Mrs. Day's Daughters
Mary E. Mann
Part 5 out of 6
"And, Reggie, you are not to come to our house any more; you are never to
write me letters; you are not to waylay me in the streets."
"Oh, I say, Deleah! Come! You can't mean it."
"I mean every word."
"But can't I sometimes meet you by accident even?"
"If you do I shall cut you."
"And if I won't be cut?"
"I shall call a policeman."
She laughed, but she made him see that she was in earnest. He walked by
her side, crestfallen, a grieving look on his good-humoured, pleasant
face. The hunting season was not here for several months. His head and his
heart had been filled of late with Deleah, his time had been passed in
riding down Bridge Street in the hope that she might be looking out of
window, in waylaying her when she came from school, in sitting in the room
over the shop with Bessie, to get rid of time till Deleah should appear.
"If I'm to give up seeing you, and trying to see you, what on earth am I
to do?" he asked.
"You are to travel."
"Why that is what Francis has been sticking into me!
"There you are, then. Two people who know what is good for you, Reggie."
"Francis is in a deuce of a hurry. He wants me to go next week."
"And why not?"
"I don't know why not--now," a miserable Reggie admitted.
"Then go at once and tell him you are ready."
For her word's sake to his brother she wrung a reluctant assent from him,
and left him. But an hour later Emily bringing in the tea announced that a
gentleman had called to see Miss Deleah.
"You can guess who 'tis," Emily said, as she spread the cloth. "He's in
his dog-cart at the door, and his horse that resty, he says he can't come
in; but he won't keep Miss Deleah a minute."
Bessie kneeling on the window-seat, was looking down into the street:
"It's Reggie, of course," she said. Then she turned round to her sister.
"Deleah," she said, "don't be silly; _take_ Reggie. Don't be put off by
that stuck-up, conceited old brother; don't trouble any more about me, and
things I've said. It's a real chance. The best you'll ever get. _Take
She had to call the last words over the balusters, for Deleah, paying no
heed to her exhortation, was running down the stairs.
Beside Reginald Forcus in his smart dog-cart little Franky Day, to his own
delight and surprise, was sitting. He had come running down the street to
his tea, when Reggie had accosted him with the agreeable attention of a
whip-lash curved round his calves.
"Hullo, youngster!" Reggie had greeted him.
"Quite 'ell, I thank ye," Franky had responded.
"Coming for a spin with me?"
No further invitation had Franky required, but had clambered at once,
great eyes sparkling, little heart beating high, into the vacant seat
beside the driver. The exceeding honour was his to hold the reins, the
groom standing at Black Michael's head, while Reggie got down to speak to
Deleah at the door.
"Deleah," he said, "I've come to tell you I've done all you asked of me.
I've seen Francis, and I go away next week."
"I've done it because you asked me; and now I want you to do just one
thing for me. I know it's all over, and there's no hope for me, and after
to-night I shan't see you any more. I want you to come for a spin with me
"Yes, Deleah. I've got to go to Runnydale, to tell old Candy I shan't want
that little mare. Franky is coming. Franky can sit up between us,
He was very proud of himself for his forethought in securing Franky.
Deleah, chaperoned by Franky, could have no excuse.
She refused him very gently, because of his subdued demeanour, and
because, absurd as it was of him, his voice had faltered when he made his
appeal, and his eyes had grown moist. "But you must not take Franky,
Reggie," she said, and called on the child to descend, and come in to his
"Le'me go, Deda! Le'me go!" Franky pleaded.
"Oh, Deleah, just to please me--this last time ever I shall see you--you
come too!" the young man tried her again. When again she refused, he flung
away from her in a rage, and mounted to his seat; the groom, leaving the
tossing head of Black Michael, sprang up behind. She called again to
Franky, but they were off without reply. Deleah, looking after them for a
minute, could see the child's excited little face beaming with delight
turned up with admiration to the young man beside him.
Then she went back into the black little entry which did duty for hall,
and mounted the steep, narrow stairs with a lagging step. How brightly the
afternoon sun had shone on Reggie, his fair, smooth hair, vivid necktie,
the flower in his coat. How the brass harness had glittered, and Black
Michael's satin coat had shone; how spick and span was Odgers, the groom,
in his green and buff livery; what an air of wealth and well-being about
Deleah would have liked very well to have sat behind the spirited horse by
kind Reggie's side; to have dashed forth into the sweet-smelling
country--away from cheese and coffee and their mingled odours, away from
Bessie and her complaining over the chance Deleah had thrown away; away
from the society of the boarder who looked at her with such burning eyes,
beneath a penthouse of hand, watching her every movement, who whispered
his recklessly fierce "I love you" when the least excuse could bring his
head near to hers. Away from the thought of Miss Chaplin, and the
necessity to set about finding a fresh situation.
She had not wished to marry Reggie, but now that he was lost to her past
recall, a value which for her he had not before possessed seemed to attach
to him. How easy life would have been with him! Every day Franky might
have gone for a drive; her mother could have turned her back on the
From the time she set her foot on the lower stair till she reached the
landing Deleah almost allowed herself to believe she would call the young
man, and all that he stood for to her and hers, back again. But before she
had opened the door of the sitting-room, she had remembered Sir Francis,
and his scorn of her and hers, and her face had burnt with shame.
"Well?" questioned Bessie, as she entered, her eyes glittering with
"He wanted me to go for a drive. I would not go. He has taken Franky."
"Franky, in his old school suit, and without having his collar changed?"
Emily, lurking around, to hear the result of this short interview on the
doorstep, was also horrified to think of the disgrace brought on the
family by the condition of Franky. "His nails is that black when he come
home from school, and often as not his face smudged. What a sight to set
in front of Odgers."
"Odgers has got his back to him."
"For all that I'd have liked to scrape the top of the dirt off him. And
he've got on the knickers with the patch at the back!"
Mrs. Day, having been up for her tea and retired again to the shop, took
her place behind the counter, and dispatched Mr. Pretty to his meal.
No customers came in. She turned her sad and patient eyes upon the street,
thinking--not of the cutler's over the way, with whose son Franky had
formed such an undesirable friendship, nor of the passers by on the narrow
pavement, nor of the tradesmen's carts rattling over the cobble stones;
thinking of Bernard on his way to India and untold danger and privations,
of Deleah and her dismissal from the school. Her pretty, good child, to
have received such shabby treatment! Deleah, who if she had chosen might
have queened it over them all. Of her steadily declining business, too,
she thought, and of how impossible it was for her to cope with Coman's,
down the street. To-morrow was the seventh, the day set apart in each
month by Mr. Boult for going into her affairs; looking through her books,
catechising her, cross-questioning her, giving her advice in his
tyrannical, bullying way. From this her thoughts glanced off to the
subject Bessie had held forth upon in her irritating, worrying fashion,
"It is a pity the child did not have his face washed, certainly," she
At last a customer! No, only the cutler's little boy, Franky's chum, from
across the way.
The cutler hired a strip of garden on one of the roads, and when tea was
over, in the summer evenings, Franky and the cutler's son ran off together
to their garden to get into what childish mischief was possible in the
"Franky isn't in, this evening," Mrs. Day told the boy. "He's gone for a
drive with Mr. Forcus." She gave him a screw of acid-drops for himself,
and the boy ran off.
"All ri', thenk ye. Tell Franky I looked in," he called.
The next comer was the fat little maid-of-all-work from the butcher's,
near by. She was red-haired, with a large goitre over which her afternoon
black frock would not quite button. She was hardly worked from early
morning, to late evening, and Mrs. Day, ever full of compassion for the
weak and oppressed, was kind and gentle to her.
She was generally breathless with hurry and the trouble of the goitre, and
Mrs. Day took no special notice of her panting condition now.
"What for you to-night, Alice?" she asked her.
"It's soap," Alice gasped. "Soap, and matches, and six eggs for the
morning's breakfast, and I was to tell you, if you please, as you was to
put in seven, steads of six, for one in the last lot was stale. And have
you heard, please, there's been an accident with that there Mr. Forcus's
Mrs. Day's dark eyes gazed at the girl out of a face blanched to the
pallor of the dead.
"There have, then! Master, he jus' come in and said so. His horse is kilt;
and the groom, he's cut about the face; and your little boy, what he took
a ridin' with him, have got his neck broke."
To Make Reparation
"Of course we must do something for them," Sir Francis said. "The
difficulty is to decide what."
He and his sister had followed in their carriage the funeral of Franky
Day. Sir Francis had wished, seeing that he must appear there, to appear
unobtrusively, but Ada had thought that she also--painful as it was--must
be present, and Ada could not go afoot. The Forcus carriage, therefore,
had been conspicuous in the meagre procession following the little coffin
to the cemetery.
"We must remember that the poor things have seen better days, and be
careful how we offer," Miss Forcus said. "I have no doubt we shall find
they would rather starve than touch our money."
"I hope they know Reggie has gone away; otherwise it might have looked
heartless his not being there to-day."
"They will understand. And Reggie could not have stood it. It was painful
enough as it was," Sir Francis said.
It had been very painful. He thought of the figure of the poor mother,
tearless, looking down into the little grave; of the poor weeping girls
clinging to her. Franky's common little school had attended, and stood,
marshalled by the meagre young master in charge, at a distance, but the
small son of the once despised cutler had advanced, pushed forwards
encouragingly by his comrades, and dropped upon the coffin a bunch of
flowers gathered from the garden on the road, where Franky and he had
loved to play. No other flowers were there. It was before the day of
floral memorial displays.
