Mrs. Day's Daughters
Mary E. Mann
Part 4 out of 6
in her shop.
Since having been made a magistrate, it was to be observed that certain
changes had taken place in the appearance and the attire of the successful
draper. He affected now the light-coloured tweed suit of the country
gentlemen, rather than the black decorous garments of trade. A deerstalker
replaced the tall hat to which his head was accustomed, and he wore it, as
was the fashion among the younger generation at that period, ever so
little on one side. His short beard was trimmed to a point, his moustache
turned upwards at the ends, on his hands were gloves of tawny-coloured
leather. Altogether he now presented a figure which, in spite of the undue
protuberance of stomach, and the shortness and thickness of neck, he had
the satisfaction of knowing to be strangely rejuvenated and quite
"Business not very lively to-day, ma'am?" he said in his quick, hard way,
looking round upon the empty shop.
It was about everybody's tea-time. A slack hour, Mrs. Day reminded him.
"Coman's was full, as I came by," he told her. "He's got a sugar in his
window at three-ha'pence; one great placard quoting primest butter at
elevenpence; another setting forth that a quarter pound of tea would be
given away with every half-crown spent in the shop."
Mrs. Day sighed despondently. "We can't cope with him," she said. "There
is no good in trying."
"What do you intend to do then? Do you suppose families will buy their
groshery" (he was always pronouncing it "groshery") "of you when they can
buy it cheaper, a few shops farther down? Why should they, ma'am, come to
think of it?"
"They won't, of course," Mrs. Day acquiesced, "but we may as well be
ruined through lack of custom as through selling our goods for less than
we give for them."
"I'll tell you what will ruin you," he said brusquely. "And that is lack
of spunk." He derived a pleasure from the belief, apparently; he announced
it with so much gusto. "In business you must not be a coward, ma'am. You
must go for the man that's 'underselling' you, stand up to him, pay him
out of his own coin."
Poor Mrs. Day heard him with a fainting spirit, dreary-eyed. What did she
care for paying out Coman, down the street! Her heart was full of Bernard.
"Now look here, ma'am; _re_-dress your window. Where's your young man?
Where's Pretty?" Pretty, who cordially loathed George Boult, reluctantly
appeared. "Look here, young man; to-night, when you've up-shuttered, clear
out half your window. Shove it full of the best sugar you've got. Put a
card on it--one that'll shout at 'em as they pass. Letters that long, do
you see, and black--_black_. 'Our three-ha'penny sugar. Comparisons
invited.' Just that. See? And, look here again, ma'am, stick a ha'penny,
or a penny a pound, on to your other goods, to make up. Understand?"
Mrs. Day faintly admitted that she understood.
"Oh, these things are easy enough to manage, get the hang of 'em. I don't
object to this underselling on Coman's part. A little conflict in trade
wakes interest, stirs us all up, customers and salesmen. We're too much
inclined in Brockenham to go to sleep. We must wake up, Mrs. Day. That's
Then, with hardly a pause, and with no change of tone, he went on to the
subject so near to her heart. "I have come in to speak to you, ma'am,
about this boy of yours. He has conducted himself towards me with the
basest ingratitude--but that we need not refer to, that don't matter,
although I must say, considering what I have done for you all--"
Mrs. Day glanced towards Mr. Pretty, pricking his ears, and dismissed him
to his task of grinding coffee in the cellar.
"Mr. Boult, if you would spare me!" she pleaded with a pitiful kind of
dignity. "We owe you a great deal, I know; not one of us is ungrateful.
But I beg you to be so considerate as to spare me complaints of my son."
"I don't forget you are his mother, ma'am. I don't forget it for a moment.
"What Bernard has done is the cause of the greatest grief to me--grief I
do not really know how to support. I was coming to see you, Mr. Boult.
Coming to ask you--to beg of you--"
He lifted his square-looking hand, clad in the new orange-coloured glove,
to silence her. "Don't ask it," he said. "I know what you want me to do.
Gibbon prepared me. You wish me to buy off this ungain-doing son. Not a
penny of my money shall go to do it. Not a penny!"
He brought the hand down smartly upon the counter, to emphasize the words.
Mrs. Day, gazing sad-eyed at him, said nothing.
"The boy has behaved like an ill-conditioned, ignorant cub--Well! I'll
spare you. We know how he's behaved. Let him pay for it. He'll get a
sickener, I don't doubt. Serve him right. Serve him well right."
"But, Mr. Boult--he is my son."
"What difference does that make, my dear lady? Every ungain-doing boy is
some mother's son."
"If Bernard could have one more chance!"
"He's got it. By buying him off you are trying to do away with his chance.
The boy's been brought up too soft. Give him hardships; it's the best
physic for him."
"Think of the forced companionship with those he must associate with!"
"When he could pick his companions he chose the worst he could find. He's
amongst a rougher crew now, but a far and away better one for him."
The tears were running down Mrs. Day's cheeks. She wiped them away
furtively with her hand, but he saw them. Saw, and resented them with the
impatient sense of injury a woman's tears arouse in that order of man. He
turned his back upon her, and began fingering the lemons displayed in a
box on the other counter.
"Think over what I've said, ma'am. Words of wisdom you've heard, and every
one of 'em for your good. And see that your young man carries out my
suggestion for the window to-morrow, will you? Miss Bessie upstairs?"
Mrs. Day, staring into the street through her tears, said she believed her
daughter was in the sitting-room.
"I'll just run up and pay my respects to Miss Bessie, then."
He had adopted the habit, of late, of going up to pay his respects in that
quarter after every business interview in the shop. Bessie pretended to
look upon the predilection for her society as presumption on George
"A man as old as my own father!" she often said to Emily, with whom she
had many confidences.
"All the more reason for him to come fascinatin' round you," Emily
How this ill-favoured, more than middle-aged spinster came to be an
authority on affairs of the heart she would have found it difficult to
explain; but she had ever an opinion to offer on such matters, and she
gave it with a weightiness and a conclusiveness which rendered it final.
"It's when they gets past the time that females is likely to cast an eye
to them that they're dangerous--so madly are they then overcome with
love," she asserted.
"I don't think old Scrooge will ever be dangerous," Bessie regretfully
demurred. She was much interested. "What do you mean by 'dangerous,'
Emily would not descend to detail. She nodded a wise head. "You look out!"
she counselled. "And remember, Miss Bessie, I'm always at hand when he's
The idea that the elderly draper might suddenly become riotous, gave
always a zest to the _tete-a-tete_ which otherwise it might have lacked.
She was, truth to tell, a little disappointed to find him after each visit
no more alarming than he had been before. She even tried to pique him into
an exhibition of the "dangerous" symptom, treating him with the caprice
and the disdain she dared not have shown but for Emily's repeated
assurance she could play as she liked with him and he would never take
offence. The mother, Deleah, even little Franky, had to mind their "P's
and Q's" with the man who, as he himself had phrased it, "stood at the
back of them." Bessie was on a different plane, she told herself, and
could do as she liked.
"I've been bullying your mother about that ill-doing brother of yours," he
said. "I thought I'd better say a word or two to you on the same subject."
"Thank you, Mr. Boult. You have forgotten to take off your hat."
He took it off with reluctance, because it concealed the bald top of his
head, and without being asked to do so, seated himself in the chair
Every man carries about with him his ideal of what a woman should look
like, although he probably changes it a good many times before he arrives
at the age, in Emily's opinion, dangerous for a lover. At the mature age
of fifty-five, George Boult's ideal happened to be realised by Bessie Day.
Fair-skinned she was, and very plump. Her waist was small, exceedingly, as
was in accordance with the taste of that day, but her hips and bust were
large; there was a promise of a double chin to come later. The necklace of
Venus showed alluringly in her full young throat, and in the knuckles of
her small white hands were dimples.
"Is that how you pass your days?" George Boult asked her, pointing to the
book she still held in her hands.
"Reading? A part of my day. A very good way, too, to pass it. Don't you
"I call it a sinful way. A sinful waste of time."
"Oh, Mr. Boult! But it is only stupid, uncultured people who don't read."
"I read my newspaper every day," he said, as if she had accused him. "It
is all that business people have time for."
"I'm so glad I'm not a business person, then."
"You never will be! One of the idle ones of the earth, Miss Bessie. Those
that toil not neither do they spin."
"A lily of the field," Bessie reminded him.
"I have told you before, a fine, healthy young woman like you has no right
to be sitting over the fire in idleness."
"What do you suggest I should do?"
"Go down and wait in the shop. Why not? If you would do so your mother
could get rid of Pretty."
Bessie turned on him a face flushed with anger: "I will never wait in the
shop," she said. "I hate the shop. I hate all shops, except to spend money
"Ah, you'd do that, I don't doubt," he said, with a certain bitterness. He
utterly condemned the fat, lazy girl. He would have liked to see her down
on her knees scrubbing the boards. He would have enjoyed the chance to
punish her for her frivolity, the impertinence, the nonsense, that yet in
some unaccountable way attracted him. He looked angrily at her, and Bessie
watched him. Perhaps he was going to show the "dangerousness" incident to
his time of life at last.
