"
No, Mrs. Day did not remember hearing Deleah mention that interesting
"No harm in that, I suppose, Mrs. Day? You don't object, if Deleah
"Harm?" repeated Mrs. Day, only half conscious of what was said, thinking
of Bernard going wretchedly about his hated work with a "sharp watch" set
on his doings.
"I mean I wouldn't do anything to annoy you or Deleah--"
It was a relief that at that moment Bessie descended, her hair in order, a
look of pleasant excitement on her plump face. No one need half-heartedly
try to carry on a conversation with Reggie when once Bessie was present to
And then Deleah and Franky, their cheeks rosy from exercise, appeared.
Franky went to his mother and climbed on her lap, and Deleah sat close to
her side, a little too apparently, perhaps, leaving the young man and
Bessie to carry on their sparkling conversation uninterrupted.
When Emily came in, to lay the tea-table, the two men got up to go. "Mama,
Reggie will stay if you ask him," Bessie said. How triumphant she felt,
how her eyes sparkled when Reggie said at once he should like to--rather!
"And Mr. Boult will stay to tea too, mama," Deleah said quickly. She did
not need the heavy silence which fell to tell she had offended; not
Bessie's warning scowl, nor her mother's piteous look of appeal. As no one
seconded the invitation, "Do stay," Deleah said. And he gracefully
"Since you are so polite, I don't mind if I do," he said. He really felt
honoured by the invitation, the first he had ever received in that house.
The long low-ceilinged sitting-room above the grocer's shop was tenanted
by ladies of whom in days gone by he had felt a certain awe. Down in the
world as they were now, he never forgot that ancient attitude of theirs.
Even when he bullied Mrs. Day, and advised her daughters to do the work of
servants, he had not forgotten. Perhaps at such times he remembered it
more than ever.
His wife, dead for the last seven years, had been of a different make from
these women. Finding nothing in himself to debar him from being an
ornament in any society, he saw very well that the late Mrs. George Boult
had been, as he put it, "of another kidney." He had been fairly content
with her while he had her; she had been a good housekeeper; and had not
crossed him in his wish to save money; but looking back upon the poor
woman, he saw plainly that she had not the appearance of these ladies, nor
had she spoken like them, nor possessed the ways of them. She had been all
very well for his then condition, but times had changed for him; and here
he was, well pleased to be sitting at the board of people who would not at
one time have received the late Mrs. Boult under their roof, on terms of
equality with Sir Francis Forcus's brother!
He was a rich man himself, and going, he would see to it, to be richer,
but the income of the Forcuses he knew was perhaps seven times as much as
his own; and he was one of that large body of good sort of people who love
to be in the society of men richer than themselves.
"We so much enjoyed the concert, Mr. Boult," Deleah said to him.
"The concert?" Mr. Boult repeated. He wished to talk to Bessie, having it
on his conscience to advise her to do without a servant, and he did not
feel called upon to exert himself "to do the polite," as he phrased it, to
the younger girl.
"Some kind friend sent us stalls for the concert," explained Deleah,
flushing. "It was so kind of the unknown person, and such a delightful
"Stalls? The half-guinea places, do you mean?" There was astonished
disapproval in eyes and voice.
"Wasn't it sweet of Someone?" Deleah went on, bent on expressing her
gratitude to the shy donor. "It was the same Someone, I suppose, who sent
the lilies-of-the-valley, yesterday, and my darling canary; look! It is
Someone to whom we can never be grateful enough!"
"Better keep your gratitude for the more substantial benefits you have all
received." He was thinking, Mrs. Day knew, of the fifty pounds which had
headed the subscription-list. "Lilies were sixpence the bunch in the
"But it isn't the cost," Deleah explained; her face was rose-red with her
effort to say that which she had determined should be said to the man they
all disliked, but who was showing himself by the thoughtful little
attentions to which she alluded, in his true colours. "It isn't the cost
alone, it is the kind thought for which we are so grateful."
"Oh, come, Deleah!" Reggie interrupted. "I offered you tickets, you
remember, and you weren't a bit grateful for the kind thought. And as for
the lilies, I dare say I could send you flowers every morning from the
conservatories at home, if you'd care for them."
"I should not in the least care for them from your conservatories. Don't
send them, Reggie, or we should have to send them back."
"Why, pray? Speak for yourself, please," Bessie cried. "If you've any
flowers going begging I'm not above taking them, Reggie, remember."
"The flowers aren't mine," Reggie reminded her at once. "They grow
there--tons of them--and no one to look at them now, but Francis and Ada.
Yet, if I want to send a few to a girl there's questions asked, and a
sickening fuss made. I order them from the nurseryman rather than have the
fag of it."
"Oh, all right. I'll order some for you, Bessie."
Then, when tea was all but finished, a step was heard upon the stairs, and
presently Mr. Gibbon came in. At the sight of the other two men his face
fell perceptibly. To him also the Sabbath was a precious time. The hour,
especially, which brought the meal over which they need not hurry for any
evening work; in the room made sweet with flowers; in the company of the
three charming ladies; on the table the extra delicacies Emily always
provided for the occasion.
Boult! Forcus! The two men whom, least on earth, he desired to see there.
"Hallo, Gibbon!" his chief said; and the man addressed felt in his bones
that the tone was unmistakably that of the employer to the employed. "Been
getting forward for to-morrow, I suppose?"
No, Gibbon said, he had not; and he spoke curtly, and kept his heavy head
up, and drew his brows together, and was somewhat offensive in manner, in
the effort to show he was not subservient. He bowed sulkily to Mr.
Reginald Forcus, when Mrs. Day murmured that gentleman's name. The fact
that the young man when he came of an age to take the third share which
was to be his in the brewery would be rolling in money, was nothing to
him, and he wished to show to all present it was not! At the concert he,
who was ugly, and short, and poor, and of no account in the world, had had
the best of the elegant young man with his fortune and the name which was
one to conjure with in Brockenham. He had wrested Deleah from him, and
pushed him on one side. He did not propose to smile amiably at him across
the tea-table after that.
He was going to Lancashire to buy goods for his department to-morrow--he
was absent there for four or five days every three weeks. This was his
last evening of Paradise for a while; and the Serpent had entered there!
"You are late," Bessie rebuked him sweetly. "And you must wait for more
tea to be made. Where have you been, pray? Give an account of yourself."
He had walked out five miles, he told her, to the garden of a friend who
had a small conservatory. He had hoped to be rewarded with some flowers to
return with, but had only been accorded the three roses he held in his
"Very sweet of you to bring them for me, all the same," Bessie said,
Gibbon was, however, shy or sullen this evening, for he seemed by no means
anxious to relinquish the flowers; and when he did so he laid them between
his plate and Deleah's, who promptly put them into Bessie's extended hand.
When pinned in the bosom of her grey frock the flowers had a charming
effect, to which she called the attention of all present.
"Aren't they sweet, mama! Mr. Boult, Reggie, aren't they simply sweet! And
poor Mr. Gibbon to have walked so many miles for them!"
And so, at cross purposes, with heart-burnings and some bitterness of
spirit, they got through their Sunday tea.