"If they would let us bear the funeral expenses, or put up a little
monument in the cemetery, or a window in their church?" Ada suggested.
"If we could do something to help them to make a living," Sir Francis
The day of Franky's funeral had been the first to bring home the fact that
summer was gone. The chapel had been cold and bleak, and while they stood
around the grave it began to rain. In the drawing-room at Cashelthorpe the
fire had been lit, and tea awaited the brother and sister. Consoling as
these comforts were they could not dispel the sadness which oppressed the
kind heart of Ada Forcus.
"I shall never forget those poor things, to-day. Never!" she said, and
cried unashamedly into her tea-cup.
The man, of course, did not cry, but he too appeared for the time
overwhelmed with the shadow of what had befallen.
"I spoke to their old servant to-day," he said. "It seems the child was
called back; Reggie wouldn't listen; drove off with him."
"I am horribly sorry for Reggie. But oh, I can't forget how _little_ the
coffin looked. Francis, what a handsome family they are! I couldn't help
noticing that, even when they cried, the girls were pretty."
It was more than could have been said of Ada; and she knew it, but cried
all the same.
"The younger girl is extremely good-looking," the brother said, "and she
is a conscientious and good girl, besides."
He thought how certainly, if she had so wished it, she might have been
going to be his sister-in-law, and the reflection again quickened the
perception of the fact that something was due from the family of Forcus to
that of Day.
"I will go and see George Boult to-morrow," he said.
"The draper, do you mean? Why?"
"He is their adviser. Put the poor woman into that wretched shop. He will
know what can be done for them."
Sir Francis, however, did not find himself greatly helped in his
benevolent project by Mr. George Boult, a circumstance surprising the man
to whom the character of the successful draper was not unknown. That he
would have accepted on the widow's behalf without scruple anything that
could be got, was what was expected of him; instead of which he received
all the rich man's propositions coldly, and did not even faintly encourage
his charitable intentions.
Through his brother--however blameless in the matter--a heavy sorrow had
come upon these poor people. It would be a great relief to Sir Francis and
his family if he could be allowed in any way to be of use to them. His
name need not appear. Mr. Boult could arrange the transaction. He had
heard that the grocer's business was not successful--?
The shop must be given up. George Boult admitted the fact. The woman was
too timid for trade. All women were. No blame to her, specially. She had
been industrious, and careful. She was standing behind her counter that
very morning. He had seen her there. But what customers would care to go
to buy soap and candles of a woman half dead with grief?
"She must not be allowed to remain there," Sir Francis said. "I can easily
put in a man who will take entire charge and set Mrs. Day at liberty. I
will send a man in, to-morrow."
"I am putting one in to-day," George Boult said, who had decided to do so
on the moment only. He swelled out his chest, settled his shoulders, shook
his head in his low collar, and put on an important air. "No doubt it is
common knowledge that Mrs. Day and her family have looked to me for advice
and assistance, hitherto," he said.
"I promised William Day I would look after them. I have kept my promise,
and mean to keep it. I am obliged to you all the same."
"My offer to help in any way possible holds good, you will remember," Sir
Francis said. He would not give up his benevolent intention without a
struggle. "Is there anything which could be done for the girls?" he asked.
"The younger is teacher at a school, I believe?"
"Got the sack!" said Mr. Boult easily; and then, seeing no reason why he
should not do so, went on to explain that it was through the attentions of
Mr. Reginald Forcus that misfortune had come about. "So Miss Bessie tells
me," he finished, and inquired with the glance of a glistening eye at Sir
Francis if he had the pleasure of Miss Bessie's acquaintance. "A
remarkably fine-looking young lady is Miss Bessie," he pronounced.
He nodded a familiar farewell to his visitor when, uncomfortable and
crestfallen, the latter withdrew. The Forcuses were not even customers.
Sir Francis and he sat on the magistrates' bench together. "We are on a
par, about, now," he said to himself; and he reminded himself he also was
now entitled to put a cockade on the frowsy hat of his coachman in the
Let the high and mighty brewer put up a widow of his own to play
Providence to, and leave the especial property of George Boult alone!
Sir Francis, for his part, was more troubled in mind than ever when he
emerged from that interview. The girl dismissed from her school too! It
seemed that all the misfortunes of the poor Days must be laid at his door.
He, who hated to owe to any man, could not ease himself of that heavy
"I will go to see them," Ada said when he told the ill-success of his
"They will hate to see you."
"I shall go. I am sure they are people of nice feeling."
Of that visit, too, no very satisfactory account could be given. It had
been very painful. Mrs. Day had not been present. She had sent a message
thanking Miss Forcus for calling, and asking to be excused. There had been
only the girls. She might say only the one girl, for the elder had started
wildly crying at the appearance of Miss Forcus, and had not recovered when
"The poor little boy seems to have been their idol," Ada said with a sigh,
The younger girl had pleased the lady very much by her demeanour; so
composed, so unselfish, so evidently aware of the trying ordeal it was for
the visitor, so sweetly striving to be gracious.
Sir Francis nodded. "I have always liked the manner of that younger girl."
"And she is quite lovely, Francis."
He did not know about the loveliness, the brother said, but he believed
her to be simple and conscientious and good. He looked at his sister's
plain face: "Every woman who is that is lovely," he announced.
"I am going there again," Ada said.
"It won't seem an intrusion?"
"I will risk it. They appear to have no friends."
After the second visit she had something more definite to relate. "I hope
you will approve, but if you don't it can't be helped," she said, "for the
thing is arranged. That younger girl, Deleah, is coming here."
"Here? On a visit, you mean?"
"She is coming to be my companion. It is the only way I can discover in
which we can be of use to them. The poor child has been receiving fifteen
pounds a year. I can give her fifty--"
"You haven't forgotten how that young fool, Reggie, made a bigger fool of
himself over this girl. Would have married her, I suppose, but for the
extraordinarily decent way the young woman behaved about it."
"Luckily Reggie is away," Ada comforted herself. "He'll have been in love
a dozen times over before he comes back again."
"But what are you going to do with the girl? Won't it bore you to have her
always about? You have never wanted a companion before."
"How do you know I have not?" his sister asked him laughing. "I didn't
know it myself, but I expect I've wanted one all the time. At last I'm
going to have one."
There was in Ada Forcus that ineradicable love of gaiety which some women
carry to the grave. Since, at the death of his wife, she had gone to keep
house for her brother small indulgence had been shown to this passion. In
the grave of his wife, not only all Sir Francis's heart had been buried,
but apparently the love of all that made for the brightness of life. By
the time the poignancy of his sorrow had worn off, to be solemn and sad of
demeanour, to shun the disturbing effects of social distraction, had
become second nature to him. By no wish of his own, but naturally and
irresistibly, that habit of melancholy which had fallen on its master
seemed to enshroud his home. He liked his brother to be with him in the
home in which he had been born, but he would not welcome his brother's
friends. He was greatly attached to the sister, who was half a dozen years
older than himself, but the idea that she could desire any other company
than his own, had not apparently presented itself.
"There are some things a man can never learn," the mid-Victorian Ada said
to herself, when Sir Francis prophesied that she would find a companion a
bore. "And one is that a woman, however happily situated in a man's house,
must have another woman easy of access to talk with, to sew with, to
When it was explained to her that a man was to be put into the shop to
give her a holiday, Mrs. Day refused the indulgence. Her heart was broken,
but she was not ill. To have had a little time to give to Franky--to take
him for walks in the country, to read to him, to help him with his
favourite occupation of painting old numbers of the _Illustrated News_ and
_Punch_ would have been a joy. Often she had longed for the leisure to do
these things. But now that Franky was gone, where was the use of leisure?
She did not even want the leisure to cry. She who had wept so often in
this latest sorrow could shed no tears.
Deleah cried, wetting the pillow nightly with her tears. When talking of
matters quite unconnected with the lost child the tears would come welling
up, drowning the beautiful hazel eyes; would tremble, as she tried to go
on talking, on the thick black lashes; would roll, she pretending not to
notice, down her cheeks.
Bessie cried--howled, even, lying with her face buried in the sofa
cushion, calling in a smothered voice upon Franky's name.
Emily cried, cleaning with spirits of ammonia the shabby school suit whose
odour had so offended the nostrils of the elder sister. Putting yet
another patch in the hinder portions of the trousers, the only use of such
labours being that it delayed the laying away of the little garments for
But the mother was denied such easy expression of sorrow that was beyond
words and beyond tears. "I am not ill. Mr. Pretty and I can manage," she
said, and the substitute supplied by George Boult was sent back.
Mr. Pretty was very good to her, giving up, for the time being, his
surreptitious smokes in the cellar, his skylarking with the youths of his
own age who passed the door, giving his serious attention to duties he had
consistently shirked hitherto.
Every one who came near the bereaved mother committed the common mistake
of ignoring her loss. Even her daughters did this as much as possible; so
that in the place where the child's name had been on every lip it was no
Those who have endured such a loss know how the ear sickens for the sound
of a name which yet the tongue refuses to utter; how the heart stirs to
the music of it when at length it is pronounced.