"As you're all going on now, I'm afraid you won't have much money to
spend," he contented himself with saying; and then he began on the other
subject. "And what about this wretched boy?"
"I'll thank you not to call him a wretched boy to me, Mr. Boult."
"What else is he? He is a wretched boy."
"He is my brother."
"Yah, yah!" said Mr. Boult, unable to find articulate expression for his
contempt. "More's the pity for you! Your mother's running her head at
buying the young ass off. I've told her I would not give her a farthing
for any such purpose."
"Did she ask you for a farthing?"
"All I ever intend to do for Master Bernard I have done. I give you all
notice. If you choose to get him home here, to dangle about, eating you
women out of house and home, don't look to me to help you."
"Mr. Boult, we are unfortunate, but we aren't quite friendless."
"I'm glad to hear it. It's news."
"Let me tell you that there are others--"
"Pity they didn't come forward sooner!"
In his soul he believed that no family had ever possessed such a guide,
philosopher and friend as he had been to them. For much he would not have
credited the suggestion that he must share the honour of having befriended
them with another.
"If you've got another friend like me up your sleeve you'd best bring him
forward, and let him put a little more money into the business. That's
what's wanted, Miss Bessie."
He got up from his chair and advanced a step upon her: "Who are these
mighty friends then? Out with them."
"Suppose I don't choose to tell you?"
"I should expect you've got your reasons. I will bid you good-afternoon,
Miss Bessie." He thrust out his hand to her.
"What is that for?" Bessie inquired, looking with disdainful curiosity
upon the yellow dogskin. "You shouldn't shake hands with a lady with your
glove on, Mr. Boult."
At that he drew back the hand, put on his hat, and walked away.
"Good-afternoon, Mr. Boult."
"Yah! Yah!" Mr. Boult responded from the landing.
And as he went down the dark staircase and out at the private door he said
to himself some words the reverse of complimentary to Miss Bessie.
When Beauty Calls
"Oh, Reggie!" Deleah said in a tone of supreme annoyance.
She regarded the young man walking to meet her--his rather dandified but
sufficiently handsome figure resplendent in the latest and best cut of
coat, waistcoat and hat, the newest thing in neckties about his throat,
the ropiest arrangement of gold chain looped across his person--with a
severe expression of disapproval on her face.
"Now, what are you doing here?" she demanded of him as he turned and
walked by her side. "Isn't it too bad of you, Reggie! I told you that Miss
Chaplin had heard of your 'hanging about' for me, as she called it; and
that I had promised it should not occur again. I have gone a longer way
home, through far less pleasant streets, to escape you--yet here you are,
waylaying me again."
"Don't be angry with me, dear; I can't help it," the young man pleaded.
"Can't help it!" she repeated, softly scornful. "You'll get me dismissed
from the school. That will be our next misfortune."
"I wish the old woman would dismiss you. I wish she'd turn you out, so
that you hadn't a penny except what I could give you; or anywhere to go
except to come to me."
"How many times have I asked you not to say that sort of thing?"
"But, hang it all, why shouldn't I? A man knows his own mind at my age, I
"You thought you knew it a year ago when all the town was talking of you
and Harriet Hart. You thought you knew it two--or was it three years
before that?--when you said you were in love with Bessie."
"Parcel of silly rot, Deleah! They tell you anything, my dear. Don't you
believe it. I've never been in love--not head over ears, as I am now--in
all my life before. You may believe it."
"I don't wish to believe it. Let us forget it. Do, Reggie!"
"No; let's have it out. You know what I mean. I mean I want you to marry
"I can tell you there's no nonsense about it. It's downright, deadly
earnest. And I'll tell you another thing, Deleah, since you have dragged
in Bessie: that you've no need to be jealous of her--"
"Jealous! Really, Reggie! Oh, what a conceited young man!"
"Hold on. I'll come to that presently. I'm telling you that even when I
seemed sweet on Bessie, years ago, I used to think about you. I used to
think you were the prettiest little girl I'd ever set eyes on. And so you
were; I used to think what a beauty you'd be; and you are. There's no one
among the girls I've seen to touch you. You top the lot. You needn't
laugh, dear. I mean it."
"But if you do--I'm much obliged to you--but it makes no difference,
"And as to my being conceited--you're always hinting I'm conceited--I'm no
more so than any young man would be in my place, with a lot of girls
trying to catch him--Ah, there you go! Don't jump on me, Deleah. You know
what I mean. Lots of girls are looking out to get married, and I've got
money, and I've got a name--"
"On the Brewers' carts. 'Forcus and Sons; Brewers.'"
"It's a name I ain't ashamed of, and one that's pretty well known, at any
"And my name, or my mother's name, is over a shop-doorway, 'licensed to
sell tobacco and snuff'; and it's a name that we can't be proud of,
"But I'll put up with it, Deleah. I've made up my mind, and I'll go
through with it. The name wouldn't be yours any longer, dear, when you'd
taken mine; and as for the grocer's shop--"
"Why, here it is!" Deleah said. "And so good-bye, Reggie."
"I was coming in with you."
"You can't unless I ask you."
"And you're not going to? You're not very polite or kind to me, Deleah,
upon my word!"
"Indeed, I am very, very kind, Reggie. And that you'll say when you are
wiser. And so, good-bye. Run away and get wiser, Reggie."
"Deleah, something must be done for Bernard," Mrs. Day said with
desperation in her tone. She had called the girl into her bedroom to hold
conference away from the excitable Bessie. "Something I must do for my
poor boy, or I feel that I shall go out of my senses. You must help me to
do something, Deleah. Look at this."
From her pocket she drew forth a letter received that morning from the
unhappy son. Deleah read it with a painful mingling of pity and contempt.
It was indeed an afflicting letter for any mother to receive; and Mrs. Day
had too long been fed on the bread of affliction.
"You see, he begs of me to do something--to buy him off."
"Yes. I think his letter is abject."
"Don't, dear! Your blaming him makes it worse for me to bear, not better.
Somehow this thing must be done--_somehow_, if I am to know any peace, to
be able to go on. Deleah, Reggie Forcus would do anything for you. Ask
Reggie Forcus to do this."
"Oh, mama! No!"
"My account is overdrawn at the Bank. I dare not ask for a further amount.
What would these few pounds be to him? He spends as much on a dinner for a
few men at the Royal."
"I can't ask him. Can't you see I must not?"
"I see what you mean. But oh, Deleah, we seem to have come to the bottom
of things. What to us, in the very depths, are all those rules and
niceties that happier people observe? You see what my boy says? He is 'in
hell.' He says it in so many words. My boy! My Bernard!"
With that Mrs. Day flung her arms upon the table by which she was sitting,
and her head upon her arms, and gave way to bitter weeping: "My boy! My
boy! My poor dear, precious Bernard!" she sobbed despairingly.
The sight made Deleah almost desperate: "I can't do what you ask. I can't
possibly ask Reggie. But--there is another person--"
She stopped there, saying to herself, "The third time The third time! I
can't ask him for money the third time!"
"Bernard! My Bernard!" cried the mother, her face hidden on her arms.
"Mama, pray do not cry so dreadfully--you break my heart. I can't do what
you ask, but I will do what I can," Deleah promised.
Sir Francis Makes A Call
The letter in which Deleah, in her most careful handwriting and in formal
language, set forth her prayer that for her mother's sake Sir Francis
Forcus, who had already shown her family such generous kindness, should
buy off her brother Bernard; he, having left Mr. George Boult's shop at
Ingleby, and now enlisted in such and such a regiment--was addressed to
that gentleman at his private residence, The Court, Cashelthorpe.
He read the letter among others as he ate his breakfast, gave a shrug and
a snort of impatience, and put it aside on a little heap of those which
Before starting for town he singled it out from the rest and read it
again. Then, standing up, the letter still in his hand, he gave vent to
his feelings on the subject, for the enlightenment of his sister.
"They've put that pretty child on to me again," he said. "This is from
that little Day girl you fell in love with, last year, in the Assembly
Rooms, Ada." He tossed the letter into her lap.
"That sweetly pretty little thing at the concert?" She read the letter.
"What shall you do?" she asked.
"Oh, Francis! Why?"
"Because the boy is a ne'er-do-well. I have heard of him before. He is
safest where he is."
"She'll think it so unkind, poor child."
"It can't be helped."
"Would it cost much to buy him off?"
"It isn't the money."
"No. Nor yet, altogether, the principle."
"It would be kind and good-natured to do what the poor little thing asks."
"Yes. But for the sake of seeming good-natured I'm not going to be made a
"You'll simply write back, then, that you won't do it?" She laughed a
little, looking across at him as he stood up, tall and solemn and
handsome, with his back to the fire. "To do that will cost you more than
just enclosing the money."
"That is not the question, Ada. I shall write, or"--he paused a minute,
putting his lips together as his habit was when making up his mind to a
course which did not altogether please him--"I'll go and see her," he
"That will be kinder," the sister said. To be kind was Ada Forcus's
religion; it is possible she could not have professed a better one, or one
more likely to benefit mankind.
"They live at the shop, I suppose?" he asked.
"Over the shop, poor things. I am so very sorry for that poor Mrs. Day."
"You deal with her, don't you? You do what you can?"