"It would have been delightful if you had not invited your old Scrooge,"
Bessie, who, at any rate, had thoroughly enjoyed herself, flung at her
The Manchester Man
Mrs. Day had retired to write her letter to Bernard in the privacy of her
own room, and Bessie, in radiant spirits, had gone off to dress for
evening service, where she was to go escorted by Franky and Emily. Deleah
was left in charge of the boarder.
It was a point of honour with them all that the young man should have his
money's worth while under their roof, and above all, should have his meals
in comfort. The cup which Bessie had poured out for him stood cold and
untasted by his side. Deleah took it from him. Certainly he should not
have the dregs of the tea-pot; she would brew a fresh pot for him.
"I beg you will not trouble, Miss Deleah. It is my fault in being late."
He, who held the creed that a gentleman must never allow a lady to wait on
him (unless she was his mother, or he was married to her), must follow
Miss Deleah to the kitchen, also on the upper floor, must watch her rinse
the tea-pot, must advise with her as to the amount of tea required to make
the three large cups he always drank, must himself pour the boiling water,
she, with many exhortations from him to be very careful lest she scalded
her fingers, holding the tea-pot. There was something delightfully
homelike and familiar in this sharing of simple duties.
Deleah, returned to the sitting-room where she sat to fill his cup and to
cut him bread-and-butter, was as lovely a vision as any man could desire
to see at his board. Pleasantly and gaily she chattered, waiting on him
with her dainty hands. He, tongue-tied, answering little, embarrassed and
ill at ease in that sweet society.
For a year and a half he had lived in the dingy house above the shop in
Bridge Street. He had for eighteen months enjoyed that propinquity, that
familiar intercourse, which is all that is necessary to make many an ugly
woman beautiful in the eyes of the man in enjoyment of her society. It is
small wonder then, if the poor Manchester man exaggerated in his own mind
those unusual charms which Deleah incontestably possessed.
A year and a half! And in all that time he could never recall an occasion
when he had been left for any length of time alone with Deleah, before. It
was Bessie who had constituted herself his especial friend, had seized on
him, talked to him, made confidences to him, and satisfied herself it was
his wish to talk to her. Deleah, he knew, had looked on him as Bessie's
property. He had resented this assumption, but had not known how to
Besides being of a loveliness which he had come to think unsurpassed, she
was so gentle, so tender-hearted, so pitiful, this young Deleah; so
adorably kind. She had learnt in that grief and shame which he knew had
befallen her a lesson, taught her he was sure by the pitying angels of
God; to think no sorrow too trivial to be despised, to be tender even to
the scratched finger, the bruised shins of the poor men and women
scrambling painfully along the tough and thorny path of life.
He was a short and broad and ugly man, approaching middle age; of a
commonplace cut of features, of poor birth, of mean fortunes, of small
account in the scheme of things; but he had an eye for beauty; he had a
soul; and his eye was filled with a beauty completely satisfying his
conception; and with his soul he worshipped the soul of Deleah.
"I am sorry," he suddenly said, cutting across some little triviality of
hers with which she was striving to cover his silence--"sorry you did not
have even one of the roses I walked ten miles to get for you."
"I?" she glanced fleetingly at him. "Oh, it does not matter, of course.
Bessie has them, and she loves them so. I had far rather Bessie had them."
He gazed upon her, reproachful but silent.
"Bessie so loves flowers," she said, remembering how Bessie had pounced
upon the poor roses before they had been offered. It had not been a pretty
sight--but Bessie--poor Bessie!--did such things.
"Miss Bessie so loves them to wear in her dress," he corrected.
And at that moment Miss Bessie burst into the room, attired for conquest
and for church, the flowers which the boarder had walked so far to
procure, pinned, as was the mode of the day, beneath the collar of her
jacket. Gibbon glanced grudgingly at them, nestling becomingly enough
under Bessie's plump chin.
"Oh, how glum you look!" cried Bessie in the best of spirits.
"Not glum at all," said Mr. Gibbon with something less than his usual
politeness of tone.
"Only cross? Ah! I am so afraid of you! I must run away."
She beckoned to Deleah, who followed her to the tiny landing. "The
Honourable Charles has got his back up because of Reggie," she whispered,
"and Reggie is furious because of the Honourable Charles's flowers. Did
you hear how he snapped at me just now?"
"Why should Mr. Gibbon be angry because of Reggie?"
"Oh, my dear innocent babe! Don't you know that men are sometimes jealous?"
"Yes. I know it. And I know another thing: and that is you were doing your
best to make them jealous."
Bessie laughed delightedly as at a compliment: "I leave one of them to
you. Try to get him into a better frame of mind before I come back," she
said, and turned to run downstairs.
Deleah leaned over the railing of the tiny landing, lit by a single
gas-jet above her head, to watch her go. She liked to see Bessie
good-tempered and in good spirits, and if to believe that every man she
knew was in love with her made her so, Deleah was willing to humour her.
About the devotion of young Forcus for Bessie she had her doubts, but that
of the lodger she took as a matter of course.
He was still seated at the table when she returned to him; the
bread-and-butter she had cut for him untouched on his plate, his tea
"I thought perhaps you were not coming back," he said. He sighed, as if
relieved from an anxiety which had been painful. "Miss Deleah, I wish very
much to speak to you."
There were a few things in the matter of deportment he had learnt since
living over the grocer's shop; one was that a man must not sit while a
lady is standing. So he stood up in his place now, and waited till she had
taken hers again behind the tea-urn.
"Oh, but, Mr. Gibbon, do eat your tea!"
He pushed his plate away: "I don't want to eat. I want to talk to you."
Glancing at him she saw that his face, ordinarily of a deep-diffused red,
was as pale as it is possible for such a face to become. Often when she
had felt his eyes upon her and had looked up frankly to meet them, she had
noticed how quickly he had averted them, almost as if detected in a crime.
Now she found them fixed upon her face.
"There is something I have made up my mind to tell you," he said.
"It won't take long, I hope? Because as Emily is at church I have to clear
She jumped up at once and began to do so. "He is going to tell me about
Bessie," she said to herself. She did not particularly desire his
confidence, and with a little more clatter and fussiness than was
necessary to the task, she put the cups and plates on the tray.
In a preoccupied manner he helped her to do this, took the tray from her,
when it was laden, to the kitchen, while she carried the eatables. Coming
back, together they folded the tablecloth. A pleasant enough occupation to
be shared with a pretty girl; but it was evident, although his trade had
made his blunt fingers deft at the handling of material, and he was
carefully observant of the practice which must be followed in the art,
that he was thinking of other things than maintaining the creases in the
"There!" said Deleah, as an announcement that their light labours were
finished. She had put the cloth away in the press, and turned to find the
Honourable Charles, as she and Bessie to themselves always called their
boarder, standing with his back to the little dresser at which Emily made
her pastry, his arms crossed upon his chest.
"Now you can go and sit down in comfort, and smoke the pipe of peace on my
special window-seat--I give you permission--and watch the good people
going to church."
"That is, if you are coming."
"I think I'll go first and see what has become of mama."
"This will do, for a few minutes, Miss Deleah. We will stop here," he
So Deleah, there being no escape, perched herself on the corner of the
table where the plates and tea-cups were collected until Emily should
return to wash them, and waited for what he had to say.