Mr. Pretty did not understand this, but also he did not know the accepted
creed that of the newly dead it is kindest not to speak. He had not seemed
very fond of the child, had often complained of him as a hindrance when
Franky had wished to help him to grind the coffee or to clean the
currants, yet he had laid by a store of sayings and doings which he drew
on now for his mother's ear. Stories of Franky's naughtiness, even: of his
partiality for the neighbourhood of a certain drawer which contained
preserved cherries. Of his cheek in daring to address the assistant as
"Pretty" without the Mr., and, the youth objecting, his ready substitution
of an adjective which certainly was more descriptive of his appearance. Of
his riding on Mr. Pretty's back when he, in pursuit of his duty, must
crawl on all fours under the counter; his clinging to his legs when duty
again called him to mount the steps for the topmost shelf. Nothing was too
absurd, no tiny record too trivial to be precious in the mother's ears.
A source of furtive interest to her were the movements of Willy Spratt,
the cutler's son. Instructed thereto by his parents, who may have thought
that the sight of him would be painful to the poor woman, the child gave
up, going to the shop to spend his pennies. Looking in, a little wistfully
at first, as he passed, he soon ran, singing or shouting, by the door,
with no thought of the little companion who used to wait to join him
there. When at length he took to coming in again for his screw of sweets,
Mrs. Day would look away from him resentfully, leaving him to Mr. Pretty
to serve. She could not bring herself to speak to the child who was alive
and well, and happy with his acid-drops, while Franky lay in his grave.
Of the company of Mr. Boult at that time the Days had more than enough.
Mr. Gibbon used to get up and retire to his room or go out to walk the
streets, when the head of his firm appeared. "I have enough of him in
working hours," he would excuse himself afterwards. "Mr. Boult is all very
well in his place."
"I'm sure I wish he would keep there!" Bessie would declare. She thought
the Honourable Charles was jealous; for with the elder daughter the draper
had come to indulge in a kind of heavy badinage which may have gratified
George Boult, and apparently was not displeasing to Bessie, but which
those who looked on must have found fatiguing.
Bessie always pretended to be bored by these encounters of wit with the
fat, bald-headed man who had been her father's contemporary: "You have no
right to yawn when I am talking to you, Miss Bessie," he would reprove
her. "Why do you do it?"
"Because I am tired."
"You mean because you are tired of my company? That is not the reason you
yawn, however. You yawn because you have indigestion."
"I? Indigestion? What makes you think so, pray? Do I look like
indigestion? Have I spots on my face, or a red nose?"
"No, but you are growing fat. You eat too much."
"Mr. Boult, how _dare_ you!"
"You eat too much, and work too little. You don't take exercise enough to
digest your food."
"You are making personal remarks, Mr. Boult. No gentleman can make
personal remarks to a lady unless they are complimentary--" and so on.
When Deleah went away it seemed that Bessie blossomed out into greater
attractiveness. Perhaps in the restricted spaces of Bridge Street there
had not been room enough or air enough for the development of both
sisters; or it may have been that Deleah, with her superior beauty and
winsomeness, shone the other down, and that Bessie had been conscious of
the fact. Certainly she grew more amiable, more useful, even grew prettier
and more lovable. And George Boult came often, and more often. Hardly a
night that he did not come.
The business, not paying, must be disposed of; there was no absolute cause
for hurry; Mrs. Day could hang on till an advantageous offer was made, Mr.
Boult decided. The house, open to receive him whenever it pleased him to
go, suited him. He liked the long narrow sitting-room above the shop, with
its fireplace at one end, and its three deep-seated windows at the other,
where he could sit now as in his own home, and talk to Bessie wilfully
idle, or Bessie pretending to sew--always Bessie pleasant to look upon,
and oddly stimulating, with her daring treatment of him.
Deleah gone, Franky gone, it was very snug there, especially when the
winter evenings came on, and the poor widow stayed late in her shop while
he and Bessie sat and "chaffed," as he called it, alone.
How she dared! he often asked himself. To think of all the benefits he had
bestowed on the family, and that she dared!
"What would have become of you all if I had not got up that
subscription-list, and started you in business?" he asked her.
"What's going to become of us now that the money is spent, and the
business has failed?" she retorted.
"You leave that to me," he told her, and as good as promised that the
future of the family was safe with him. He expected her, perhaps, to be
overcome with gratitude; instead of which she gave him a not unneeded
lesson in manners, advising him that a person of so much importance should
not demean himself by blowing his own trumpet.
In the sitting-room over the shop was no attraction for Charles Gibbon,
Deleah's light figure and darling face being absent from it. He could
afford a house very well now. Not the grand house of which Deleah had
spoken, but one which would suffice to his modest wants. A house with a
big garden beyond, where, supposing a lady ever came to live there who was
fond of flowers, roses might be grown, honeysuckle, jessamine trained. A
garden where a bower could be constructed large enough for two who could
eat their strawberries there, in season, or drink a glass of wine there,
on a Sunday afternoon. Far out of the town, for choice, on a road at whose
gate some one might stand watching the departure of the master, as he went
to work in the morning, welcoming him when he returned at night.
In his spare hours he occupied himself in looking for such a retreat, and
when the ideal one was found he left his rooms in Bridge Street and went
to live there.
George Boult took the trouble to walk out one Sunday afternoon to the
little trellis-covered house, a mile and a half away from the town, and
discovered the junior partner in his shirt-sleeves rolling the gravel of
the back-garden. Boult, a strict Sabbatarian, was more than a little
shocked to observe that breach of decorum. The fact that the back-garden
was not overlooked, set his mind at rest, however. "We've got to be
careful about such things. Customers are often particular," he said.
The patronage of the visitor who insisted on being taken over the small
domain was trying to the temper of its proprietor, uneasily conscious
already that the lawn was only half big enough for the croquet-hoops
ostentatiously set forth thereon; that the furniture in the dining-room
was much too big for it, and that in the drawing-room absolutely unsuited
to its purpose. He wished to forget these defects, which the other thought
it his duty conscientiously to point out.
"Very nice. Very nice. Very suitable indeed," was the verdict finally
pronounced. The Honourable Charles's soreness was not at all soothed
thereby. Since the abode, obviously in Mr. Boult's eyes, left so much to
be desired, it was no compliment to be told it was suitable. "A very nice
little cage, Gibbon. Where is the bird?"
"No hurry," Gibbon said, sullenly uncommunicative. Earnestly desiring his
departure he had strolled with his visitor to the gate. To have him on
Sunday as well as all the week was a little too much, he was saying to
himself, aloud saying nothing. And at that moment a carriage was driven
past, whose servants wore the green and tan liveries of the Forcuses. One
of the two ladies seated in the carriage, with a look of surprise on her
face, leant eagerly forward and bowed to the men at the gate. Mr. Boult,
taken unaware, made a dash at his hat, Gibbon, bare-headed, did not so
much as bend his neck in response to the salutation, but his face grew
"Slap up turn-out! I suppose their carriages are always dashing by?" Mr.
Boult said; for the road on which the Laburnums stood was that which led
He was generally at work at the back of the house, and could not say how
often they passed, Gibbon said.
"You'd rather be looking at your three-yard-square of croquet-lawn than at
Deleah Day in the Forcuses' carriage, Gibbon?"
Gibbon plucked a leaf from the hedge and put it in his mouth, but made no
reply to the facetious remark.
"What are they doing, driving their horses, and dragging out their
servants in the middle of a Sunday afternoon?"
They went sometimes, in the afternoon, to a service at the Cathedral,
Gibbon, who in spite of being habitually at the back of the house
evidently knew something of the Forcuses' movements, was able to
"Little Miss Deleah thinks a mighty lot of herself, seated up there in
He should not think so, Gibbon said. "What is she but a servant there? She
was a far greater lady, to my thinking, when she sat in the room over her
"It's Bessie that should ride in her carriage," Mr. Boult declared.
"Perhaps she will," said Gibbon, and looked at his partner, who met the
other's eyes hardily.
"If she does," he said with sudden bluster, "the fool that owns the
carriage is a ruined man. Mark my words. Extravagant, idle young woman.
Die in the workhouse--that's what Bessie Day will do. Look here, Gibbon;
you know how things are; you know all I've done for them. I could put up
the shutters of the shop to-morrow, and they could not help theirselves.
Bessie knows it too. I have not made a secret of these things. She knows I
hold them in the hollow of my hand. Yet to hear her cheek me! The daring
of it! Gibbon," he touched the younger man's shoulder with the stiff
finger of his thick hand, "I used to think that you--eh?"
"No," said Gibbon, with decision.
"Nice little place all ready--when you've spent a few pounds more--?"
"No, thank you."
"Is that so?" Boult said, and pressed his lips together, nodding his head
and seeming to take time to turn the information over in his mind. Then he
leant forward, and again touched the other's shoulder, tapping it two or
three times by way of emphasis. "You're wise," he said, confidentially.
"Take my word for it, Gibbon, you're wise. If I were a marrying man,
which, thank Heaven, I am not, I wouldn't risk marrying Bessie Day if
there was not another woman on earth."
Promotion For Mrs. Day
Deleah had lived for several months at Cashelthorpe as companion to Miss
Forcus, when on a certain Thursday afternoon she excused herself, as it
was often her habit to do, from attending on Miss Forcus, and went to pass
the hour and a half of the early-closing day with her mother and sister.