"I tell them to get _some_ things there every week."
"And they do?"
"You know how difficult servants are. Mrs. Twiss makes a grievance of it.
They won't drink the tea in the kitchen; the currants are not so good. She
always gets the matches there, and the blacking. Everything else Mrs.
Twiss finds so much better at Wolsey's--"
"And Wolsey, no doubt, gives her a percentage on her order. However--."
Sir Francis fulfilled his intention of calling to see Deleah on the
subject of her letter on the afternoon of that same day.
Miss Deleah was not home from school yet, he was informed by Emily,
answering the door. She would not most likelies be many minutes. Would he
walk in, and wait?
The gentleman, acquiescing, was shown up the steep staircase and across
the dark landing. Emily had no need to ask his name--there was not a soul
in Brockenham probably who did not know by sight the rich brewer. With a
feeling of proud satisfaction the old servant threw open the sitting-room
door and announced on a sounding note of triumph, "Sir Francis Forcus."
Emerging from the gloom of hall, staircase and landing his eyes were
almost dazzled by the unexpected brightness and pleasantness of the long
room, lit at the street end by the three deep-seated windows. Everywhere
were evidences of occupation by refined women. The street below was hot
and squalid and dusty, but the room with its shaded wide-open windows was
cool. In one of them Deleah's bird was singing, and the plants in bloom on
the wide seats beneath had been pushed on one side to make room for
Deleah's little pile of books. Bessie's workbox was open on the table. A
picture or two of no commercial value, but saved with the solid, handsome
furniture from the prosperous days of the family, hung on the panelled and
By the side of the rosewood workbox with its over-flowing contents of
muslin and ribbon to be used in the concoction of an afternoon apron which
she was engaged on, Miss Day was sitting. Near by, his hands on the raised
sash of Deleah's special window, leaning forward to look into the street,
her companion stood. It was not until Bessie had come forward to greet the
unexpected, astounding visitor, that Sir Francis, turning to look at the
other occupant of the room, recognised his brother.
Whatever surprise he may have felt he did not show.
"Hullo!" Reggie said, turning round, and looking a little foolish. He
raised a finger to his fair, smooth hair, in mock-respectful salutation.
"Oh, it's you!" Sir Francis said, and paid the young brother no further
The very opposite in manner to the ever-popular Reggie, with his easy
manners and his never-failing good temper, Sir Francis, cool, reserved,
spare of speech, and in uncongenial society, truth to tell, unconquerably
shy, was a difficult person with whom to make talk. He said a few
constrained words to Bessie, with whose presence on the scene he had not
reckoned any more than with that of his brother; and Bessie, struggling
valiantly to appear at ease with him, and failing utterly, answered them
according to her kind.
"Very warm, to-day."
Bessie was afraid he felt it so in this stuffy, airless street.
"But you are delightfully in the shade here."
Bessie, straightening her back and pouting her vivid lips, told how the
weather made her long for a garden, a river, and waving trees, or the
"Or anything you can't get," Sir Francis commented to himself, looking
with distaste at the plump, foolish, pink and white face of the young
woman with whom he had been entrapped into intercourse. "You have some
roses, I see," he said aloud.
"They are sent to me," smiled a conscious Bessie. She did not consider
herself to be lying. What was sent to Deleah she continued to persuade
herself was intended for her.
"I know whose money goes for that," Sir Francis inwardly ejaculated. He
glanced at his brother, hanging his foolish head from the window again.
"I'm glad I came, after all. I'll put a stop to this," he resolved.
"Your gardens at Cashelthorpe must be charming now, Sir Francis."
Sir Francis admitted without emotion that they were charming.
"That's why you're leaving them, and going off to Scotland next week,"
Reggie supposed, drawing in his head from the window.
"It must be delightful to travel," gushed Bessie, seizing on the topic.
She exacted a programme from him, punctuated by her "Delightful!
Delightful!" of the places he was intending to visit.
And so for a few minutes, Bessie struggling with all her poor wits to do
so, they kept up a painfully lagging conversation. And all the time the
poor girl was desperately supplying improbable, and impossible reasons to
account to herself for the bewildering fact of his visit; all the time Sir
Francis was wondering how quickly without incivility he could get away;
all the time Reggie, as he watched for the figure of Deleah coming down
the street, was muttering to himself, "He's on my track again, hang him!"
At the end of the difficult ten minutes Sir Francis rose: "Coming my way?"
he inquired of Reggie.
"Not just this minute, old man," said Reggie, who knew better.
"Mind you don't tumble downstairs," he called after his departing brother.
Sir Francis gazing stonily in his direction did not deign to thank him for
the not all unnecessary caution. Emily awaiting him in the little hall at
the bottom of the stairs, had set the outer door open to light the
distinguished visitor upon his way.
"Miss Deleah should be in by now, sir," she said as he passed out. Fain
would she have all Brockenham to see him issuing from that door, yet fain
would she have kept him there for Deleah.
"It is of no consequence, I will write," he said, and departed with a
sense of escape.
"Well!" Bessie breathed, as the door closed on the visitor. "Wasn't that
extraordinary! What on earth--?"
Her feelings would not allow her to finish the sentence. She looked the
rest at Reggie, eyes and mouth open, the fluster into which the visit had
thrown her still visibly palpitating in all her person.
"Oh, the dear old boy came to look after me," Reggie explained, calmly
indifferent. "I shall get it hot now."
"He won't like my being at home here, like this, you know," the ingenuous
"But, Reggie, you're your own master, aren't you?"
Reggie said he jolly well was, and leaned his head out of the window, to
look for Deleah again. He knew very well why she was so long in coming,
she had gone ever so far out of her way in order to escape from his
attendance on her. It was not very flattering to his _amour propre_, but
it piqued him, in his indolent, spoilt habit. Bessie would have run into
his arms, he knew right well, not away from them, and so would three or
four other pretty girls be knew. But he did not want Bessie or the others.
It was Deleah he wanted. And--Bessie was right there--he was his own
Sir Francis as he walked away was making plans to frustrate those resolves
for his own management of his affairs which Reggie was making in the
window overhead. He had turned aside quite easily the young man's foolish
bent in this direction, once before. It might be more difficult now, but
he would spare no effort to do it effectually again. He was not favourably
impressed by the young woman he had just left; her plump prettiness had
not appealed to him; nor the mauve-coloured ribbons streaming down her
back. As for her family history it was not only undesirable, it was
So, walking with his usually composed mien through the streets of his
native town, perhaps its best known and most imposing figure, but in a
ruffled and indignant frame of mind, he forgot all about Deleah Day and
his errand to her until he saw her come, hurrying along the pavement in
Of all the people in the world she least desired to meet Sir Francis
Forcus until he had answered the letter it had cost her so much to write.
Would he let her pass him? She redoubled her pace, and making him a shy
little bow, tried to hurry by, but with a word of apology he stopped her.
"I got your letter, Miss Day," he said; and then looking at her, at her
youth, her beauty, her helplessness, the shrinking grace of her figure,
the fear of him that was expressed in her down-dropped head and averted
gaze, the rich man's heart failed him; he found that he could not tell her
he would not grant her request. "I wanted to tell you I will do what you
ask," he found himself lamely substituting for the firm refusal he had
intended. "But at the same time you will forgive my saying I think you are
"You mean mama should not buy Reggie off?"
"I am sure she would be far wiser not to do so."
"Then I will tell mama what you say. Other people have told her so; but
coming from you it might carry more weight." Deleah, in her innocent way
was a flatterer, he perceived; but she did not gush like Bessie. He
thanked his lucky stars for that.
She stood before him, plainly longing to escape, her light figure almost
poised for flight. Overwhelmed she was by the consciousness of the
shabbiness of her school frock and worn gloves; pitilessly the sun shone
on them, bringing out the poorness of their quality, and all the defects
of long use and age. It shone on him almost blindingly it seemed to her;
so that to look at him, so fine, so grave, so grand, as he stood before
her hurt her eyes. They had met in one of the principal streets of the
town; the men who passed them looked such miserable creatures, she
thought, beside his tall figure. How had she the presumption to have
pestered him with her degrading troubles!
"Mama was in such sorrow about Bernard," she was impelled to excuse
herself. "Mama wished me to ask your brother, who knew Bernard very well;
but I thought it better not to trouble him. I thought it better, as you
had helped me before, to ask you to help again."
"It is better to come to me," he said with great gravity.
"Your brother is very generous," she went on saying in her nervousness
anything that came into her head. "He would have given us the money
without a thought as to whether it was right or wrong. I should have felt
we were taking advantage of him. It did not seem to me to be right to ask
He wondered as he heard her how she had come to be a Day; and then he too
found himself plunging into a subject he had not, a moment before,
intended to mention.
"I called to see you at your house, just now. I found my brother there.
May I ask if he is a frequent visitor?"
The small face which had been so clearly pale was suddenly like a scarlet
rose. "Just lately a very frequent visitor," she said; and, in spite of
her shyness, she lifted her head and looked him straight in the face.
"A young man who is idle can never understand that other people are busy,"
he said. "I am sure that you are all too much occupied to wish to have my
brother always hanging about."