He found some difficulty in beginning apparently, and frowned upon the
matting covering the floor.
"It's about myself," at length he began with an effort painful to see; his
hands seemed to be pulling tensely upon his folded arms, the blunt fingers
of the broad red hands showed white upon the coat-sleeves, his face was
still of the muddy pink which with him stood for pallor.
"I hope you won't think it intruding of me to talk about myself."
"Which in other words means about Bessie," said Deleah to herself, strung
up, now that it was inevitable, for the revelation.
"It's about my prospects. Perhaps you think I haven't got any, Miss
Deleah. Or any position, to speak of? I have not, I know. Not like your
friend, Mr. Forcus. He's got this thousands a year, where at most I can
hope for hundreds, I suppose."
Deleah divined the sore feeling in his mind and hastened to bring the
balm: "Reggie Forcus might have millions where he will have thousands--and
the more he had the less likely would he be to affect any of us. He has
been here this afternoon, and if he remembers he may come again. But that
is simply the whim of an idle young man who at the moment can think of
nothing more amusing to do."
"I thought he seemed to take a good deal of interest. I caught him
"At Bessie? He likes her, of course, and there was once a great
friendship. If--things--hadn't happened, I dare say it might have come to
more than friendship. But they did happen, and--" She broke off. Never
could she without suffering and difficulty allude to the tragedy which had
cost them so dear.
"I assure you, Mr. Gibbon," she began again, and smiled encouragingly upon
him, "you are of far more importance to us than Mr. Reginald Forcus is
ever likely to be."
"I thank you for telling me that," he said, and his fingers strained
tighter upon his coat-sleeves.
Then he lifted his eyes and looked at her as she sat, perched with ease
and grace among the tea-cups on the kitchen table. Every movement of hers
was made, every posture taken, with ease and grace. It happened, for
Deleah's fortune, to be the day of the small woman; the day when she of
inches was pronounced a gawk, and she of five feet and a little--slim of
waist, of foot, of hand, of ankle--slid with ease and naturalness into a
"Thank you for that," said the Manchester man again, with a kind of hoarse
fervour in his voice. "You are always kind. I don't think the angels in
heaven are kinder than you."
A statement at which Deleah among the tea-cups laughed light-heartedly.
"No. Don't laugh," he said almost fiercely. "It is true! I believe it with
all my soul."
He looked from her to the floor at his feet again, frowning upon it,
striving for the calmness to proceed with that which he had to say in the
order he had taught himself to believe was best for his case.
"I'm getting two hundred a year," he said. "This year, come Christmas, I'm
to have a rise to two hundred and fifty. Next year"--he paused, set his
lips tightly--"next year I mean to ask for a share in the business."
"Do you?" said Deleah with polite interest. "Do you really think you will
get it, Mr. Gibbon?"
"I shall get it, fast enough. I shall get it, for this reason: if Boult
doesn't give it me I shall leave him. Boult can't afford to lose me. I
don't want to boast, but it's true. He can't afford to lose me, and he
knows it. Do you know," and he lifted his head, speaking more naturally
and looking at her with pride in his achievement, "in the two years I have
been in the concern I have _doubled_ the takings in my department?"
"Really? How very clever of you, Mr. Gibbon! You _must_ be pleased!"
He looked at her, and laughed hopelessly. "You don't understand these
things, Miss Deleah. You don't realise that what I have done means much."
"Oh, but I do, Mr. Gibbon! I have always thought that you must be a quite
wonderful business man; so quiet, so regular, thinking of nothing but your
"I do think of other things," he said fervidly. "I want to get on. I want
to improve myself, and my position. There's an end I'm working for. If a
man sets an end before him, and works for all he's worth to get it, does
he get it, Miss Deleah?"
"He gets it. Never doubt it!"
"Well then, see! When I get my share of the business I shall work the
whole show up as I have worked my own department. The other establishments
in the same line can put their shutters up. It's the biggest drapery
business in the town now--Boult is proud enough to ram that fact down your
throat--but I shall make it the biggest drapery business in the Eastern
"How splendid of you, Mr. Gibbon! And supposing Mr. Boult won't give you
"I am not sure it would not be better. In that case I shall start on my
own. Not in a shop. I shall open a warehouse for the sale of my goods,
"Those calicoes, and prints, and 'drabbets,' you go to Manchester to buy?"
put in Deleah, anxious to show that she understood.
"Manchester goods. I shall carry with me all the little customers who come
to me now to take my advice what they shall buy, and a lot of shopkeepers
of a better class, who will deal with a wholesale mean but will not buy
their goods of Boult."
"Poor Mr. Boult!"
"He must look after hisself. I heard Miss Bessie say the other day that
the wholesale line was genteeler than retail--." He broke off and looked
questioningly at Deleah, who had formed no opinion on the subject.
"Bessie knows about these things," she assured him. "Then, you will become
a very rich man, Mr. Gibbon. And will go away, and never help us to make
mincemeat any more, or to clear the table after Sunday tea. You will drive
your carriage with a _pair_ of horses--not one miserable screw like Mr.
Boult--and you will live in a fine house, and grow roses, and build
conservatories; won't you?"
"Yes," he assented solemnly. Then he unfolded his arms and' stretching
them sideways gripped with each hand the ledge of the dresser against
which he leant. "I shall want you to come with me," he said.
"Me!" said Deleah. The shock of the surprise made her for a moment
breathless. She sat and gazed at him with wide eyes for what seemed an
age, saying nothing; and he also, for the moment incapable of further
speech, gazed back. At last "Bessie?" Deleah got out. "You mean Bessie?"
"Why should I mean Bessie? _Bessie!_" he said, and flung the thought of
her from him with scorn. "Why should I mean Bessie? I mean you--you--you!"
he said, and endured her silence with eyes that clung desperately to her
"When I leave here, to go into that fine house--with the carriage
and--conservatories--will you come too?"
"Oh, no!" Deleah said, whispering, with drooping head.
Then they sat opposite each other on table and dresser and were silent,
while the blood sang loudly in Deleah's ears, and beat with such cruel
throbbing in the man's temples that he did not know how to endure the
agony, and thought that his head must burst.
When Deleah at last lifted her eyes and looked at him the change in his
face frightened her, his breath came hard and noisily as if he had been
running. Was it possible he could feel like that--this quiet, inoffensive,
uninteresting, middle-aged boarder, who had never appeared to feel
anything particularly before? About her?
"I am so sorry," she said in genuine distress, horribly grieved at and
ashamed of her part in his pain. "I thought it was Bessie."
"You have refused me? You mean it--absolutely? There is no hope for me?"
Deleah shivered. It was the regulation phrase used by the rejected lover
in the novel of the day. It had thrilled Deleah a hundred times as she had
read it. There was nothing stilted or theatrical in the words as Charles
Gibbon said them, but they brought home to her the unwelcome fact that he
was in deadly earnest, that he loved her, and she was dealing him a cruel
blow. She felt miserable, humiliated, ashamed. It was preposterous, out of
all proportion, that he should have had to ask such a question, in such a
tone, of little Deleah Day.