Mrs. Day was alone at the moment of her arrival, and that her mother was
in unusually low spirits was quite obvious to Deleah.
"Come for a walk with me, mama; it is not good for you to be shut up on
such a day in this stuffy room."
Mrs. Day declined, but she could not deny that the room was stuffy. No
flowers were on the table now that Gibbon's offerings had ceased. No
plants on the wide window seat. On a whatnot in a corner which had been
devoted to the child's belongings were Franky's paint-box and some of his
toys. The mother's eyes turned from Deleah, now well appointed in her
pretty muslin and hat with its long ostrich feather, and rested on these
"But for what happened to him you would not be where you are, Deleah," she
"But you wish me to be there, mama?"
"Oh, I wish it, dear, since you are happy; only--"
She did not put the thought into words--only Franky seemed to have died
for this. Franky, who had come crying to her one day because a
school-fellow had laughed at the patch on this trousers: Franky who had
begged so hard only a few hours before his death for a little box of
conjuring tools like Willy Spratt's, which had to be denied him. Her
little Franky crushed to death beneath the wheels of the Forcus carriage!
In her heart the mother would have liked Deleah to reject the good things
offered her by the Forcus hand.
"Of course I am not happy!" Deleah said. "How can I be happy, mama, if you
are unhappy? And poor little Franky--do you think I forget him? And
Bernard, and--poor papa? And again I'm not happy because I don't _earn_
the money they pay me," Deleah said, and her cheeks grew pink at the
thought. "It is out of charity they give it me. I _can't_ earn fifty
pounds a year by just sitting in a carriage, or sewing beads on to canvas,
giving a few messages to servants, writing a few letters! I wonder if they
would be glad if I gave it all up, mama?"
"We're leaving the shop," Mrs. Day told her. "You must try to keep where
you are, for the time, Deleah. Miss Forcus is kind to you?"
"Oh, so heavenly kind!"
"And Sir Francis?"
"I suppose he knows I am in the house. Yes. Sometimes he speaks to me
quite ten words a day. Tell me about leaving the shop, mama."
"Mr. Boult has proved to me that we are not solvent."
"What does that mean? Not that we are bankrupt? Oh, mama! As if we had not
had disgrace enough without that!"
"There is no end to it," Mrs. Day said hopelessly. "But you, at least, are
out of it, Deleah." She had a dreary air of detachment about her; the
troubles that had beset them had been common to them all, but Mrs. Day
sat, on this holiday afternoon, as if she were singled out and set apart,
a queen of sorrows. Deleah resented that attitude.
"Surely you don't think I want to be out of it, mama! Do you think I want
to live in luxury while you and Bessie haven't a home?"
And at that moment Bessie appeared, coming in from the kitchen and
confidential confabulation with Emily. Her face was flushed, and her eyes
glittered with an excitement too evidently not pleasurable.
"Well! What do you think of it?" she burst forth.
"It is bad news. But everything that happens to us is bad," said Deleah,
with uncharacteristic despondency.
"Bad?" echoed Bessie. "That depends on how you look at it."
"Bankruptcy? To owe more than we can pay? I should have thought that there
was only one way of looking at it."
Bessie swung round to her mother. "You haven't told Deda!" she cried
accusingly. "She hasn't told you! Mama is going to marry Mr. Boult,
"To _marry_ him!" Deleah cried, as if she might have cried "to _murder_
him!" and sprang from her chair to stand before her mother. "Mama! Mama!"
Mrs. Day, sitting huddled in her chair as if she lacked the spirit to hold
herself upright, and looking all at once a dozen years older, shook a
desponding head. "I can't!" she said. "I don't think I _can_ do it."
"Well, you've got the chance," Bessie said, hardly. "And it's a good one.
Good for all of us. He's rich. He has sat here bragging of his money to
me--and that he might spend a couple of thousand a year if he liked. As if
I cared! But if it's going to be yours, mama--two thousand a year--I do
care. I do!"
"But we can't think only of ourselves, Bessie," Deleah, horrified, put in.
"We've got to think of mama. She could never endure it."
"She should have thought of that before," Bessie said. "Mama should not
have been so sly and underhand--"
"Bessie! Bessie! You can't mean what you say."
"I mean every word of it. Pretending to dislike him! Pretending to keep
out of his way!"
"Deleah, I have told your sister I nearly died of astonishment when he
spoke to me. The idea had never entered my head." Poor Mrs. Day leant the
head upon her hand and hid her face, in her misery.
"Bessie, you are not to bully mama. Do be silent. Don't mind her, mama.
What did you say to him?"
"I didn't say one way or the other."
"Such nonsense!" cried the irrepressible Bessie. "You'll have to say! and
he isn't in any doubt about it. He came to me and told me he was going to
be my papa. I could have felled him to the earth when he said it! But I
did not. I said 'You may be a papa to me a hundred times over, I will
never be a daughter to you. Never! Never! Never!'"
"But if mama did this horrible thing, you'd have to be his daughter--you'd
have to live in his house--"
"I'd live there, but I'd make it warm for him!" Bessie cried; and then her
feelings becoming too much for her, she dashed from the room, and slammed
the door behind her.
Deleah, left alone with her mother, did her best to strengthen her. "Never
mind her, mama. Do not think of any of us in this; think of yourself
alone. You could never do it."
"Bessie and he would fight like cat and dog," Mrs. Day said. "They are
always fighting now. She says such things to him, and he to her!
Environment has told on Bessie. She says things no lady should say. My
life would be unbearable."
"It is not to be thought of for a moment."
"But there are the debts I cannot pay. There is poor Bernard. I ought to
do it, Deleah. I know I ought. But I have had miseries enough."
When Deleah left her, Mrs. Day still sat a huddled heap upon the sofa. "I
have had miseries enough," she repeated; and upon that text she spoke to
herself--going over in faithful detail the troubles she had known--vainest
and most useless occupation in which a woman can indulge.
Her orphaned, dependent childhood; her marriage. It had been loveless on
her part, but she had cared a little, believing that love on her husband's
part would suffice. Was it love, ever at all? Is love possible where
tenderness, courtesy, consideration do not exist? Time going on, daily she
had suffered his incivility, the despite he did to her sense of what was
due to her as his wife, the mother of his children, the mistress of his
home. Habit, and love for her children, had made life tolerable. But for
twenty years he and she had lived side by side in the outward union of
inwardly divided minds.
Then had come his crime, its awful expiation, the terror, the disgrace,
the bitterness of the fall for her children and herself, the salt, salt
taste of the bread of charity, the drudgery which had been humiliating all
through, with failure at the end. The grievous sorrow of Bernard's
blighted career, the cruel death of her innocent comfort and consoler, her
Were not these things enough? Great God, was it possible she still had
unspeakable agonies of mind and humiliation of body to go through? Her
eyes, so pathetic in their subdued look of patience, wandered round the
room which had been to her a haven of refuge from her sordid life in the
grocer's shop. A hat Bessie had just discarded lay upon the table. Poor
Bessie! poor undisciplined, unruly, never wholly grown-up Bessie! In the
day of cataloguing the miseries of her life she was too sadly honest to
pretend that Bessie could be a comfort to her.
A picture of Bernard painted by a local artist at a time when father and
mother were for once united in the opinion that a handsomer, more
promising boy did not exist, hung on the wall. Poor Bernard, who by last
mail from India had written to his mother that his life in barracks was a
The tired eyes wandered from that heart-breaking record of promise never
to be fulfilled to the whatnot, holding Franky's toys. Was that dust on
the lid of the paint-box?
She crossed the room, mounted a chair, took down the precious box, dusted
it tenderly with her handkerchief, looked within. Such broken odds and
ends of his gamboge, his yellow ochre, his Indian ink of which he had
prattled to his father, questioning whether carmine or vermilion should be
used for the roofs of his absurd houses; if Prussian blue or ultramarine
should be for his seas and skies. She saw again the huge man and the
little child bending over their pictures on Sunday evenings of long ago,
heard the very tones of their voices. Her tears dropped upon the shabby
old box, upon the little earthen palette on which the colours Franky had
rubbed still remained. All the bitterness had died out of her heart. Only
sadness was left, and a sense of irreparable loss.
At Laburnum Villa
Deleah as she walked homeward that afternoon (for she had overstayed her
allotted time in Bridge Street, and the carriage which was to have picked
her up at a certain point had gone on without her) determined that she
must leave Cashelthorpe. The words sounded in her own ears as if she were
sentencing herself to leave heaven.
Her mother could not be allowed to marry George Boult; she could not
remain in the shop. How were she and Bessie to live? With the vanity of
youth, which always sees itself in the foreground, Deleah thought she
perceived that it was she who must get a living for them all.
In her small distracted head she decided as she walked along that she
would hire a little house, start a little school. Perhaps some one would
pay the first quarter's rent, and she could pay it back when the pupils
"Some one" in days gone by would have meant Sir Francis; but now, living
under the same roof with him, seeing in what deference he was held even by
his own sister, feeling his reserve, his aloofness from the low concerns
of such as she, she had become extraordinarily shy of that great man.