Deleah looked at him in silence. She understood perfectly what he meant.
What was there for her to say?
"I shall try and waken him to the perception that he is trespassing on
valuable time, and making a bore of himself," he said; smiled to make his
words acceptable, raised his hat to go on his way; yet delayed for a
"In the matter of your brother, you understand, I will do what you ask."
"I shall persuade mama to give up her idea of buying him off."
"What is his regiment?" She told him, and that it was at Aldershot. A
couple of years ago it happened to have been quartered at Brockenham. "I
know several of the officers," Sir Francis remembered. "I could write to
Colonel Greene about your brother. If it did him no good it couldn't do
him any harm; and there is the chance that Greene would take an interest
Deleah said with an averted head that that would be very good of him; and
making him a grave little bow hurried away.
In For It!
"I shall keep out of his way for a day or two--put up at the Royal instead
of going home," Reggie had explained to Bessie in the quarter of an hour
he was _tete-a-tete_ with her before Deleah came in. "By the time he sees
me again he'll have forgotten all about finding me here."
"I suppose you don't see that all this fuss about being 'found' in our
house is not very complimentary to us?" Bessie said.
"Oh hang!" said Reggie. "How can I help it if he objects? You all know
very well you're good enough for me."
He was not a clever nor a tactful young man, although quite good-natured.
He did not intend to offend, and never understood why he sometimes did so.
Bessie was "touchy," as he often declared, but she bore no malice. So long
as she had the young man dangling around, so long as she could dress for
him, put on her long mauve ribbons for him, do up her hair for him in a
chignon whose dimensions should surpass those of any other chignon in
Brockenham, so long as Emily continued to make him the subject for her
winks and nods and innuendoes, she lived in her Paradise and was fairly
But by putting up at the Royal Reggie did not long evade the discussion he
foresaw might be unpleasant; for on the very next morning, before he had
arisen from his bed he received a message from his brother asking for his
presence at a certain hour at the Brewery.
"I'm in for it now," he said to himself when he got the message; but he
did not dream of disregarding it.
He presented himself, therefore, punctually enough, in the pleasant
private room which looked out upon the river flowing black and oily so far
beneath; where the portrait of the father of the two men hung above Sir
Francis's head as he stood upon the hearthrug.
"Oh, there you are, Reggie! Good-morning."
"Here I am. Sharp as a new pin, and bright as a button."
"I hope I have not upset any plans for the day by sending for you;
but--You have not been overworking yourself of late, have you?"
"Thank you, no," Reggie said, choosing to ignore the sarcasm, if any were
"You're looking very nice, and fit, I'm sure. That brown velvet coat is
the latest, I suppose? Looks a little as if you were thinking of giving up
Beer for the Arts, eh? I've been wondering if you'd like to travel for a
Reggie sat down and stared at his brother, with a perplexed vacuity of
eye. This was not at all what he had expected. He thought of Deleah in a
flash. If Deleah would marry him and go with him, the very thing!
"You haven't been about the world very much," the brother went on.
"Neither have I, you will say. But I can't be spared. You--perhaps--can.
We will try, at any rate, to carry on the business without you."
Reggie, accepting the remark in all seriousness, nodded a solemn head in
"You might even combine business with pleasure, which I am sure would meet
with your approval."
"When do you want me to go? I can't be ready for some little time."
"Why not? If you go at all I want you to go at once."
"What do you call at once?"
"Next week, at latest."
Reggie shook his head. He couldn't be sure of Deleah in that time. How
long would it take to get married, he wondered.
"No, thank you. I really don't care for it. I couldn't possibly get away
"There are the Widdimouth races next week, and I've booked several
engagements for the week after."
"The fact is I want you to get away for a time, Reggie. This place is all
very well if you've got a business or a profession to attend to, but
simply to idle away your time here isn't healthy."
"What's wrong with Brockenham?" Reggie asked, who had a great admiration
for his native town. "Any one been gossiping about me again?"
"No one has mentioned you to me. But Ada was hearing an interesting piece
of news about you, yesterday."
"Ada's as bad as the other old women."
"Nonsense. You had better go, Reggie. I mean it."
Reggie passed a ringed hand over his smooth, fair hair, felt his
moustache, opening his mouth beneath the caressing fingers as he did so.
"The engagements you mention are negligible ones?"
Reggie nodded, gazing at his brother, busy with the corners of the
moustache, making up his mind for a plunge. "Fact is," he got out, "I'm
thinking of settling down."
Sir Francis left his position on the hearthrug, walked across to the
table, to arrange more symmetrically some papers which lay there;
returning, took up his place on the hearth again. "Getting married, you
mean?" he asked.
Reggie nodded, still holding his mouth open, the more satisfactorily to
handle the moustache.
"My dear fellow, that intention need not deter you. You have held it so
often before. Go away for twelve months, at least. Get engaged, if you are
still so inclined, when you come home."
"Perhaps," amended Reggie artlessly, "if I were to put off going for a
month, or even a couple of months, we might get married, and she could go
"Who is the lady at the present moment, may I ask?"
"I expect you've formed a pretty good guess," said Reggie, bold as a lion.
"You saw me there yesterday."
"A daughter of Mrs. Day, at the grocer's shop; widow of----? But we
needn't go into that."
"It doesn't seem necessary. Her daughter."
"Well--!" said Sir Francis slowly. "You have given me one reason more, my
dear boy, and that a supreme one, for hastening your departure. Take my
advice--you will never regret it--and go to-morrow."
"No," Reggie said, and then both were silent.
When the elder again began, he had changed his easy, almost indifferent
tone for one firmer and less indulgent.
"What you propose is impossible," he said.
"I don't see it."
"Have you thought what you would be marrying? The grocer's shop, the
debts, the helpless mother, the disreputable private soldier of a brother
(he enlisted, I am told, to save himself from prison, as the father killed
himself for the same purpose). A charming family with which to ally
"I don't intend to marry the family. I should allow the mother--not a bad
sort at all. I'm fond of her--a hundred a year, to shut the shop up. I
"Nonsense! The idea is ridiculous; monstrous. Get married if you must, but
take a girl of your own position in life. Easy enough to find--"
"I don't care a hang about position!"
"Then, more fool you. But if you don't, at least marry a woman that has
honest blood in her veins--for your children's sake."
Reggie turned away his head sulkily. "The Days were good enough for me
before they fell into trouble," he said.
His brother lifted his head and squared his shoulders, standing up tall
and imposing before the empty grate. "William Day was never good enough
for me," he said.
"I don't see that a girl is to be made to suffer all her life because her
father was not good enough for you," Reggie said sulkily.
"Try not to be an ass, my dear fellow. You don't suppose you can be
allowed to do a mad thing like this without my telling you what I think of
it. You know, I have never had much opinion of your judgment--except,
perhaps, in the matter of horses; but in your admiration for this Miss Day
your taste is to my thinking astoundingly bad. I call her a commonplace,
almost vulgar young woman."
"She is pretentious, she is affected, she is gushing--what is that but to
be vulgar? She is not even pretty--"
"Not pretty!" Reggie cried, and started up from his chair. "Not pretty!
"Deleah! The young one?"
"I've been telling you so, all along, haven't I? Who did you think it
"It was the other, when we spoke of the Days before," Sir Francis reminded
him, but flatly, and his face had fallen.
Here was more serious matter. Not that flaunting extravagant queen, not
Bessie with her plump prettiness, her cheap wiles, her nets that were
spread in the sight of man; but Deleah, the dainty, charmingly pretty
child. The marriage would be none the less hideously undesirable on the
social side, and from the point of view of the family; but it would be
infinitely more difficult to stop. Sir Francis, in his widowed estate,
with twenty years more of experience on his head, was yet not so old but
that he could picture how deeply, how dangerously in love a young man of
his brother's age could imagine himself with Deleah Day.
Reggie was recalling attention to himself by a loud snort of contempt.
"I'm not very likely to have thought of Bessie when Deleah was on the
spot," he said.
"Except that the younger sister has a more attractive appearance, all the
objections remain the same in either case."
"The Days are down-pins, I admit," Reggie said dispassionately; "and the
father and brother were rotten; but no one'll think of those things when
they look at Deleah. I'm not afraid."
Sir Francis contemplated his young brother meditatively. "Let us know
precisely how we stand, Reggie. Are you actually engaged to this girl?"
"Oh, yes! I'm engaged to her, right enough."
"What does being 'engaged right enough' mean exactly?" There had been a
something indicating a want of confidence in Reggie's tone.
"There's no doubt about me. I'm running straight."
"But the girl? What has she to say to it?"
"The fact is, she's afraid of Bessie. She can't get over it that I was
once considered to be Bessie's property--by Bessie. I never was; but
Bessie chose to lay claim to me."
"So, although you are engaged to Miss Deleah Day, Miss Deleah Day, so far
as I understand the matter, is not engaged to you?"
"That's about how we stand at present, I suppose."
"I see," Sir Francis said.
The Importunate Mr. Gibbon
The news that the addresses of young Mr. Forcus were being paid not to her
but to her younger sister could not altogether have come as a surprise to
Bessie. She must have noticed the direction of the young man's admiring
glances; she must have known why, when alone with her, he watched the
street till Deleah came in; she must in a measure have been prepared for
the fact that he had now declared himself Deleah's lover, and had even
sought the approval of Mrs. Day on his suit.