"I am so very sorry, Mr. Gibbon," she said again, and he heard in a
silence that made her heart ache.
"Shall you go away?" she asked him presently. In books the lover being
rejected removed himself for a time in order to recover from the blow. She
was relieved to find in the boarder's case this was not considered
"Why should I go away?" he asked.
"It will be better to go on just the same," she advised eagerly. "Bessie
need never know."
"Bessie!" he said again contemptuously; he loosed his grip of the dresser,
and swung round, standing with his back to her, that she might not see his
face. "You've crushed every hope I had; you've--broken me; and you talk to
me of Bessie. What, in the name of heaven or hell, do you suppose I care
for _Bessie_; or whether she knows or not?"
Deleah, keeping her place on the table, listened to the altered, choked
voice of him with astonishment. Their unfailingly polite--too polite! and
retiring boarder! Was it really he, standing with his back to her,
speaking of Bessie--Bessie!--in such a tone!
"You see, I never knew! I never guessed," she excused herself helplessly.
"No. I don't suppose you gave me a thought. Morning, noon and night you
were everything to me. There was nothing else. I have worked for you,
lived for you--"
His back was towards her--the horrible thought that he was crying came to
her; his voice was rough and broken.
"If I had only guessed--" she said in hideous distress and embarrassment.
She had thought, as all girls do, of one day getting an offer of marriage;
that it could ever be such a miserable experience as this she had not
imagined. If it had only been a stranger, she thought foolishly; some one
outside her life, of whom she had seen little! But Mr. Gibbon--their
boarder! The sight of him in their home circle had become as familiar to
her as might have been the sight of her brother: she could not reconcile
herself to the thought that this man in the horribly unfamiliar guise was
he. "If I had only guessed--!"
"And if you had?" he asked, but hopelessly, without turning round.
"I could have told you the sooner. There wouldn't have been such
She slipped off the table, and stood beside it in a painful state of
indecision. She longed to get away from the sight of him, to escape; but
at the same time, being Deleah, she also longed to comfort.
"I shall not even tell mama," she promised. "We shall go on just as usual.
And soon--soon we shall forget it has happened."
"Oh, yes! It is astonishing how we can put things away, in the back of our
minds, and go on as if they weren't there at all. Quite astonishing."
"We oughtn't to make a piece of work about our sorrows if we can get along
with them as easily as that!"
"Oh, not our sorrows, of course." She remembered how the sorrow of her
father's dreadful end was with her still and would be while she lived.
"Our sorrow, of course, Mr. Gibbon, we cannot forget. But a little thing
that goes amiss like this--a little disappointment--"
"I see," he said. Then he gave a sound, half choke, half hiccough, that
was meant for a laugh; and presently he turned round. "Then, we will go on
as before, Miss Deleah. You need not be afraid any one will learn of
this--'little disappointment'--from me. I am pretty well used to hiding
what I feel. It comes easy when you've once learnt that nobody cares."
"Oh, Mr. Gibbon. Don't please say that. I care."
"No, you don't. You don't care like I want you to. What's the good of
anything else? Have we finished clearing away the tea-things, Miss Deleah?
Anything more that I can help you with?"
She shook her head, looking at him with eyes which implored him not to be
bitter or unhappy. And as she looked, seeing the familiar red face and
squat strong figure of him in a new light an idea struck her.
"Mr. Gibbon," she said, "it was _you_ who sent the concert tickets, and
all the flowers and fruit, and the canary in its lovely cage. It was
"No, no! Mr. Boult, of course, Miss Deleah. You found out who it was, long
ago. Kind, generous Mr. Boult!"
"And I took them all, and never thanked you--!" She put out a hand to
delay him as he walked past her to the door; but he took no heed, and
without another word she let him go.
"What have you done with your roses?" Deleah asked. Bessie tucked in her
plump chin and looked down upon the place beneath her jacket collar where
they had been pinned. "I must have lost them coming out of church!" she
said. "Pray do not let the Honourable Charles hear of it."
The three poor roses! Deleah's roses, the boarder had tramped the ten
miles to get for her!
Sir Francis Forcus was standing with his back to the empty fireplace in
his private room at the Brewery, a copy of the local daily newspaper in
his hand. It was a pleasant room, although the view from the two open
windows was only of the tall black wharves and warehouses across the way.
You must lean from the window to catch sight of the black river flowing
beneath, upon which the Brewery was built; of the great wherries and
barges unloading below; to see the canoes and pleasure boats, escaping
from the polluted waters, the bricks and mortars of the locality, to the
sunlit stream flowing between fair gardens and green pastures of the
country, a half-mile farther on.
From a window in one of the black, ill-looking wharves across the way an
imprisoned lark was singing, rewarding man for his cruel treatment with
the best he had to give, after the manner of the brute creation, whose
avenging is not yet. A ray of sunlight straggling in--in more open, more
favoured localities, the sun lay broadly over all on that spring
morning--touched the face of Sir Francis, which wore a by no means
well-pleased expression. In the paper he was reading, wet from the press,
was an account of a steeplechase in which his brother's name had largely
figured. He had not won the race, nor distinguished himself in any way,
except by the number and severity of his falls, and the fact that he had
killed his horse; but the _Brockenham Star_ was, to a large extent, the
property of the firm of big brewers, and had therefore made the most of
the young man's exploits.
"The boy will break his neck yet," the reader said to himself. He was not
largely in his brother's confidence. The death of the horse was news to
him; he had not even known there was a steeplechase.
"What good is he doing with all this?" Sir Francis asked of himself,
sternly looking off the paper. "He takes no interest in the Brewery. He is
a man in years, and has never done a half-hour's work in his life."
Sir Francis's own half-hours of work would not have totalled up to much,
but he had business ability, nevertheless. At certain hours of the day he
was always to be found, as now, at his post, and what he did not do
himself he took care that those he paid should do efficiently.
Above the mantelpiece hung the portrait of the founder of the Brewery, or
rather of the man who had worked up the business already founded into a
phenomenally successful one. Often as the elder partner looked upon the
sensible, kindly, handsome-featured face, he reminded himself how very
dear to his father in his old age had been this unbusiness-like,
pleasure-loving, steeplechase-riding younger son, who had been but a boy
at school when the old man had died. Very frequently it was necessary for
him to remind himself of the fact; for between the duty-loving,
serious-minded, middle-aged, sorrowing widower and his half-brother was
very little in common.
A clerk opening the door announced that a lady had called who was waiting
to see Sir Francis.
"A lady? My sister--Miss Forcus?"
"A young lady. She didn't give her name."
"Ask it, please."
Back came the clerk with a slip of paper on which was written a name Sir
Francis read to himself, and then aloud, looking questioningly upon the
clerk, "Miss Deleah Day. Miss Deleah Day?"
The clerk, having no information to give or suggestion to offer, continued
to look respectfully at his employer's boots.
"Show her in, please," Sir Francis said; and in a minute the door was
opened and Deleah appeared.
Sir Francis, the _Brockenham Star_ depending from his left hand, bowed in
his solemn fashion to the girl, and going forward turned a chair round
from the writing-table, in which be indicated his desire that she should
sit. How white and frightened she looked; what a young, little,
extraordinary pretty thing! Full well he remembered the last occasion of
her presence in his room. What had sent her to him now? What did she want?