Through the daring of ignorance, trusting in that look of serenity and
nobility in his face, she had formerly approached him. She believed in his
goodness still as she believed in the goodness of God, but the awe of him
she had always felt had descended, since she had lived beneath his roof,
in a double measure upon her.
Of his sister she had no fear. She would speak to kind Miss Forcus. Miss
Forcus would tell her what to do.
Simultaneously with the formation of this resolve she arrived at the
neatly trimmed hedge of Laburnum Villa. For the moment she had forgotten
that the place held any interest for her beyond that of the other little
houses in their gay gardens she had passed. She glanced at the bright
green of the trellis-work front, at the minute weeping willow in a corner
of the grass-plot, at the roseplants destined to cover arches and to grow
into a bower, by and by. By the front door a clematis had been planted,
and the Honourable Charles was stooping over the plant, and striving to
direct, in accordance with his own idea of how it should grow, the
clinging of the tendrils.
Her light step was perhaps the one step in the world whose music could
have withdrawn his attention from that absorbing occupation. He rose to
his feet, turning sharply round; and as she wished him good-evening he
went swiftly to the gate and swung it open."
"Come in," he said. "I have been waiting for this." He had at the moment
such a commanding air, that Deleah had no thought but to obey him.
"I wish to show you my little place," he explained.
Deleah was late, as it was, and had yet some mile and a half to walk, but
concluding from the dimensions of the place that no very long detention
was threatened, did not demur. So long ago it seemed to her, who had since
travelled miles along the road of Experience and Feeling, that the Bridge
Street boarder had made love to her when he should have made love to
Bessie. He had paid her the greatest compliment it was in his power to
pay, and of late she had begun to understand something of what he might
have suffered; she wished to be kind to him and to make amends.
So, sweetly appreciative of all she saw, she walked at his side, down the
little paths, helped him to remember the names of the annuals, admired the
view of the back-yard through a vista of trellis-work arches.
"Do you like it?" he asked her.
Deleah, with her artless desire to please, declared that she liked it very
He turned away with a long-drawn breath of content "Come indoors," he
commanded. He walked in front to lead the way, but stopped suddenly on the
little path and turned to ask her if she knew how long it was since he and
she had talked together.
"Quite a long time, isn't it?" Deleah answered him. "But I have not been
living at home, you know; I--"
He cut her short abruptly. "It is five months three weeks and two days,"
he said. "But the time has not been long to me. Looking back it seems that
the time has almost flown."
Deleah could not have felt flattered that this was so, but she told him
she was glad to know that he was so happy.
"Not happy," he said, "but looking forward to happiness; working for it."
With that he went on again, stopping at the hall-door. "I think I've
remembered your taste," he said as he threw the door open. "I've carried
it out everywhere as far as it was possible."
At that Deleah drew back. "I will look over your house some other time,"
she said. "It is late. I must be getting home now."
"Do you call the Forcus's place your home?"
"For the present. I am leaving there soon."
"The sooner the better. Come in."
He put a heavy and peremptory hand upon her arm and drew her over the
threshold, across the tiny passage called the hall, into one of the two
"This is the dining-room," he said. "Sit down."
To free her arm from his hand she obeyed him, and with an effort to appear
very much at her ease looked about her.
"What a sweet little room!" she said.
"You like it? I thought you would. Look at the picture over the
It was a large print--much too large for the room--of "The Last Sleep of
Argyle," and was faced on the opposite wall by a reproduction of "The
Execution of Montrose."
"They're proof prints," he told her proudly. "I remember you went to see
those pictures, years ago, when they were on show in Brockenham, and liked
them. I've had the chairs covered with red leather 'stead of horsehair. It
costs more, but you used to say red was cheerful."
"It is so very nice, Mr. Gibbon."
"In the drawing-room there is a piano. Come and see."
She went, because of that strange new peremptoriness of manner which she
felt she had not the moral courage to disobey. The drawing-room had fresh
flowers in a vase upon the centre table.
"Did you put the flowers there, Mr. Gibbon?"
"I put them there every day. For you. I have been waiting for you to come
to see them. Everything is always ready. You like it all?"
"It is yours, then. It is all for you. From cowl on the chimney-pot--the
kitchen-chimney smoked; I thought it would be inconvenient--to the bunch
of honeysuckle on the table. All yours."
"Oh no, Mr. Gibbon."
"All yours. Every carpet has been laid down for you, every chair and table
bought. Every seed has been sown, every tree planted. For you."
Deleah, speechless for the moment, looked at the man with eyes grown wide
with dismay. His was no tragic figure. He wore the light-coloured, large
checked suit affected at that period by young men escaping temporarily
from the black-frocked livery of shop or office, his hair was brushed
smoothly back and shone with brilliantine, his moustache was glossy with
the same admired preparation. His face was extra pale, but Deleah knew it
had the trick of paling suddenly and for small cause. She had seen it
blanch at a chance encounter with her in the street, or accidental
touching of her hand by his. She avoided meeting his eyes--those eyes said
to hold something in their expression which redeemed his face from the
commonplace--and the wild ardour of their gaze was lost upon her.
"Everything is yours, Deleah; when will you come and take it over?"
"Mr. Gibbon, I told you before. I have not changed."
"Nor I." His lips were lead-coloured and trembling; he was indeed
trembling all over. He crossed his arms upon his chest to keep them still.
"You are going to be my wife or no one's, Deleah," he said.
She got up nervously from her chair; she tried to speak lightly. "I am
going to be no one's, Mr. Gibbon," she said. "As I walked along to-night I
have been making up my mind what to do. I shall take a small house for us
all, and try to keep a little school. You shall see how well I keep my
pupils in order. And, now and then, you shall bring me a nosegay of
flowers from your garden--"
"That won't suit me," he said. "I give you no more flowers unless you take
them all. Will you take them? Answer."
"Oh, Mr. Gibbon!"
"'Oh, Mr. Gibbon!'" and he mimicked her. "Is that the way to speak to me?
After all the years of my worship, am I still 'Mr. Gibbon' to you?"
"I suppose so," was all poor Deleah could say.
He was standing with his back to the door. He turned swiftly and locked
it, then holding the key in his shaking hand, crossed his arms again:
"Now!" he said, facing her; "we come to realities now. No more 'Oh, Mr.
Gibbon!' no more talk about flowers. Listen. I, Charles Gibbon, love you
with a passionate and desperate love that is not going to be played with.
Do you, Deleah Day, love me? Say it out, once for all; Gospel truth; as
God is in heaven to hear it."
"I don't love you."
"Do you hate me?"
Deleah was frightened, but she was angry too: "Just for the minute I think
"All the same, hating me, will you marry me, and come to live in the house
I have made for you?"
"No," said Deleah, pale and suddenly breathless. "I won't!"
He listened, panting as if from long running; his chest laboured beneath
the grip of his folded arms as if it must burst. For a long minute he
glared at her, speechless; and Deleah, glaring back at him wondered was
this man with the working, ashen face really their decorous boarder, who
had been so assiduous in passing the mustard and pouring out the water?
What had come to him? Had she done this? Did he mean to kill her?
He came slowly nearer to her, and it took all the girl's courage to hold
up her head, to face him. "I understand, at last," he said. "Now I want
you to understand too. So listen to me; and remember; and see if I lie.
You belong to me. Never mind what you feel about it. You are mine. You
belong to me. Do you hear me?"
"I hear you, Mr. Gibbon."
"Say it after me."
"I will not."
"You belong to me. Belong to me. Belong to me. And while I live you shall
belong to no one else."
He turned round then, and unlocked the door. But as she, with a haste
which was hardly dignified, would have passed him there, he threw his arms
around her, and pulled her fiercely to him, and madly kissed her face.
Frightened and outraged, she fought for liberty, and gaining it, dashed
off. She flew down the little neatly rolled gravel path, and out through
the freshly painted gate, and once on the road, as if more than life was
endangered by delay, she rushed onward at break-neck speed.
Sir Francis Forcus, solemn and serene of face, riding homeward, had his
attention drawn to a little figure which flew ahead of him. Riding up to
her, he found that she who thus fled lonely as the shades of evening fell
along the deserted road, was that little girl, his sister's protegee, who
should have been safe under the shelter of his own roof.
She stood still, breathless and disordered, as he drew up alongside of
her. "What has happened? Where is my sister? Why are you alone?" he asked,
and looked with astonished disapproval at her scared little white face.
"I was late, and missed the--carriage. I am--running--home," she panted.
He saw that there was more behind, and dismounted. Girls were not trained
for physical exertion in those days, they were not nurtured in the belief
that they must not be cowards. Deleah was trembling with terror and
"Sit down," he said, and she subsided on the bank. He stood silently by
her for a minute, drawing his conclusions. "You have been frightened," he
said. "Who frightened you?"
"N-no one," gasped Deleah. "I--ran."
"From what? From whom?" And Deleah could not reply, could only feel the
blessed security of his protecting presence, could only look up at him
with the trusting, adoring eyes of a child.
He looked back upon the road they had both come; the daylight had not yet
faded from the sky, although the shades of evening were beginning to fall;
far down the road, where it curved towards the town, the lamps were being
lit. By the gate of the last "villa-residence" on the road, a man stood,
looking towards the pair by the bank.
"Was that the man who frightened you? That man by the gate?"