But Bessie had no dignity. She gave herself away without reserve whenever
occasion offered. She abused Deleah, she scolded her mother, she wept
noisily over her wrongs. She declared that there was positive indecency on
Deleah's part in encouraging the love-making of a young man who had once,
however long ago it was, made love to her.
"I don't think Deleah did encourage him, Bessie."
"Would he have done it without? You remember what Reggie was in those
days, mama, and how he _wanted_ encouragement--"
"My dear, Deleah has far too much self-respect--"
"There you go! Always Deleah. I suppose if Deleah took up a dinner-knife
and stabbed me to the heart you would make excuses for her!"
"Oh, Bessie, do not be unjust."
"It is you that are unjust. It is you that have spoilt Deleah, with
petting and praising and telling her how pretty she is--"
"My dear Bessie!"
"You don't say it in so many words, but you are always _looking it_ at
her. You are, mama! I see you doing it. And when Deda comes home I shall
tell her what I think of the way she has behaved to me--the sneaky way; I
shan't spare her. She shall hear it all. And then if we live together for
twenty years I won't speak to Deleah again. I won't, mama! I won't! I
Poor Mrs. Day hurried away, carrying her harassed face and all her
maternal cares into the even more perplexing area of business worries; but
Emily having heard the raised voice of her young mistress--Bessie was
always shrill when unhinged--went at once to her assistance.
Bessie had taken to the sofa--that mid-Victorian sanctuary for the
afflicted fair--and encouraged by the sympathy of the faithful servant,
must begin to cry, must begin to laugh, must go on to screaming and
pommelling the horsehair with her heels, as was her custom when moved.
Emily, postponing for the purpose the washing up of her dinner-things, sat
beside the sofa till Bessie grew calm enough to become attentive, when,
she sympathetically listened, and flattered, and soothed.
"There's others as is ready to die for you, and ask no better, if Deleah
have snatched away this one," Emily declared. "There's one of 'em, that to
my mind, for real affection and stiddiness, is worth a dozen of your
Forcuses." And Bessie, listening greedily, knew that the family boarder,
George Boult's Manchester man, was indicated. "There's him to your hand.
You can have him for the taking," Emily promised; and Bessie quieted down,
"You've treated this one cruel, Miss Bessie. You have that! And him
sittin' by, his heart fit to fly out at you, sayin' nothin'; while this
other young chap, his flower in his button-hole, his horse a-pawin' up the
stones in the street down below, is a-carryin' on."
"I have neglected the poor Honourable Charles lately, I admit," said
Bessie with a remorseful sigh.
"And him that patient--that faithful! Well, now, Miss Bessie, you listen
to me. Turn your back on Reggie--give him the cold shoulder--see how he'll
like it! And you pay your addresses to our young man. The mistress was
a-telling me how he's made a partner with Mr. Boult an'll be rich as him,
if not richer, some day. You'd drive your kerridge, my dear; and Reggie
hisself couldn't give you more."
Bessie stretched herself complacently, and feigned a yawn, to indicate
that the subject was rather beneath her notice: "I dare say I might do
worse," she admitted.
By such judicious means was the injured Bessie restored to something of
her former calm.
Mrs. Day, running up presently to see how her daughter was bearing up,
found her sitting up on the sofa, drinking tea, her plump cheeks flushed,
the light of excitement in her eyes.
"Mama," she said, "there is something I have been wanting to ask you.
Should you object very much if I and the Honourable Charles made a match
of it, after all?"
Mrs. Day looked doubtfully at the girl without answering. She had her own
ideas on the subject of the Honourable Charles's intentions.
"I mean should you think I am marrying beneath me, and that kind of
"No, my dear. I should certainly not make any objection on that score. Has
something occurred, then, to put the idea into your head, to-day?"
"I suppose you can understand, mama, that I do not wish to see my younger
sister married before me? If Deleah thinks she is going to put that kind
of slight on me she's mistaken. It's what I won't put up with from her,
and so I tell her; and so I tell you. It's--it's--"
"Yes, yes, my dear. Pray don't excite yourself again, Bessie."
"So, if Deleah persists in taking Reggie--and she'll richly deserve all
she'll get with him--I shall make up my mind to Gibbon."
"_Mr._ Gibbon, Bessie."
"Mr. Gibbon, then. I don't think he's a man to be ashamed of, do you?"
"Certainly not. I believe he is quite a steady and honourable young man. A
little moody, perhaps--"
"There's a cause for that. And if Deleah, when she's Mrs. Forcus, is
ashamed of him it won't matter to me, because I'm ashamed of Deleah, and
so I mean to tell her when she comes home."
"And you think that Mr. Gibbon _means_--?"
Bessie gave a scornful laugh: "If you haven't eyes in your head to see,
mama, ask Emily!"
Ah, if these things might be! Mrs. Day thought as she descended again to
her duties behind the counter. If only her girls could find homes for
themselves, how thankful she would be. For the business was doing badly;
all the customers who were worth keeping had fallen away; the little
capital she had had in hand had dwindled, disappeared. In that morning's
paper she had read that the regiment in which Bernard had enlisted was
ordered to India. Too late now to buy him off, even if she had been
permitted to do so. If she had not been compelled to show a calm face
above her counter she would have passed the day in tears at the thought of
the privations and sufferings before her boy. Her poor young Bernard.
So tired she was of it all: of smiling, with tears raining upon her heart,
of listening to the complaints of customers, the grievance of poor Bessie
upstairs--poor unreasonable, self-centred Bessie, whom yet she so
loved--when she was herself like to drown in trouble. If only the girls
could find homes--Deleah she knew would provide for Franky--she would shut
up the hateful shop, would give up the humiliating struggle--she being an
earthen vessel--to swim with the hateful Coman who was of iron. She would
then, she thought, go to bed and to sleep, and would sleep and sleep, and
never get up again. Orthodox Christian as she was, in her anxious,
worried, and wearied existence the joys of Heaven did not tempt her so
much as the possibility of enjoying a long, uninterrupted sleep.
She was kept late in the shop that night, and when at length she went
upstairs she found only a glum family party already at the supper-table
Franky, who generally talked, whoever else was silent, was conspicuous by
his absence, he having been ordered out of the room by his sister Bessie
because his clothes smelt.
This was a constant source of grievance and friction between the eldest
and youngest hope of the house. The poor boy had not many changes of
raiment, and he being of an age to dabble in any mess that came handy
without reference to his sister's olfactory nerves, there was no denying
the fact that his little brown tunic, his worn little trousers had
acquired a very _boyey_ smell. Unless under the protection of his mother's
presence, therefore, he was often exiled to the kitchen to get his meals
with Emily. He never went without protest and tears and often kicks, on
his own part, and fisticuffs on Bessie's, who remained behind, after such
encounters, flustered by victory, and ready to quarrel with any one on the
To-night, however, ignoring the presence of Deleah, she had intended to be
very gracious to the boarder, who as ill-luck would have it did not come
in to his supper at all. Under the discouraging influence of Bessie's
silence conversation fell flat between Deleah and her mother. The meal
over, Mrs. Day, more than, usually tired, announced her intention of going
to bed, an example quickly followed by Bessie, who wished to avoid at that
moment a _tete-a-tete_ with Deleah.
It happened to-night, that as soon as mother and sister had gone, and
before Deleah had finished clearing away the books and work and Franky's
painting things, which had been in use earlier in the evening, the boarder
It was extraordinarily seldom that the Honourable Charles found himself
alone with the younger daughter of the house--whether by chance, her
management, or the management of others, he could not tell.
Deleah Day, in her cotton frock of white with tiny black spots, a wide,
embroidered collar tied with black ribbon at her throat, her black,
thickly waving hair brushed behind her ears and gathered at the back of
her small head, was an agreeable figure at the hearth to greet any poor
worker on his return to rest and fireside.
He did not want any supper, would have none. His appetite was poor of
late, he came down in the mornings looking as if he had not slept all
night. Business, now that his interest in it had increased, seemed to be
making too great demands on his time and health.
"You must smoke," Deleah said, and put the tobacco jar at his elbow. She
always touched it with lingering fingers: it was that out of which William
Day had been wont to fill his evening pipe. She placed by him the little
decanter of whisky from which the boarder, by the admixture of lemon and
hot water, would brew himself a nightcap. He appeared to ignore these
preparations for his comfort.
"I was just clearing away, before going to bed," she told him.
She did wish to go--ardently. But the more desirous she was to avoid a
_tete-a-tete_, the more she knew in her kind heart that she must not show
her anxiety. So she sat down at the corner of the table opposite to him,
and began hurriedly to show how perfectly at ease she was by telling him
of mama's headache; and how she believed it was due to the fact that poor
mama was worried about business; which, since the horrid Coman had opened
opposite for the express purpose, it seemed, of underselling Mrs. Day, had
been so unsatisfactory.
The Manchester man had nothing encouraging to say on that theme. Indeed,
his utterances on any subject they had all found to be irritatingly
constrained and limited of late.