He recalled how Reggie, whose name, it seemed to him, was always being
mentioned in some undesirable connection or other, had got himself mixed
up with this girl's objectionable family. Reggie, he wondered? Or was it
that the mother's wretched grocery business had failed, as he had always
expected it to do, and he was to be asked for another contribution towards
setting her going again?
With those thoughts passing through his mind, he went back to his old
position by the fireplace, standing up stiff and straight and tall, upon
the hearth, to survey his visitor from there.
"You were so kind once," Deleah said, and he heard that she had a
difficulty in keeping her voice steady, and saw that her lips shook "--so
very kind when I came to you before, that I have come again."
Too apprehensive of what her errand might be to say that he was glad to
see her, he bowed his head in sign of courteous attention, and waited.
As she had come on her hateful errand, she had thought of how she would
prepare the ground, in some way leading up to the petition she had to
make, but speech was too difficult, and she could barely deliver herself
of the necessary words: "I have come to ask you to give me fifty pounds,"
Sir Francis's eyes opened largely upon her, but he did not speak. To say
at once that he would give the poor child--the tool no doubt of her
family, sent by them to work upon him because she was so pretty and young
and appealing--fifty pounds without further explanation would be simply
silly: to say that he would not did not enter his head.
She had waited for an encouraging word; none coming; painfully she
laboured on: "I say 'give' because I am not sure I could ever pay you--I
earn so very little money. But if I ever can pay you, you may trust me
that I shall."
"I am sure you will," the rich man said, and waited for her to go on with
her story. But she sat in an embarrassed silence before him, her head
drooping, frightened and ashamed.
"We will call it 'lent,' shall we?" presently he said. "You will feel
happier so. And there will be no hurry. No hurry, at all."
"Oh thank you! I do thank you so much. I want to tell you--"
"No, no," he said and held up a hand to check the words upon her lips. It
was ridiculous to give away money in such a fashion, but he had a feeling
that if he knew its destination he should give it with more reluctance.
"But I must tell you, please. I wanted to tell you before, but--" Her eyes
avoided his face and wandered distressedly round the room. How well she
remembered it! It was here she had come to beg this man--this
stranger!--to keep her father out of prison. And now her brother--now
Bernard! Was there any girl in all the world so overwhelmed with shame as
she! "It is my brother--" she got out. "He--I have brought his letter."
She found her pocket, and brought forth the letter which had come to her
by the morning post, ravaging her heart, turning the sunshine black,
making the song of the imprisoned lark opposite into a dirge, plunging her
back into the woe which had been hers at the time of her father's
disgrace. She drew the miserable letter from its envelope and held it to
Sir Francis in trembling fingers.
"No," he said, and waved it away. "It is perhaps something that your
brother would rather not have known. Something which can remain between
you and him. And this--this fifty pounds"--he had gone to his
writing-table, pulled a cheque-book from a drawer, was writing within it
as he spoke--"this also is between you and me. No one, besides, needs ever
to know a word of it."
The chair he had arranged for her to sit in was by the writing-table; he,
sitting on the opposite side of it, lifted his eyes to her face without
lifting his head: "You wish this made out to your brother or yourself?"
"To my brother."
"Will you tell me his name?"
She watched his strong white hand move over the paper, writing so easily
the words that were of such moment to her. How the great ruby in the ring
he wore on the hand which held the pen seemed to glow and burn in the
sunlight. On the little finger of his other hand was a plain small circlet
she knew to be from the finger of his dead wife. She noticed in the strong
light from the window how the smooth black hair had grown grey about the
ears, how lines which had not been there before had graved themselves in
the handsome, impassive face. Was he very unhappy too, Deleah wondered, in
the midst of her own trouble? Did he still mourn, as they said he had
done, so heavily, for the lost wife?
He pushed the cheque across the table to her. "There!" he said.
He had caught her gaze fixed with its sorrowful questioning upon his face,
and he put away from him his doubt, his annoyance, and in spite of himself
smiled encouragement into her pleading, beautiful, innocently worshipping
"Do not be unhappy," he said. "This will put things right, we will hope;
and set your brother on his feet again. You must not look so sad."
At the words--he had been wrong to speak so kindly--the clear hazel of her
eyes was suffused with tears. The eyes were doubly beautiful so.
"'I'll not believe but Desdemona's honest'" he found himself replying to
that annoying little voice which kept whispering, "Have they put her on to
Deleah kept her wet eyes strained upon him, lest in lowering them the
tears should overflow. "I don't know what you can think of me," she said
falteringly. "I don't know how I had courage to come. I only had Bernard's
letter this morning; he said--it--must be done to-day. My mother must not
know: there is no one else: I had no one to ask. You had been so good to
me once--I thought of you."
"I quite understand. Quite. Quite."
"I was a child then," she laboured on, forcing herself to try to express
what she felt ought to be said; "and although I had no right to trouble
you, to a child things may be forgiven. But now--but now--!"
"But now," he repeated, and smiled his faint smile again. To him she was
but a child still, and his tone conveyed that message.
"I am very much ashamed," she said. "And so--so grateful."
She folded the cheque, put it in her cheap, little-used purse, and stood
up. So humiliated she felt, she hesitated to put out her hand, lest he
should think it presumptuous on her part to expect him to shake hands with
"Where is this brother of yours? What is he doing?" he asked.
"He is at Ingleby. Mr. George Boult put him into one of his shops in the
"Oh! George Boult?"
Something in tone depreciatory of the man caused Deleah to say quickly,
"He has been very good to us. He helped mama about the grocer's shop; and
"So I have heard." He was thinking to himself if the unsatisfactory
brother had to look for mercy for any misdoings to George Boult he would
be in a sorry case.
"He is very young--my poor brother," Deleah put in. "And I suppose he has
made bad friends. He never has a holiday. He can never come home to mama
"Ah, that is bad. And can't you go over to him? I am sure that you could
do him good." For the thought came to him, as he looked down upon the
sorrowful girl in her neat, cheap frock, standing so shyly before him,
that he had never seen goodness written so legibly on the face of any
human being as on that of this daughter of a thief and sister of a
"Railway travelling is expensive, and we are obliged to live very
carefully," Deleah said. "Poor mama has made one or two bad debts lately.
And so many people, who pay in the end, are so very slow to do so." Deleah
shook her head slowly and sorrowfully over these sluggards. "Also, I am
occupied, of course, all day long."
"May I know in what way?"
"I teach," Deleah said, and lifted her head with a kind of pride in the
avowal which was very pretty. "I am second English governess at Miss
Chaplin's school for young ladies. I earn enough there to buy my own
clothes and Franky's."
Her courage was coming back to her; instead of the difficulty she had
experienced in dragging out the words necessary to explain and condone her
errand, she now had the impulse to tell him things, to make him
"And who is Franky?"
"He is my little brother. Very much younger than the rest, and the pet
with all of us. Mama says, but for Franky, she thinks she could never have
survived the troubles she has had. I think we all felt that. We could not
be always crying and melancholy in the company of a little boy who does
not understand, and who wants so much to enjoy himself. For Franky's sake
we have to be cheerful. He is only nine. Only seven when--all
that--happened to papa."