She might have saved her soul the perjury. Sir Francis, leading his horse
by the bridle, walked back in the direction of Laburnum Villa.
"Come back! Oh, please come back!" Deleah cried; but Sir Francis, paying
no heed, went on, till he stopped, bridle in one hand, riding-whip in the
other, in front of the man standing on the pathway before his gate.
"You frightened that lady."
"That lady is no business of yours."
"You are my business, you scoundrel," Sir Francis said, and lifted with a
threatening gesture the hand that held the whip.
The man did not flinch. He was no coward; he was much the smaller of the
two; he was unarmed. "No," Sir Francis said. "Not to-night," and dropped
his whip-hand. "But look out for yourself, sir. Take care. I shall have an
eye on you."
For a minute he stood confronting the man, who looked back hardily at him.
What else he had to say he said by the glance of his eye, by the set of
his lips, by his scornfully carried head; then he slowly turned his back,
led his horse from path to roadway, and swung himself into his saddle. As
he settled himself there, he found the other man by his stirrup.
"Lucky for you you did not use your whip on me, Sir Francis Forcus," he
said. "Sure as God, if you had done so I would have had your life."
Sir Francis, looking down on him, cut a light stroke upon the man's
shoulder with his whip.
"You asked for it, and you have got it," he said. "Stand out of the way,
will you?" and careless whether the other took that measure for
self-preservation or not, rode on.
Deleah, unable to see distinctly what occurred, was relieved to find the
interview so short, and Sir Francis so quickly beside her again. She had
got up from the bank, and was walking briskly homeward when he overtook
"I hope you--were not unkind to him," she said timidly. "Mr. Gibbon lived
in our house once--"
"Was that Mr. Gibbon? That man with the mad eyes?"
"He was our boarder. He was always very kind."
"To you especially kind?"
"To us all."
"And am I to hear why, as he is so kind, you were running away from him,
"I had rather not tell."
He was a man of so much reserve himself that he respected hers. "Very
well," he said; and after a minute added, "I am quite sure you were not to
"I don't know," said Deleah, and hung her head, as she walked along.
To blame or not, she was horribly ashamed. She felt always in his society
as shy and _gauche_ as an awkward child, and was conscious that it was in
such a light he regarded her. She would have died rather than that he
should have known of that frantic struggle in Gibbon's arms, of that mad
Deleah, who had no advantage of excellent training, happened to be
naturally musical. She played no difficult music, but her touch on the
piano was good. Her voice, by no means powerful, was true and pure and
pleasing. To Miss Forcus, who, in spite of the advantages of education,
loved the wrong things consistently in music, and liked to be moved to
tears by the plaintive songs of Claribel, it was a great pleasure to lie
back in her chair, book or embroidery fallen to the floor, and watch
Deleah's fingers tripping through the variations of Brinsley Richards's
masterpieces; to hear her tunefully lamenting that "she could not sing the
old songs," or in cheerfuller mood announcing that she might "marry the
Laird" if she would--"the Laird of high degree."
The two ladies had the small drawing-room to themselves in the evening as
a rule, but to-night, the fancy took Sir Francis to join them there.
Deleah, nervous at playing and singing before him, was too shy to ask to
be excused. She had been told that the dead wife had been a fine
instrumental performer, and that every evening she had provided for her
husband a genuine musical treat.
"I'm afraid I don't play any good music," she said. But Sir Francis, truth
to tell, shared his sister's lamentable taste, and if, as he sat silent
and pensive, beneath the shaded lamp on the round centre table, while the
girl at the piano went through her simple repertoire, his heart was
filled with memories of his lost wife, he certainly was not lamenting the
works of Mozart and Beethoven which she had so skilfully rendered.
Deleah, however, did not know this, never doubting that her benefactor was
a connoisseur of all the arts. Her fingers trembled upon wrong notes--all
undetected, had she known--her sweet voice faltered through the songs she
was wont to sing so pleasingly. She went off to bed, not daring to look
the master of the house in the face, so shocked and jarred and weary she
felt that he must be.
"Isn't she charmingly pretty and sweet?" his sister demanded of him. She
could never hear praise enough of this new acquisition of hers.
"She has attractive manners, and seems a good young woman."
"I don't allow her to touch any of poor Marion's music, Francis."
"Oh!" he said deprecating such restrictions. "What harm would her playing
Marion's music do?"
"I'm afraid she is going to leave us."
"Indeed? I have been looking on her as a fixture."
"She has been telling me the mother's shop has to be given up."
"It is a case of the shop giving up the mother, I fear."
"This poor little thing says she can't be happy living with us in luxury
while the mother and sister are in difficulties. She thinks of taking a
quite small house, and getting together a school of little children. It
seems a hopeless look-out, Francis."
"It does," he acquiesced, and took up the book he had laid down.
"But, Francis, I wish you would show a little interest. We decided when
that poor boy was killed we owed them what reparation could be made. I
feel deeply something should be done for this girl. She is too pretty, too
young, too delicate and dainty, to fight such a hard fight alone."
"She has her mother and sister."
"Nice women, I am sure, but--helpless."
"I would not call the mother helpless. She has held on, and done her best
in that hopeless shop."
"You will see that everything will be pushed on to the shoulders of this
"Well then--?" He looked questioningly at his sister's kind face over the
top of the book he was reading. Then his eyes fell again to its pages. "I
will think about it," he said.
After Ada Forcus had gone to bed he kept his promise:--sitting motionless
in his chair, his elbow on the arm of it, his head upon his hand--thinking
A Prohibition Cancelled
"Any letter of interest?" Sir Francis asked of his sister, who, breakfast
being over, was glancing again through the correspondence the morning's
post had brought her.
"One from Reggie."
"He having a good time?"
"He says not. He says he hates travelling. Mountains and churches and
picture-galleries, he says, bore him till he cries. He talks about coming
home. I shall write and remind him he went for a year, and has only been
away eight months. A young man with money in his pocket who can't amuse
himself somewhere on the Continent of Europe must be deficient, Francis."
"Poor Reggie is not a very cultivated person. And I suppose he is--in
love." He paused on that, seeming to turn something over in his mind. "He
may as well come back," he finished. "I decided last night to tell him he
can come back if he likes."
"If he likes!" repeated an astonished Ada. "Then, of course he'll come,
and at once! He is best away. Tell him to stay where he is."
"I can't always expect to keep the boy in leading-strings. He has always
been very decent in doing the things I wish; but, as a fact, I have no
longer the slightest authority over him, or hold upon him, and he knows
"Then, leave it. Say nothing. Don't write for him to come."
"I decided, last night, to write to him."
Miss Forcus was silent to show that she did not approve. She never argued
with her brother. "It is fortunate, then, that Deleah Day is going," she
"We could not possibly have Reggie here with her. That silly affair would
be on again, in no time."
"As to that, I withdraw my objection. The boy must play his own game."
"Francis!" unbounded astonishment sat on the good, plain face of Ada
Her brother left his place on the hearthrug, and walked over to the broad
window at the end of the room. He stood there, tall, and fine, and
upright, his back to her, his hands lightly clasped behind him.
"Deleah is a sweet girl, Francis; but in a marriage there is more than
that to consider."
"Yes. There is a good deal to consider; but it is for Reggie and the girl
to consider--not for me."
"But surely you, too, Francis!"
"Well, then, I have considered."
"It is not Reggie alone--but all of us. You must think for all of us,
Francis. You always have done. It is not a connection to desire."
"I agree with you. The last in the world to desire. But it concerns the
pair of them, primarily. He is--he no doubt believes he is--in love with
her; and she is, I suppose, in love with him. No one has the right to
"Think how differently you married, Francis! A rich girl of high family."
"I did not marry for that. It happened--that was all. I married Marion for
the same reason that impels Reggie to marry this girl. I remember how
little such things weighed with me in my marriage; how, once having felt
the inclination to marry her, I should have married my wife all the same
if she had been, say, the daughter of William Day. It is because I
remember that I decline any longer to interfere, or to take upon my
shoulders any responsibility in this matter."
"You are wrong, Francis. Reggie won't thank you for it, later on."
"Oh, do I want any one to thank me!" Sir Francis said with sudden, all
unusual petulance, turning round on his astonished sister, who jumped in
her chair at his tone, instantly repentant. To incur the anger of the head
of her house was the thing of which she was most on earth afraid.
"Do what you think right, of course, Francis."
"Of course I shall do what I think right."
He went to his own room, settled himself in his chair by the open window,
tore open the morning paper which it was his custom to read there. The
window opened upon a long oblong of flower-bordered lawn, enclosed by
thick square-cut yew hedges on two sides; at the end a series of glass
houses shut out the view. The eyes of Sir Francis strayed from the pages
of the newspaper to the sunshine and shadow of the freshly-cut lawn. At
the door of one of the greenhouses beyond, Deleah, in her black muslin
dress and wide black hat, was standing in conversation with Jarvis, the
head-gardener. Part of her duty, he had been told, was to wheedle Jarvis
out of the flowers Miss Forcus liked to see in her rooms, but of which he
resented the cutting.
Sir Francis looked at the pair--they were too far off for him to read
their faces, but he know how the girl would be playing her part, smiling
shyly, with appealing eyes; how Jarvis was probably denying her, being
human, for the mere delight of being asked. Presently the newspaper
dropped from his hand, and he passed out into the morning sunshine, and
walked down the flagged path dividing the lawn, the mosses growing grey
and green between the stones.