He made use to-night of an oft-repeated phrase of his when talk had been
made of Mrs. Day's difficulties. "I know nothing of the grocery line. It's
altogether distinct from the drapery, of course."
"I wish you'd gone in for grocery, Mr. Gibbon. Then you could have helped
"You've heard, I suppose, I've fixed it up with the Governor, the way I
spoke to you about? You've heard I'm to be taken into partnership at
"I am very glad."
"I wonder if you are?"
"Why not? Of course."
"You remember what you said about the fine house I was to live in?"
"When are you going to take it, Mr. Gibbon?"
"When will you come to live in it, Miss Deleah?"
She was sitting in a low chair and leaning negligently upon the table, her
cheek in her hand, her fingers lost in the masses of her black waving
hair, her eyes turned with polite interest upon his face. She dropped them
now, and looked at the tablecloth without speaking.
"When?" he repeated, and was breathless again in the horrible way she
"I told you: I am not going to live in it at all, Mr. Gibbon."
He leaned towards her, throwing himself forward on his arms that were
folded upon the table; she felt his eyes glowering upon her down-bent
face: "Oh, yes, Miss Deleah!" he implored.
"I told you before," she said; and then distressedly like a child wearied
by importunities, "Oh I wish you--I wish every one would leave me alone!"
It was all very well to be pretty and admired, but not much gratification,
thanks to Bessie's jealousy, and untoward circumstances, had Deleah
experienced so far from looks or lovers.
There was a young assistant music-master, coming twice a week to Miss
Chaplin's, who had taken to blushing and paling when Deleah spoke to him.
To her great embarrassment a rosebud or a spray of forget-me-not would be
found deposited on the chair in which she sat to play propriety when the
pupils took their lessons. On the days when with great difficulty she
managed to elude Reggie, a lout of a grammar-school sixth-form boy, whose
name even she did not know, would watch her exit from the school, and
stalk at her heels, keeping sentinel over her, in a way that she felt was
making her ridiculous, to her own door. She had caught Mr. Pretty peeping
between the biscuit tins to watch her down the street. He would leave any
customer he was serving to rush forward with hateful assiduousness with a
stool for her to sit on, as soon as she entered the shop. He would entice
Franky, who had a great admiration for Mr. Pretty, to sit in the cellar
with him of evenings to talk about the younger sister. There was Reggie
always pestering; and now here again were the unwelcome attentions of the
"I do so much wish you would all leave me alone!"
"How can I leave you alone when I so much love you, Deleah."
"Oh!" said Deleah, impatiently sighing.
She knew how young ladies comported themselves under such circumstances in
the delightful books of her dear Anthony Trollope; but she was neither
angry, nor frightened, nor particularly shy; nor did she feel the
inclination to throw herself into any man's arms, and to rest her head on
his shoulder. She was uncomfortable under these declarations of love, and
felt that she was being made ludicrous; that was all.
"You know it, don't you, Deleah?"
"Yes. I know it; since you tell me so."
"And believe in it? Believe in my desperate love?"
"I am sure you don't tell stories, Mr. Gibbon."
"I think it is a pity."
"I think you might love some one else."
"No! I want you."
"You can't have me," said Deleah, pettishly, and feeling more hopelessly
inadequate than ever.
"I can," Gibbon said, and he said it quite fiercely. "I can! I can! I can!
Do you hear?"
"I think I will go to bed." Deleah sprang up; she so longed for flight;
she looked anxiously to the closed door which was on his side of the
Gibbon also rose to his feet. "Look at me, Deleah," he said. She looked,
and saw the paleness of his face. It made her sick as well as sorry to see
how pale the man had become. "Does this mean Mr. Reginald Forcus?"
"You are not engaged to him?"
"Look at me; keep on looking." His eyes held hers, she was compelled to
look. "Do you like him better than me? He is the best chance, out and out;
but for all that he mayn't be the best man. Do you like him the best?"
"I don't know that I do."
"Now. I've something else to ask you."
"No! I think you are too bad. I am very tired. Let me go to bed, Mr.
"Answer me first. How about the other one?"
"The _other_ one! I don't know what you mean."
"Sir Francis--that gave you the fifty pound. How about him?"
Deleah's eyes, staring into his, dilated, her face grew whiter than his
own. "I don't know what you can mean," she said. "Sir Francis Forcus and
me? Me! _Me!_ Deleah Day!" She whispered the words in a kind of awe.
Almost there seemed sacrilege in them.
"Why not? Why not?"
"I think you must be mad, Mr. Gibbon."
"I am. I often am. Quite mad. Mad with love of you."
"Why do you sigh like that?"
"I so much wish you wouldn't."
"Be so ridiculous."
"Is that all you have to say to me?"
"I did not think you could be so cruel."
"I am not cruel," Deleah said; and then, quite unexpected by her, a sob
rose in her throat, and it was all that she could do to keep the tears of
self-pity back. "I am not cruel, but you so torment me. I want to be kind
to you, but I do not want to hear about all this--which sounds so
ridiculous to me. You are older than I am--you should know better. You
should know how silly it is to talk to a girl like me such nonsense. And I
want to go to bed, Mr. Gibbon. Will you please stand away and let me go to
He put his hand on the door-knob as if to open it for her, but held it
there. "This isn't the end," he said.
"Oh, no!" she sighed with dreary prescience.
"I am working for you from morning till night--only for you--so that I can
put you in a nice house, and make a lady of you. Only for you! And all
night long I can't rest for thinking of you. Mine'll be an awful night,
"Oh, Mr. Gibbon, I'm so dreadfully sorry!"
"Then, can't you say a word to me before you go? Can't you say you'll
think of it?"
"Of course I shall think of it; I can't help thinking of it. But I don't
wish to talk of it any more. Let me go now, will you? Let me go to bed!
Good-night, Mr. Gibbon."
"Say 'Good-night, Charlie.' They call me 'Charlie' at home."
There was no help for it if she wished to escape. "Good-night, Charlie,"
she mumbled, and rushed away to her own room, in a condition between
laughing and crying which recalled Bessie's attacks.
"It is all so ridiculous!" she kept saying to herself as she undressed.
"'Good-night, Charlie!' Imagine my having called him 'Charlie.' Charlie,
indeed!" She set her teeth at the remembrance. "I would rather have hit
him than called him Charlie!"
But as she undressed herself the more serious side of the position
presented itself for consideration. Her mother wanted her to get
married--she had owned as much, and she had an absolute faith in her
mother's wisdom. Did girls marry men feeling about them as she felt about
this man and Reggie Forcus, she wondered? It was indisputable that men,
"horrider than they," as she phrased it to herself, found quite nice girls
to marry them. Ought she to take one or the other? She did not wish
to--but ought she?
She got into her night-dress, brushed her hair, even said her prayers--the
self-same prayers in the identical words she had said by her bedside in
Queen Anne Street on the night of the New Year's party, long ago; she had
not even left her father's name out of her petitions--debating these
things. She slept in a tiny bedroom through Mrs. Day's, and when she got
up from her knees she took her candle and went into her mother's room. "I
will hear what mama has to say about it," she told herself.
Mrs. Day was lying awake in the darkness, thinking of Bernard and the
dangers of India.
"Mama," Deleah said, holding the candle aloft to peer at her mother. Its
light fell on her own charming face half hidden in the loose waves of
curling black hair. "You aren't asleep, are you? Of course you aren't! I
believe you lie there all night, staring into the shadows and thinking of
miserable things! I wonder if it would really make things better, if you
would like it very much, that she also has made up her mind to marry Mr.
Deleah stared for a minute, and then she laughed; and Mrs. Day saw that
she laughed whole-heartedly. "Bessie takes all my young men!" she said.
"You see, mama, with the best will in the world to please you, I can't get
married; so there's an end of it; and I may as well go to bed."
"Come and kiss me, dear."
Mrs. Day put a detaining arm round the girl's shoulders. "Nothing of this
makes you unhappy, Deleah?"
"It only makes me want to laugh," Deleah said.
Deleah Has No Dignity
A day or so after her encounter with the local magnate in the principal
street of Brockenham, Deleah found herself, to her extreme surprise, on
her way to the Hope Brewery, in response to a letter from Sir Francis
Forcus, asking her to call on him there on a matter of business. He had
named the afternoon hour in which she was released from school.
"I sent for you, because I wished to see you alone, and I thought it might
be difficult to do so at your own house," Sir Francis said.
His address was more formal, his appearance more formidable than ever, she
thought, as he indicated the chair in which he wished her to sit, and took
his own seat, entrenched behind his writing-table, at some distance from
her. "I hope it is not objectionable to you to come to me here, my own
house being so far away?"
Deleah shyly, but quite honestly, said that she did not mind in the least.
"He is going to tell me that, after all, he has decided to buy Bernard
off," she told herself, but was not allowed to maintain that illusion
"I have a word or two I wished to say to you about my young brother,
Reginald," he said, plunging into his subject.
He sat, his face a little averted from her, looking down at the papers on
his desk, and spoke in a tone as cold and non-committal as if he read what
he had to say to her, written there.
Deleah receiving his communication in uncomfortable silence, he went on:
"For several reasons--some of them business ones--it has been arranged for
my brother to leave Brockenham for a year. To travel!"