"Franky must not go into one of George Boult's shops," Sir Francis said.
"When Franky is old enough to leave school--to begin to earn his
living--come and tell me, will you?"
Her face lit, till it was lovely as a sun-kissed flower. "Oh, I will! Oh,
thank you," she said; and then she did put out her hand, and for an
instant her fingers closed with all their soft strength round the hand he
gave her. "Oh, thank you!" she said again.
Then he opened the door for her, and she went.
Deleah, when she had sent off the cheque, whose receipt must have
surprised him exceedingly, to her brother, felt herself to be almost
bursting with the desire to confide in some one the history of her visit
to the rich brewer. She longed to descant on his looks, to repeat his
words, above all to tell of the heavenly promise contained in that last
divine sentence concerning Franky. No one must be told; but Deleah was
over young to be burdened with a secret; it made her restless. She could
not sit with Bessie, to hear her discuss the pattern of the sleeve she was
cutting out for a new Sunday frock. She ran down to the shop, for the
relief of being near her mother.
Mrs. Day glanced at her with welcoming eyes and turned at once again
attentively upon her customer, a good lady difficult to please in the
matter of candles.
"A tallow candle will do very well for the servants to gutter down, in the
kitchen," she was irritably declaring. "But neither my daughter nor me can
abide the smell of tallow; and your wax ones are a cruel price. Cruel,
Mrs. Day! I suppose you could not make a reduction by my taking two
Mrs. Day shook a patient head. "We really get almost nothing out of them,
as it is," she sadly protested. "These candles--called composite--ladies
are beginning to buy them for servants' use as well as their own. I sell
more composites now than either wax or tallow."
"You couldn't oblige me with one or two to try?--Oh, good afternoon, Miss
Day. So you are not above coming into the shop sometimes, to bear your
"Above it!" said Deleah; and because she had to be as sweet as sugar to
her mother's customers, she smiled upon Mrs. Potter, who turned from the
counter to engage her in talk.
"What for you, my dear?" Mrs. Day's next customer was a very shabby, very
small boy, his grimy, eager face appearing just above the counter.
"A ha'p'r' o' acids, like th' last." He held up the coin in his fist to
assure her of the good faith of the transaction.
"You give me more 'n that, last time, for a ha'p'ny. You ha'n't weighed
'em," the customer grumbled.
"Lucky for you I have not! Here! Take your ha'penny and be off."
Many customers of that unremunerative order had the widow. When the ragged
little ones happened to be about the age of Franky they were sure of
bouncing weight, and of getting their money returned. She smiled upon the
scaramouch now, who was watched from the door by half a dozen
confederates. The ha'penny was common property apparently, for each was
presently clamouring for his share.
These screws of sweets and quarter pounds of broken biscuits given to the
children of the very poor afforded her the only pleasure Mrs. Day got out
of her long hours behind the grocery counter. For, in spite of the greed
and selfishness of human nature, perhaps the most keenly felt deprivations
of the one who has been rich and now is poor is the inability to put the
hand lightly in the pocket, and with no thought if it can be afforded or
no, to give to those who ask.
While Mrs. Day had been attending to her own customers with one ear, she
had been hearing with the other a discussion going on at the opposite
corner as to the price and the quality of the butter.
"Ours is from the best dairy," young--very young!--Mr. Pretty was assuring
the poor, respectable woman who was hanging back from putting his
assertion to the test. "Fresh in, every day, mum. Like to put a bit on
your tongue to try it?"
The woman did so, tasting the morsel with an anxious look. "But I can't
afford to give you one-and-two the pound, if I can buy it a penny less,
only a little way down the street."
"You don't get butter there like this, ma'am;" and young Mr. Pretty, who
should have been Master Pretty surely, by rights, conveyed a piece of
butter to his own tongue, and tasted it loudly, looking very wise.
"'Best quality, one and a penny.' I see it ticketed up as I come by
Coman's." She turned round to the mistress of the shop. "I have always
dealt along of you for butter, ma'am," she said. "I haven't no wish to
leave you, but where I buy my butter--stand to reason I must buy the rest
of my grosheries."
"If Coman is down to that; you shall have it for the same sum;" Mrs. Day
promised. Her butter had already been "dropped" twice before, that day, in
order to keep pace with the passion for underselling of the new grocer,
who had, for the undoing of the widow and the orphan, opened a shop lower
down the street. Our poor retailer was selling her sugars, too, for less
than she gave for them.
"You must do so for a time," George Boult had informed her. "Coman can't
go on like this for ever. He'll get tired of the game soon--if I know
anything of trade and tradesmen--then you can stick it on to your goods
While the subject of the butter was being debated, the child Franky came
in from afternoon school. He was day-boarder at a cheap academy to which
other small tradesmen's sons were sent--a school very inferior to that to
which Bernard had gone. Companionship with rough, common children had not
improved the manners of Franky, nor his habit of speech. He dashed in,
with no thought of the deference due to customers, pushed out of his way
the lady just deciding to let Mrs. Day try to procure in the town a candle
more to her taste, rushed round the counter to his mother.
"C'n I go in to tea with Willy Spratt? Willy Spratt's ma says I may go to
tea with 'm. I wish to, very much. C'n I go?"
"No, my dear. We like you to have tea with us. We can't spare you."
"C'n I go, ma? C'n I go? Willy Spratt's waitin' outside."
Willy Spratt was the son of the cutler and his wife, across the way. Very
good customers of Mrs. Day, very good people; but--
"You haven't spoken to Mrs. Potter, Franky," Deleah said to divert the
child's mind. "You know Mrs. Potter, sir. Where are your manners?"
"Quite 'ell, I thank ye," said Franky without a glance in the direction of
the good lady in question, who had not the intention to inquire for his
health. "C'n I go, ma? Willy's waitin' outside; and c'n I go?"
"Oh go!" his poor mother said. "Go! But, Franky dear, _don't_ pull your
cap in that hideous fashion over your eyes."
But Franky had ducked his head from beneath his mother's hand, dashed
round the counter, and was away to the society of the expectant Willy.
In an interregnum of peace between the going and coming of customers Mrs.
Day moaned to Deleah over the grievous subject of Franky's deterioration.
"He even brushes his hair, and wears his cap, in the fashion of that
dreadful Willy Spratt. Being so young he does not stand a chance. He must
grow into just a common little boy."
"Never, mama!" Deleah, the unfailing comforter, declared. "Why, Franky
looks like a creature of a different mould from Willy Spratt. Franky, with
that dear little nose of his, is distinctly aristocratic. Don't laugh! He
is indeed. You and he are, you know; and any one can see it."
"Nonsense, my dear," the mother said, but smiled and was comforted on that
score. "It is inevitable, I suppose," she went on, "that we fall into the
way of speech of those around us. But it vexes me. Have you noticed that
even Bessie habitually speaks of Mr. Gibbon now without the 'Mr.'?
'Gibbon' said this or 'Gibbon' did that. I don't like to mention it to
her, but it offends my ear."