It was a morning of unclouded skies, the soft air laden with the scent of
flowers. A morning to be alive in--yes, to be happy in, spite of regrets
and doubts and cares; spite, even, of death and loss and buried love. On
such a morning a man might think of his dead wife, perhaps. Might say to
himself, "the pity of it!" but he could but be conscious that he, himself,
was alive still; that in him, solemn, responsible, middle-aged as he might
be, the fires of youth were not yet extinguished. He must feel the
fragrant wind upon his cheek, the scent of delicious airs in his nostrils,
must even, in spite of himself, use the eyes in his head to see what was
fair and sweet and gracious.
Jarvis, with his finger to his cap, retreated to his carnation-house, the
entrance of which he had been guarding.
"So you are leaving us?" Sir Francis began at once, stopping before
Deleah. "My sister has been telling me. We shall miss you very much."
"I shall never forget how good you have both been to me," Deleah said in
her shy voice, and playing with the flowers in her hands. "But I think I
ought to go."
"You will do what you think you ought, I am sure," he said; and her heart
sank at the ease with which he acquiesced.
She turned to walk towards the house, and he walked beside her. "You will
come to me if I can help you?" he said.
"If I might use your name in case no one will let me a house?"
"Of course. But you are not going to-day?"
She had not meant to do so, but since he seemed to expect it, found
herself saying that she was.
"There is another matter," he said, "and it is that I came out to speak
about. My brother Reginald is coming home."
"Really? Is that so?" She spoke without any show of interest. "I thought
he had gone for a year."
"That was the original plan. But he went because I wished it--at that
time. He has always been to me a docile, dear fellow, and I fear I
presumed on that. I had no right to order his goings and comings--to order
his life. None."
"I think it was Franky's death. I think he was glad to go--"
"That is as may be. I am going to tell him, now, to come back."
Deleah, feeling that this was a matter in which she had no concern, walked
on, saying nothing.
"And now," Sir Francis went on, "I am going to ask you to alter your mind
about leaving us. Since Reggie is coming back to us, won't you stay?"
Deleah lifted her head, and regarded him in silent astonishment.
He went on. "You have not forgotten what I said to you on a certain matter
some months ago, although you have sweetly held yourself as if you did not
remember. I now wish to recall the words I said then."
He waited. It was difficult to carry on a conversation in which she would
take no part.
"I see that I was wrong. That which I feared might be for Reggie's
undoing, I now believe would be for his good. Will you do me the great
kindness to forget that former talk we had; or if you cannot forget, to
act as though it had not taken place?"
Their walk had brought them opposite the morning-room window at which Miss
Forcus was now standing looking out, wondering what Francis had found to
say to the girl to whom he so seldom spoke.
Deleah with an effort found her voice. "That time--when you spoke to me
about your brother--I had not promised to marry him."
"I know," he said very gently, for her voice showed him that she was
distressed. "But Reggie wished it very much. And, perhaps, but for my
having taken action, you would have done?"
"I don't know," Deleah said, her head hung over the flowers in her hands.
Her hat was big, he could not, if he would, see her face. "Mama and Bessie
"And--but for me--you would have wished it?"
"I don't know."
She gave him an instant's imploring glance. Surely he must understand how
difficult it was for her to explain to him how she felt about Reggie! The
Reggie he was so nobly offering her. The Reggie, that not only her mother
and Bessie, but now Sir Francis himself wished her to marry, and that
therefore, undoubtedly she would have to marry. She could not tell him
this, could only stand before him--for they had come to a pause in the
middle of the gravel sweep before the big hall door--with hanging head,
pulling nervously at the stalks of her flowers, and repeat with a
childishness he must despise, "I don't know."
"Well, we shall see," he said encouragingly. "But at least you will not
hurry away? You will stay with us until Reggie comes home? Go to my sister
and tell her so. Will you?"
"If you wish it," Deleah said.
Miss Forcus, who under no circumstance could have been cold or
inhospitable, received the intimation that Deleah was to stay until
Reginald came home with less than accustomed warmth.
"Of course, my dear! You know I hated the thought of your going; but why
is it to be for Reggie especially? Were you and Reggie such friends?"
Deleah admitted without enthusiasm that they were certainly friends.
"Then, no doubt he will be glad to see you," Miss Forcus said, and thought
to herself that now she was going to have the daughter of a felon for her
By way of solace to her family pride she turned from the impending,
disastrous marriage of the step-brother to that satisfying alliance her
own brother had made. The daughter of a baronet had been his wife--the
sister-in-law of a peer. The baronet was a banker, and rich. If the little
son had lived he would have inherited his grandfather's fortune which now
had gone to the son of Lord Brace. Lord Brace, who was an Irish peer,
wanted the money more than Francis, certainly, who had a sufficient
fortune of his own, even without that considerable one his wife had
received from her mother, and had left to him.
All such facts, which Ada Forcus generally accepted as a matter of course,
she now produced for the benefit of Deleah, meekly counting the stitches
of the Madonna lily, which when worked in beads, grounded in amber silk
and framed in gold, would be converted into a screen, to hang on the
marble mantelpiece in the Cashelthorpe drawing-room.
About the wife whom Sir Francis had loved and lost, who had lived for two
years in this beautiful home, sitting to read, and eat, and sew, in her
husband's company, walking the gardens by his side, cared for and tended
and watched over by him, Deleah had dreamed many dreams. Beautiful as an
angel she had pictured her, and with an angel's nature, to be so loved, so
inexpressibly mourned by him. She had dreamed dreams, but had asked no
questions. She asked them now.
"Was she so very beautiful--Lady Forcus?"
Not to say strictly beautiful; which had surprised them all, Francis
having ever been a beauty lover. She had what was called a _dear_ face.
And such manners! Such a dignity! Such an air of high-breeding! "I used to
say to myself, 'Small wonder that Francis is your slave.'"
"And was he?"
"He was, indeed. Bound to her, hand and foot; with no thought but to
please her, no wish but what was hers."
Deleah sighed for very fullness of heart.
"But only because of his love for her, understand. Not because she had him
in the very least under her thumb."
Deleah shook a sympathetic head. "I am sure he could not be that."
"He has never been the same since her death. Never! And never will be
"One would not wish him to be. It would spoil it," Deleah sighed.
Miss Forcus echoed the sigh. "Well, I do not know," she admitted. "People
die, but the world has to go on, Deleah. If the child had lived it would
have been different; but it seems to me a pity there should be no one to
come after Francis, to bear his name, and inherit his fortune. Of course
there is Reggie; but--"
She stopped there, remembering that in all probability the son of Reggie
would be the grandson of William and Lydia Day--felon, and bankrupt
grocer. The thought choked her. Had Francis remembered it? "Whoever
marries Reggie will marry a rotten reed," she said impetuously. "I pity
the girl who does it, from my heart."
"So do I," said Deleah quietly, and knitted her brow, chasing a tiny
fugitive bead with the point of her needle.
Miss Forcus heard with surprise and satisfaction, yet was afraid to
believe. What penniless girl, whose hand was her own to bestow, would
refuse the wealthy young Forcus? Longing for further assurance, and
greatly daring, she risked the question: "You knew Reggie so well, then,
yet did not fall in love with him?"
"I? Oh, no!" Deleah said. She lifted her head from the frame over which
she was stooping and looked calmly in the other woman's face; and Miss
Forcus was struck with the perception of what a gentle dignity the girl
had. A dignity less arresting, perhaps, than that she had admired so much
in Francis's wife, but as effective.
"Ah, well!" she smiled, immensely relieved, and overjoyed to find she
might again take her protegee to her heart. "We shall see who there is
that will be good and great enough for you, Deleah. He will have to be
both to deserve you."
"He will have to be both before I love him," Deleah said calmly, but with
the colour in her cheeks. She put her head on one side to contemplate the
lily growing so slowly under her fingers. "'I needs must love the highest
when I see it,'" she said, half to herself.
For while she had been talking and listening she had been thinking of that
sacrifice which she had but now thought was demanded of her; and she had
made up her mind not to make it.
When Sir Francis came in, that evening, he found lying on his
writing-table a little note with the signature "Deleah Day." "I hope you
will excuse me that I have altered my mind and decided to go home at
once," it ran. "I think I am wanted there. I hope you will not think I do
not feel all your kindness. I do feel it with all my heart."
Carrying this scanty missive open in his hand, Sir Francis sought his
"Yes, she has gone," that lady said. "She evidently wished it, and I drove
her back to-day."
"Then how about Reggie?"
"You were quite deceived about Reggie, Francis. You are, indeed. Deleah
will never marry Reggie. She as good as told me so. I never was more
thankful. It would have been so terribly unsuitable. She told me she was
writing to you. What does she say?"
Sir Francis did not choose to see the hand held out for Deleah's little
note. He folded it, and walked to the window, looking out thoughtfully
upon the garden, his hands behind his back, the letter, held by its corner
in one of them, waggling up and down.
"She told me she had written," Miss Forcus said again, by way of reminder.
"She simply says she has gone."
"I shall miss her dreadfully. She is the dearest girl. Never have I seen
one so lovely and so little vain."
"She is too lovely to be vain," Sir Francis said.