Pausing there, she still finding nothing to say, he added, looking closer
at the paper on the desk, "He will not go."
"I am sorry," Deleah shyly said.
"He won't go, because of you." Then he turned his face to her, and Deleah
saw that his face expressed cold disapproval. "I am quite sure you do not
wish to stand in Reginald's light, Miss Day?"
"I was sure of it. And therefore I was encouraged to send for you. It will
be better that we talk matters over a little. You have influence over
"I think not." Once or twice she had tried to impose her own ideas of what
was right and fitting upon the young man, and had failed. Why should she
pretend to any influence?
"But of course you have. I want to ask you to be unselfish enough to exert
it for my brother's good."
"I would do that gladly if I could."
"Then, send him away. It will be doing him an inestimable benefit."
"I can tell him it would be better for him to go; but he is not easily
made to do a thing he does not like.
"He tells me--without any engagement on your part--he considers himself
bound to you."
She shook her head quickly, her face rose-red: "Oh no!"
"He is always being engaged to--somebody: poor Reggie!"
"Is he?" she asked innocently.
"Reginald is my brother," he went on, and he turned his gaze from her face
and looked at the finger-nails of his left hand with an absorbed
attention. "He is, however, so much younger than myself that he has almost
been like my son. You will give me credit, I am sure, for not wishing to
disparage Reginald, when I tell you that this is not by any means the
first time Reginald has thought of marriage." He paused, and smiled awry
to himself as he contemplated the finger-nails. "Or, rather, I should put
it, not the first time he has talked to young ladies of being engaged to
Deleah sat silent, determined not to speak till speech was absolutely
demanded of her.
"It has not cost my brother much to change his mind," Sir Francis said,
and dropped his hand and looked at the pretty girl sitting before him.
"Since he has to do it so often, that is well," Deleah said.
"It is well, in a way," Sir Francis agreed. "But supposing that he took an
irretrievable step, and then changed his mind?"
"That would be more serious," Deleah admitted.
"You understand what I mean, Miss Day?"
"Perfectly. You mean, supposing he married me and then repented, not
having been given time to repent beforehand. Having been taken at his word
as soon as he spoke--and snatched up."
"That is putting the case more strongly than I had thought of doing;
"But it is what you mean?"
"You are not offended, I hope?"
"No; because I quite understand. It would be surprising if you did not
feel as you do about it."
Her voice shook a little, and Sir Francis felt compunction. After all,
from the girl's side of the question, what a sacrifice this was he was so
coolly demanding of her. He felt suddenly ashamed, and half afraid of what
he had taken upon himself to do.
"I hope you believe I am actuated by no feeling antagonistic to yourself,
"I think I understand that," she said gently.
And he knew that she comprehended, and was grateful to her that she did
not say, "You hate, not me, but the grocer's shop; but the idea of an
alliance with my father's daughter, my brother's sister." "After all the
girl is a lady," he said to himself, and the thought crossed his mind: was
his empty-headed young brother likely to marry a better woman than this?
All the same, his duty in the matter was clear before him.
"And you will do what I ask? You will help me to send the boy away?"
"He won't go for my telling, I fear."
"He won't go unless you tell him;" and he permitted himself to smile
persuasively on her.
"Then I will tell him," she said gravely; and feeling that was all he
wanted with her she got up and turned to the door.
He reached it before her. "Mine has been an ungracious task," he said. "It
has seemed to me that it was demanded of me. I hope you will forgive me."
He said it quite earnestly, quite humbly, all his grand formality of
manner laid aside for the moment. And the anger and the hurt pride which
had been in her heart melted from it.
"You have been very kind to me, always. If there was anything to forgive I
would forgive you," she said simply; and her face was charming with its
look of innocent confidence in him, its wavering, shy smile.
"What I have said has been for my brother's sake," he assured her,
compunction stirring at his heart. "But I believe it to be equally good
for yours. You may not think so to-day, but you may take my word for it
that you will come to think so."
He clasped her hand reassuringly for a moment; then she went.
The letter from Sir Francis Forcus had been on Deleah's breakfast plate.
The family had the bad habit of expecting to see each other's letters.
They all knew who it was who had written, and what he had asked. At
supper, when the family met again it was expected of Deleah to describe
the interview, and publicly proclaim what had taken place.
Preferring to keep the matter to herself, she had eluded her mother and
sister by going without her tea, gaining only by the delay the addition,
to those already agog for her news, of the innocent Franky, of the
ever-curious Emily, of an Honourable Charles consumed with jealous fears.
They would not even let her take her place at table before they were upon
her. "Well?" inquired Bessie, alert, her suspicious, bright eyes upon her
sister, who appeared a little pale of face, a little languid of manner,
the effect of going without her tea, perhaps.
"Well?" Deleah echoed.
"I don't suppose it's a secret. Mama, I don't suppose Deleah has been sent
for by Sir Francis Forcus for anything she can't tell!"
Emily, pouring out the lodger's supper beer, remarked that Miss Deleah was
always one to keep things to herself, even when she had been a baby.
"I can't imagine, Deleah, what he can have wanted with you," Mrs. Day
said, in answer to Bessie's appeal.
"It was nothing much, mama."
"It couldn't have been _nothing_. At least say if it was good or bad,"
persisted the elder sister. "I don't see why Deda need be so affected and
"Oh, do let me get some supper first," Deleah prayed.
"Thank you, Mr. Gibbon. Some beef, please."
Those prominent, burning eyes of the boarder, the eyes which Mrs. Day and
Bessie had discovered rescued his face from the commonplace, were upon her
face, with a desperately eager questioning. In his heart he believed that
Sir Francis had sent for her to beg her to marry either himself or his
brother. Supposing she had consented! Supposing she was going to say it
now! His red, square-looking hands shook pitiably as he carved the beef
and put it on her plate.
"Perhaps Miss Deleah would rather keep her news till I'm gone," he forced
himself to say.
"Oh no," Deleah, who would infinitely have preferred to do so, but must
not hurt his feelings, declared.
"It is about Reggie, I know," said Bessie, her eyes, filled with fierce
questioning, on the girl.
It was not till Emily had reluctantly withdrawn that Deleah confessed that
Bessie was right, and told her news defiantly, in a sentence. "Sir Francis
sent for me to ask me not to marry his brother," she said, and applied
herself to the contents of her plate as if she were really enjoying them.
For a minute, speechless with surprise, they gazed upon her.
"But _were_ you going to marry him?" Bessie at length inquired.
"No," said Deleah; "I was not."
"And did you tell him so."
"My dear Deleah!" from her mother. "You should have told him, of course."
"I didn't. I don't know why. I felt I could not. I hardly said anything, I
"But now I _would_ marry him!" Bessie cried. "No man should put an insult
like that on me for nothing." Her face had flushed pink. She felt the
insult to the family very keenly. "Now you've _got_ to marry him, Deleah.
Mama, tell Deleah that for her own pride's sake she's got to marry Reggie
"No!" said Mr. Gibbon. He laid down his knife and fork with a clatter, and
fixed angry eyes on Bessie.
"No!" he said, and having stared at her till, astonished, she averted her
eyes, he turned a protecting gaze on Deleah. "Miss Deleah need do nothing
of the sort," he said reassuringly.
"I certainly shall not," Deleah said.
"Are we to sit down tamely under such rudeness, then?" Bessie asked at
large. "You never assert yourself, Deda--you and mama. That's why people
dare to treat you so. Sir Francis would not have sent for me like a
servant, to give me his orders. What did you do, Deda? Stood there meekly,
like an idiot, to listen, I suppose?"
"Miss Deleah did what was right. Least said soonest mended," the boarder
declared. He had never openly stood as Deleah's champion before.
"I'm on Deda's side too," Franky said. "Deda's got the most on her side.
C'n I have another piece of tart, ma?"
"No, you can't," said Bessie promptly. "Mama, Franky cried out in his
sleep the last time he had two pieces of tart."
"C'n I have another piece of tart, ma?"
Mrs. Day explained to Franky that instead of having more tart, at that
time of night, he must go to bed; and Bessie with excitement started a new
"I suppose that was what he came here for," she cried.
"Sir Francis called, and found Reggie Forcus with me," she explained,
turning to the boarder. "He came here spying upon me. No doubt he meant to
say to me what he's said to Deleah, but he found a different person to
deal with. I didn't give him any chance to put an insult on me, I can tell
you! So he sent for Deleah, who can't defend herself."
"Poor little Deleah!" the mother said, fondly regarding the girl,
indisposed to defend herself at that moment evidently, and apparently busy
with her supper.
"Miss Deleah could find them that would defend her if she'd say the word,"
Gibbon said, greatly daring; the beef was untasted on his plate, but his
eyes devoured Deleah.
Bessie gave him a glance of astonished disapproval, and went on to
expatiate on what would have been her own conduct in Deleah's place. How
she would have listened to Sir Francis with apparent calm, saying nothing,
leading him on to his own destruction, and then--
"I did listen, I didn't say anything. I was thinking all the time how
horrid it was for him to have to do what he did."