"I wouldn't say anything," Deleah counselled. "We know that Bessie is--so
very easily upset."
"Poor Bessie!" the mother said. Both of them had a vision of Bessie
drumming her heels on the floor in the hysterics into which a few
thwarting words would throw her. "What about Bessie's love affairs?" Mrs.
Day presently asked. "I should be so thankful to see Bessie with a home of
her own. She would be so happy, married. But--?"
She paused questioningly upon the "but," knowing it to be a very large
"I don't think Reggie means anything, mama."
"No," acquiesced Mrs. Day, sadly shaking her head. "I can't think how
Bessie can be so blind. Yet, if it were otherwise, what an escape out of
Bridge Street it would be for her."
Deleah was silent.
"Or for you?"
Deleah laughed with her colour high: "I would not marry Reggie Forcus if
he were stuffed with gold, mama."
Mrs. Day turned away to wait upon the untidy little servant girl from over
the way whose family had suddenly "run out of vinegar."
Her eyes had been sharp enough to see on which of her daughters' faces it
was that Reginald Forcus's gaze dwelt; she had divined the attraction
which drew the pleasure-loving, much sought young man to sit patiently for
hours in the evening, watching the girls at their work. She looked,
drearily, the vinegar being measured and the customer gone, between the
intervening biscuit tins and pickle jars into the street. She had begun to
cherish a dream that if not Bessie it might be her pretty Deleah who,
through Reggie, should find a way out.
"Supposing he really wanted to marry either of us you would not surely
like it, would you, mama?"
And Mrs. Day was obliged to admit with a kind of shame that she would.
"That silly, irresponsible, baby of a young man; without two ideas in his
But the mother knew if his head was empty, his pocket was not. He might
not be clever, or have much stability of character, but oh, how many
things which made life pleasant he possessed! She who had had them, and
had lost them, was not one to underrate the value of worldly goods.
"I suppose the end will be Bessie must marry Mr. Gibbon," she said, with
an effort at resignation and putting away from her unwillingly the golden
dream. "I should not blame Bessie," she went on judicially. "He is a good
and steady-going man, although so very quiet. Have you noticed, my dear,
how very quiet Mr. Gibbon has become?"
"I suppose it is love which makes him so quiet."
She supposed so, Deleah said. That he had been quieter still would have
pleased her better. She could have spared his fierce "I love you,"
whispered behind the tablecloth when he and she had stooped simultaneously
to pick up a knife which had fallen yesterday; his impassioned "Only look
at me!" fiercely breathed last night over the candlestick he put into her
hand. Both Bessie and her mother looked on the Honourable Charles as
Bessie's property. Deleah was frightened at, and ashamed of, these
"He is a commonplace, uninteresting looking man--but for something there
in his eyes. I don't know if you have noticed what I mean, Deleah?--Yet he
will make a safe husband, with no thought in his head but for Bessie; and
I suppose we must make up our minds to the sacrifice."
What Is It Now?
"Any message for your son, ma'am?" Mr. Gibbon inquired one night at
supper-time of the widow, and announced that business called him to
Ingleby on the next morning.
He did not add that he went with special instructions to inquire into
complaints again made of Bernard Day by the manager of the branch shop,
and to bring back a report on which George Boult could act.
"The boy will have to be removed from Ingleby," the draper said. "I want
to know if I am justified in discharging him on the spot, or whether I may
risk giving him another chance."
Mr. Boult had stayed his hand from dealing summarily with the young man,
as it had been his instinct to do. After all, he was William Day's son;
the son of the one friend whom, in all his life, he had made. The son of
the widow of Bridge Street, also; and he, George Boult, had been the
arbiter of her destiny, of the destiny of her children, and was proud of
the fact. The result had not been altogether satisfactory. No amount of
teaching or of bullying would ever make a business woman of the mother;
but then he knew that he had enjoyed the teaching and bullying. He felt
a glow of satisfaction, when he read her name in the small white letters
on a black ground above the shop door, "Lydia Day, licensed to sell tobacco
and snuff," and remembered it was he who had caused that legend to be
written there. It pleased him to recall the handsome woman in her silks
and laces, who had extended a patronising hand to him, now and again, on
those Sunday afternoons he had spent with her husband--the haughty-looking,
dark-skinned, dark-eyed beauty, as he conjured her to his mind's eye--and
then to enter the gloomy little shop, and to see this same woman--was it
in truth the same?--her black gown covered by a large white, bibbed apron,
white sleeves to her elbows, standing behind the counter, to weigh treacle
into a customer's jar, or to descant on the merits of various scrubbing
"My doing," George Boult said to himself, and was pleased.
His mother had many messages for Bernard, of course. A parcel of a couple
of shirts for him too, which she and the girls had made for him, stitching
busily together after the day's work was done. He was to write oftener. He
was to send her his socks to mend. To take long walks into the country;
and not by any means to be tempted to spend his evenings at the horrid
hotel which Mr. Boult had complained to his mother he frequented.
In the morning a little parcel was put into the boarder's hand, with the
request that he would give it to Bernard. It contained a sovereign the
poor woman, who had not a penny to spare, had taken from a sum due to meet
a certain account, that day. The boy's salary was so very, very small; the
wholesale house must wait for payment.
When Deleah arrived home from her school on the afternoon of that day, she
found the shop in charge of Mr. Pretty alone, a state of things never
permitted except at meal-times. Deleah went into the house and ran
upstairs with a foreboding mind. Reaching the dark landing upon which the
sitting-room opened, her heart sank within her at the sound of loud
weeping proceeding from that room. Her mother was dying, or dead, bemoaned
by Bessie, she decided, her thoughts leaping to the worst that could
It was a relief to her, therefore, to see Mrs. Day seated in her
accustomed chair, grey and stricken of face, but alive, and as she
maintained an upright position, presumably well. The mother was looking
straight before her with blindly staring eyes, paying no heed to Bessie,
stretched upon the sofa, uttering howl upon howl.
"What is it now?" Deleah asked, standing in the doorway as if struck
there. "Tell me quickly what it is." Her mind flew afield in search of
awful possibilities. "Is Bernard dead?" she asked.
"Oh, I wish he were! I wish he were!" Bessie cried, and flung herself into
a sitting position. "I wish he were. Bernard is worse, far worse than
dead. Bernard has enlisted for a soldier!"
Deleah shut the door and came forward into the room. "Is that all?" she
asked. Her poor little face was white, her eyes wild with fear. That
Bernard was in prison had been what she dreaded to hear. "Oh, mama, if
that is all, it is not so terrible."
Then there came a knock at the door and Charles Gibbon came in. Deleah
turned upon him: "You should not have told them; you should have told me,"
she reproached him.
"I don't think so," he said bluntly. "Why should you bear the brunt of
Mrs. Day was incapable of speech, her poor lips shaking, the hands
twitching which lay helpless on her lap.
Bessie looked at her. "Poor mama! Poor mama!" she moaned. "This will kill
mama! The disgrace will kill her!"
"Hush!" said the Honourable Charles, and turned upon her, shocking her
into silence. "You should have more control over yourself, Miss Bessie.
Hysterics never helped any one in the world, yet."