"Well, my dear child, that was no concern of yours, you need not have been
unhappy about it."
"No, mama. But I was; and unhappy that I had to sit to listen to him. I
wanted desperately to get away, that was all. I came the very instant that
"Instead of which, I should have said," explained the eager Bessie, "I
should have said: 'Until this moment I have not given your brother a
thought, Sir Francis. But now that you have dared--_dared_ to insult me
and my family in such a way, I will tell you what I will do. I will marry
him to-morrow morning. I'd have done it too," Bessie declared, looking
round the table, eyes shining with strong self-approval.
"My dear Bessie. Don't let your feelings run away with you so much," Mrs.
"Deleah has no dignity, mama. Any one can see Deleah behaved without the
Deleah listened miserably, pretending not to hear. She did not agree with
Bessie's idea of what was dignified, but she knew that she had cut a poor
figure. She felt humiliated, hurt, helpless. Sir Francis Forcus had been
for her her ideal of what a man and a gentleman should be. He had helped
her in the day of her necessity, and she had set him at once as her hero
on a pinnacle, and had looked up to him and worshipped him secretly, and
from afar. She knew that she had sat before him this afternoon shamed, and
helpless, and childish; filled with as much sorrow for him who was so
clumsily wounding her as for herself. She had not desired to retaliate;
she would not have been revenged on him if she could; the only effort of
which she had been capable had been the effort to make him think that she
had been as little wounded as possible, that the situation was not a
horrible one to her.
Yet when they asked her why she had not shown more spirit she could not
explain. She could only sit silent and miserable, and let them talk.
Even Mr. Gibbon, usually so preoccupied and silent now, talked. He said
that he supposed Sir Francis Forcus called hisself a gentleman, but that
he, the Manchester man, had always had his doubts on the subject, and that
one day he hoped for the opportunity of telling him that he was a _snob_.
And more, with unwanted, stammering loquacity, to that effect, with fire
of eye, with un-called-for, excited repetition.
The Cold-Hearted Fates
When Mrs. Day and her daughters had retired that night, their boarder sat
up writing a letter.
Deleah found it pushed under her plate at breakfast the next morning,
Gibbon always breakfasting early and alone.
"I think you behaved nobly," the letter ran. "Do not heed what others in
their spite and jealousy may say. The man Forcus is a purse-proud snob.
But if as such he is too proud to receive you into his family, remember
that there is another that have better taste. My family is highly
respectable, but they would receive you gladly, for my sake. And as for
me, I should always think you did me honour by becoming mine. Which honour
I pray you, my beloved Deleah, to do me."
Deleah crumpled the note in her hand--she was down before her mother and
sister, that morning--and took it into the kitchen where Emily was making
the breakfast toast, and rammed it, with the poker, and a good will, into
the heart of the glowing coals.
She thought as she did so of the talk with her mother the other night in
which the name of the Honourable Charles had figured. She had only half
meant what she had said then, but now--how could she ever so lightly have
contemplated for one moment such a marriage!
"And what young chap's love-letter are you a-burnin' of now, Miss Deleah?"
Emily facetiously inquired, waving the round of toast gracefully before
"The love-letter of a young chap who should never trust himself to write
one," Deleah told her, calmly. "His love-letter was abominable, Emily."
She had a love-letter of another sort that morning. It was brought to her,
and given in the presence of her pupils at the mal a propos moment when
Miss Chaplin had unexpectedly entered the little class-room in which the
juniors were taught, and where was Deleah's domain. Miss Chaplin had
thought that she had heard laughter issuing from this direction, and had
burst into the room to beg of Miss Day to keep the children in order.
Poor Miss Day was desperately anxious to retain her post in Miss Chaplin's
Academy, and for that reason, and because Miss Chaplin was quite aware of
the fact, she found it safe and convenient to make of the poor young
teacher the scapegoat for whatever irregularities were committed in the
school, to discharge upon her the pent-up irritabilities she dared not
vent upon the more valuable assistants, who might resent such ebullitions
at inconvenient times.
She had received notice that morning that three pupils of whom she was
proud, who did the school credit, were to leave next quarter. She had had
a "brush" with the German governess, and Fraeulein had been insolent. But
Fraeulein was valuable, and Miss Chaplin had bottled her wrath, to empty
it on the innocent head of Deleah.
"I must really ask you, Miss Day, to maintain better order in your class.
I heard laughing. Frequently when I pass the door I hear laughing--"
But where was Miss Day who should be responsible for such a terrible state
One of the tots of pupils had slipped off the form on which she sat, and
rolled under the table, and Deleah had crept under the table too, in
search of her, at which the other pupils had laughed. The abashed
governess received the reproof of her principal on all fours.
"Really, Miss Day!" cried the scandalised woman. "Yours is hardly a seemly
attitude to assume before the pupils, is it?"
And at that least opportune moment, the door of the class-room burst open
again and Kitty Miller, that day scholar who sometimes walked home with
Miss Day and kept "The Deleah Book," appeared. She flourished a letter in
"What will you give me for this, Miss Day?" she cried, not till too late
perceiving the awe-inspiring figure of Miss Chaplin.
Deleah took the missive, and it would have been hard to decide whether she
who gave it or she who took it had the guiltier look.
The outraged voice of Miss Chaplin arrested Kitty Miller in the moment of
ignominious flight. "Wait!" commanded the alarming tones. Kitty stood
still, trembling as she heard. "Who employs you to convey letters to Miss
Kitty, the colour of beet-root, looked at Deleah, lily-white.
"Who gave you that letter, Kitty?"
And poor Kitty, looking piteously at Deleah, lied--futilely, but for the
sake of her friend--and said she did not know.
"Was it a gentleman?"
Kitty, confounded and demoralised, stammered out that she had forgotten.
Deleah came to her rescue. Deleah, who knew well that her hour had come:
"It is from Mr. Reginald Forcus," she said. She had received warnings on
the subject of Reginald Forcus before.
"And what has that gentleman to write to you of such immediate importance
that it must cause an interruption to class?" Miss Chaplin with head in
And Deleah looking at the note in its envelope, said she did not know.
"Open it, and see," Miss Chaplin naturally recommended.
When Deleah hesitated to comply, the schoolmistress held out her hand, but
Deleah, choosing to disregard that gesture, put the letter in her pocket.
The elder lady threw her thin lips into a tight line across her narrow
face. She really thought it immoral for a girl to receive a letter from a
gentleman, she really felt that the high tone of her school was endangered
by that flagrant breach of manners made by Deleah Day. She had to punish
iniquity, she had to protect from the evil effects of pernicious example,
the unsullied young under her care.
When Deleah, that afternoon, came upon Reggie waiting for her at the
corner of the street, a fatuous expression of joy at her approach on his
silly, good-looking face, she had received her dismissal from the school.
She was filled with anger towards him as the cause of that which was to
her a calamity.
"I have been given notice to go. _You_ have done that, Reggie," she
greeted him. "Your silly letter this morning was the finish."
"A rattling good thing too," the irreverent Reggie declared. "I'm jolly
glad to hear it."
"And what do you suppose I am to do now?"
"That's what I came to tell you. It's just spiffin' for my plans, as
you'll see, dear."
"It's not at all 'spiffin'' for mine."
"You. wait! You and I will get married, Deleah. We'll bring it off at
once, do you see?"
"Oh, no, Reggie!"
"Oh, yes, Deleah. See if we won't! I'm not doing anything underhand. I've
told Francis, straight. He's no fool. He knows when I mean a thing. And
I'm my own master."
"But you're not mine, Reggie."
"You wait a bit. We'll fight all that out afterwards. What I've got to say
to you this afternoon is this: I want to put you up on horseback."
"Wait! Only wait! Where do you think I've been this afternoon? I've been
over to Runnydale, to look at old Candy's little brown mare. It's the one
his girl has been riding. She's married, and gone away; and I've got the
promise of it for you. No! Now do wait a bit. That little mare's as safe
as a donkey; a child might ride her. All the same, I'm not going to put
you up on her till you've had lessons; and I've been and seen about that
"I have, right enough. I went round to Ben Steel's when I came back from
Runnydale. He's arranged to take you out twice a week. I'm going with
you--so as you don't feel strange. I told Ben you'd take to it like a duck
to water. 'That young lady'll look stunning on horseback,' Steel said. A
little cheeky of him, but he's privileged. I say, Deleah, what'll the old
women of Brockenham say when they see you with me, a-cock-horse, riding
side by side past their windows?"
"They'll never see me doing it, Reggie. I'm not going to ride with you, my
"You wait! You'll change your mind when you see Laura Candy's little brown
mare. Let me bring her up for you to see, to-morrow. Look here, I'm to
send over for her to-night. Oh, hang it all, Deleah, we'll put off the
marrying for a time if you like, but I've set my heart on having some
rides together. You don't know how proud I shall be to ride with you
beside me down Broad Street, and through the market-place, and up St.
Margaret's Lane. It will give all the cackling old women something to talk
It was with difficulty she made him understand that to help him to afford
food for gossip was not her ambition, that she declined his escort on
horseback through the streets of her native town, as well as his
companionship through life. The events of the day had hardened her heart;
and she succeeded in convincing him at last.
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