"Hysterics!" repeated Bessie, but was so astonished that she ceased to
"Mrs. Day," the boarder went on, "I told you the news about your son a
little abruptly perhaps, but I did not consider I was telling you bad
news. Many"--he was going to say "better men" but changed it into--"many
better off than he have done the same thing, and it has been the making of
them. I tell you straight, under all the circumstances, I think he has
done the best thing he could."
"I must buy him off, of course," Mrs. Day said, paying no heed. "Do you
know how to set about it, Mr. Gibbon; and what it costs?"
If Mr. Gibbon knew he did not say.
"To think of Bernard being a common soldier--a private!" Bessie began
again, and shook once more with sobs. "If he comes here, Deleah, do you
think he will expect us to walk out with him? We can never be seen with
Bernard again--never! Never! Never!"
She had quarrelled continually with Bernard, but she had been fond of him,
and proud of his good looks. Poor Bessie's grief was selfishly shown, but
it was genuine grief all the same.
"Discipline will be the best thing in the world for him," the boarder
promised. "A friend of mine who also went to the b---- who also enlisted,
for certain reasons, is an officer now."
"Bernard will have no luck," Bessie declared. "No luck ever comes our
"There's no good waiting for luck, Miss Bessie--"
"Will Mr. Boult buy him off?" the widow interrupted. No argument weighed
with her. She listened to no attempt at comfort. "I must go to Mr. Boult
at once, and ask him to do it."
"If you take my advice, you won't, ma'am. If you ask him ever so, he
"I will beg him, on my knees," the poor lady said.
Deleah followed Gibbon to the landing. "Is there anything you are keeping
back?" she whispered to him. "You can tell me. I am not Bessie."
"The boy's been a fool--but there's nothing that can't be hushed up."
Her eyes full of fear clung to his face; she was determined to hear the
worst. "You must tell me," she persisted.
"A couple of bills were paid over the counter; only for small amounts.
Your brother did not--did not--"
"You mean he took the money for himself?"
How white her face was! The sound of Bessie's sighs and moans came from
the sitting-room. Deleah opened another door on the landing. It was that
of her mother's bedroom, but she cared nothing for that. With a hand on
the boarder's arm she led him in there, and shut the door.
"Bernard stole the money?" she whispered. She had no thought of herself,
or of who it was she held by the arm, had forgotten that he loved her. To
know the worst, and to know it at once, so that in some way her mother
might be spared the knowledge, was what she wanted.
She had no pity on herself, but he had pity for her--abounding,
overwhelming pity; the brave little white-faced girl, who did not moan,
nor fling herself about, nor talk nonsense; who had courage, who faced
"Your brother gave the receipts all right," he said slowly, "but he
omitted to enter the accounts as paid in the ledger."
"And the money? What did he do with the money?"
"The money is all right. The firm loses nothing."
"How do you mean? Tell me."
"The money was found in his room."
"Who found it?"
"I found it. It was only for a small amount."
"And paid it in? So that they lose nothing? So that they all know that
Bernard had only been careless? That he was not a thief?"
"It's all right," he assured her. "There's nothing for you to worry
"You are sure you are keeping nothing back? You would not deceive me?
There is nothing more?"
Gibbon hesitated; he was not a man who told lies; and there was something
more. "It seems he made debts--debts that out of his salary it was
impossible for your brother to pay."
"But he did pay them."
"He did? Then--?"
"You see, Miss Deleah, they're wishful to know where he got the money from
to pay with."
She looked at him with knit brows anxiously for a minute, then her face
cleared and a glad light was in her eyes. "Why, I can tell them!" she
said, "I sent him the money to pay the debts."
"It was fifty pounds--about. _You_ sent it?"
"Oh, the money was not mine. It was Sir Francis Forcus's money. I asked
him for it. You can tell them I sent it, Mr. Gibbon; but tell them no
more. Sir Francis wished it to be a secret between him and me."
"Oh!" Gibbon said, and roughly shook her hand from his arm.
"You don't believe me?"
"I believe you fast enough; oh, yes."
"Then why are you angry?"
"You might have come to me. Why didn't you come to me?"
"Oh, I don't know," Deleah said. The several reasons she could have given
it seemed kinder to withhold.
He pounced upon her, his eyes blazing. "I don't like these '_secrets_'
between a man and a girl."
Deleah drew back with a little offence. "If you knew at all what Sir
Francis is like you would not say such a thing as that, Mr. Gibbon."
"What is he like?"
"Infinitely--infinitely above everything that is not kind and
"He is just like any other man, except that he has more money."
Deleah put on her little air of dignity. "I thank you for telling me
everything about my brother," she said. "I am so relieved that there was
nothing worse to hear."
He watched her as she walked across the gloomy little square of landing
and entered the other room. When she held her small head so poised on its
long graceful throat, when the corners of her lips were ever so little
turned down, the small rounded chin turned up, and the wonderful black
eyelashes swept her cheeks he was afraid of her, little bit of a girl of
less than half his age as she was; a girl who had been a child but two
years ago, when he had come to the house. A girl whose lips as far as he
had ever heard had never spoken one ungentle word; a girl who had pity on
drowning flies, and carefully turned away her foot from the abject worm.
But then he was always trembling before her, either with love or fear.
The impulse to tell her that the purse-proud brewer was not the only man
who had done the wretched brother a service for her sake possessed him.
The few pounds he had put, in order that he might find them there, in
Bernard's room, had been infinitely more to him than the fifty pounds to
Sir Francis Forcus. And he was one who saved his money anxiously for the
end he had in view. Would she call him "kind and generous and noble" if he
told her? He more than doubted it.
"We can't possibly walk about with Bernard in the dress of a private
soldier," Bessie was saying when Deleah returned to the sitting-room. "We
have come down, mama, I know, but we have not come down so low as that;
and Bernard can't expect it of us."
"I shall buy him off, if I have to sell the clothes off my back," Mrs. Day
said, oblivious of the fact that her wardrobe in the market might perhaps
have fetched the sum of thirty shillings.
"I would not be in too great a hurry, mama."
"You think nothing about the sufferings of your poor brother, Deleah. My
"I do think of him. I think he will be very angry if this is done at once.
You must wait until he has had time to get sick of it."
"As soon as the shop is closed I shall go to Mr. Boult and beg of him to
help me to buy him off," Mrs. Day persisted.
She rose up stiffly from her chair and stood beside it, her hand grasping
its back, waiting for the strength to come to her to take up the burthen
of business again. Ah, if only she had leisure for grieving, if she might
lie on the sofa and cry, as Bessie was doing, what a luxury it would have
The assistant had been left to "get up" an order for her most important
customer in her absence. He had put the wrong sugars into parcels, and the
wrong tea. In reaching the tin of "foy grass" from the top shelf, he had
knocked down and broken a bottle of piccalilli, catching its contents in
the crystallised sugar drawer. Mrs. Day was very gentle with him, who was
younger even than poor Bernard.
The Dangerous Scrooge
Mrs. Day was spared the errand to Mr. George Boult on which she had been
bent, for that gentleman, before the time for putting up shutters was
reached, having had an interview with his Manchester man, sought the widow
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