And at the tone rather than the words Miss Forcus lifted a startled head,
and gazed and gazed upon her brother's stately back, upon the hands
clasped behind it, holding the letter, waggling up and down, he would not
let out of his keeping.
Over another letter which Sir Francis received the next morning, he
laughed as he read. He tossed it across the table to his sister. "What a
fellow!" he said.
"From Reggie? I wish you had not written to him to come home, Francis."
"He's not coming. Don't alarm yourself. He says the Worradykes have turned
up at Nice--"
"They followed him! They've no doubt taken Daisy. I would stake my
existence they've taken Daisy!"
"You are quite right. Daisy is there. Reggie has promised to go on with
them to Rome."
"_Now_ she'll catch him!" prophesied the lady. "Good gracious! Supposing
things were as you thought and Deleah had waited to welcome him home! What
a quandary we should have been in then, Francis!"
Deleah Grows Up
It was Thursday afternoon: the day on which the shops of Brockenham closed
at two. George Boult, who had taken to visiting Bridge Street on the
Thursday half-holiday as well as the Sunday, must be expected this
afternoon. One way or other Mrs. Day would have to answer that proposition
of his which had filled her with such a misery of doubt.
Very little on his part had been said at the time of the offer. He would
be the happier for a lady at the head of his table, he had said; she and
her daughters wanted a home. Both were perhaps too old for sentiment, both
were old enough to take what chance of happiness and comfort life still
offered them. "Think it over, ma'am," he had said. "I'll look in on
Thursday. I don't anticipate you'll have thought of a better plan."
She had not, unless to drown herself was a better plan.
She had no impulse to suicide, but was a woman of unlimited selflessness,
who, believing that her death would make life easier to her children,
would have gone to it without any fuss.
Sometimes, with little Franky, on a Sunday afternoon, she had walked by
the side of the river where it ran away from the ugly black wharves upon
its shores to the meadows where Franky loved to see the toads slip down
through the weeds to the clear water, loved to get his boots wet in trying
to catch the darting minnows in his hands, loved to gather the
forget-me-nots, and river-mint, and ragged robin, to carry home to Deleah.
She knew exactly the spot, where if she was only sure it would be best for
Bessie, for Deleah, for poor, poor Bernard, she would slip down the
shelving bank and go wading, wading in, till out of her depth and weighed
down by her clothes she would sink out of sight, out of trouble, out of
life. She had no illusions about the enfolding in the "cool and comforting
arms of death." She knew quite well the horror of it, the choke, with the
rank, foul-tasting river in her mouth, its weeds and offal winding her
limbs. But that would pass, and she would be out of it. Far rather would
she be dead at the bottom of the river than married to her benefactor, Mr.
George Boult. If only she was sure it might be best for the children.
"I wonder what's to become of me while you're having your interesting
interview with Scrooge?" Bessie said at dinner-time. "It's raining, so I
can't go out for a walk."
"I am going for one," Mrs. Day said, having decided on that course at the
instant of announcing the intention.
"But I thought Scrooge was coming?"
"I know. I can't see him. I really can't. You see him for me, Bessie."
"Really, mama, how absurd! Is the old man wanting to marry me? Are you to
have the billing and cooing by proxy?"
There was no mistake about it, adversity had not improved Bessie; her
mother had to admit to herself that she was even sometimes vulgar. "You
might have spared me that, I think, Bessie," poor Mrs. Day said. She was
deeply offended and hurt. She would not wait to finish her dinner, but
went down into the shop and busied herself there till Mr. Pretty had put
the shutters up. Then she dressed herself in the widow's bonnet she still
wore, the shabby silk mantle with its deep border of crape, the black
gloves so much the worse for wear, and saying no further word to Bessie
"Of course I know where she's gone," said Bessie to Emily, her unfailing
confidante. "To Franky's grave. It isn't the place to make her a lively
companion when she comes back again; and it isn't very cheerful for me to
have to sit at home and think of her there."
"'Tis mother-like, Miss Bessie." Franky's grave held attraction for Emily
also, who visited it every Sunday of her life.
"Yes, but, Emily, oughtn't mama to think of me as well as of Franky? And
I've no patience with her. I think she ought to make up her mind, and have
done with it. Quite young girls, with all their lives before them, make
marriages for money, why should she make such a fuss?"
"The young ones don't know what they're a-doing, perhaps; and your ma
does," the sage Emily hazarded.
"And if the old man comes to-day what do you suppose I'm to say to him?"
"There never was a time yet when you didn't know what to say, Miss
"It's all very well. Why should I be mixed up in it? I shall just say
"Then he can sit and look at you, and that's what he likes."
Bessie's eyes glinted: "But if he likes it--and he has always acted as if
he did--then why? why? why--?" She spread out the palms of her plump,
white little hands, making the dramatic inquiry of Emily, who, with a
black rag dipped in whitening, was polishing the "brights," as she called
her tin and pewter ware.
"Ah," Emily said; "he's one of your cautious ones, Boult is. Them that are
young and fascinatin' aren't the best of housekeepers, per'aps."
Bessie stood silent for a minute, watching the vigorous rubbing of a
dish-cover. "You go and change your frock," Emily said, glancing up at
her. "Put on that black-and-white muslin you look your nicest in--"
"I ought to wear all black for a year, Emily."
"You put on your black and white," coaxed Emily.
Mrs. Day went to Franky's grave as had been foretold, but went a long way
round to it, going first for that walk by the river, which the child and
she had been wont to take together. Finding that particular spot on the
riverbank which had been so much in her thoughts since Mr. Boult had made
his offer, she sat down there with the deliberate intention of deciding
which course to take, out of the three open to her. To be turned, with her
children, homeless and penniless upon the world; to become Boult's wife;
to drown in the river.
An effort she made to keep her mind on these issues, but could only think,
instead, of Franky. Not of Franky as he had played by the river, happily
painted his pictures, rushed off noisily with the cutler's son to school,
but of Franky sitting to eat his bread-and-butter and radishes, one spring
afternoon, his plate on his knees, removed to a distance from the
tea-table, because Bessie had declared that he smelt of putty.
It was an absurd little incident, forgotten until now, when it awoke in
her memory to wring the mother's heart without almost intolerable pain.
Banished! Not good enough to sit at the table with Bessie--her Franky, her
baby, her angel boy! In her heart she knew the boy had not cared, that, a
few tears shed, his meal was as welcome to him in one part of the room as
the other. Yet that picture of him, sitting lonely, munching in his
corner, beset her with pain too deep for tears; the little uncomplaining
figure bitterly accused her, she was reproached by the reproachless eyes.
So she sat by the river and cried there, unable to turn her mind to the
living children; to Bessie, so hard at times, but only because she was
unawakened, did not understand; to pretty, pretty Deleah with her innocent
allurements, her winning ways; to Bernard, who had written in his last
miserable letter from India that he loved her best in the world. Of these
she thought not at all; but only of the child eating his radishes in the
corner, looking solemnly at her out of his big dark eyes.
He called her from his grave, and presently she got up and went there.
Deleah, dropped by the Forcus carriage at the private door in Bridge
Street, went running up the stairs, and into the sitting-room. Bessie and
Mr. Boult, sitting side by side on the sofa in that apartment, flew rather
violently apart at the interruption of her entrance.
"Well, Deleah! What a way to dash into the room!" Bessie said; a flurried
Bessie with red cheeks, bursting into a scolding tone, to cover evident
"Where is mama?" Deleah, gasping with astonishment, got out; and Bessie,
in the flurry and perturbation of the moment, flung at her the sisterly
advice to find out.
Deleah, pale of face, eyes staring, gazed speechless from Bessie on the
sofa, in the black-and-white muslin recommended by Emily, to Mr. Boult,
now engaged in peering with sudden interest into the street. Then,
shutting the door hastily upon the pair, she went to Emily, in the
"How long has Mr. Boult been here?"
Emily had not looked at the clock.
"Is he going to stay to tea?"
Emily would set an extra cup, on the chance of it. "You'd best go and find
your ma, Miss Deleah; she's gone to the cemetery, and have no right to be
"I am going; and, Emily, I won't come into the house any more while that
man is there; and mama shall not."
"Now _you're_ going to make a heap of fuss!" the worried Emily said. "I
never see sech goin's on as we get nowadays. No peace anywhere."
"I'm not making any fuss. Only, you must tell Bessie to get rid of Mr.
Boult before we come home."
He did not go till Bessie, plump and attractive, a pink rose in her bosom,
had poured out tea for him, but he had been gone half an hour when the
mother and daughter returned. Mrs. Day, fagged with her long walk, was
comforted by the holding of Deleah's warm young arm, strengthened by
Deleah's brave talk. There would be another hard fight, but Deleah would
not go away any more, they would fight together.
"We can live on almost nothing, mama--you and I."
There would be Bessie, her mother reminded her; but Deleah seemed
indisposed to take Bessie into her calculations. She unfolded her scheme
of the little house and the little school of quite little children such as
she could teach.
"We shall be far happier than we have ever been in the shop. Some eggs and
milk for you and me, and now and then a little butcher's meat for Emily.
What will it cost! Surely we can manage that, mama."
"You are forgetting that there is Mr. Boult to settle with. That horrible
proposition of his must be somehow answered, Deleah."
"We will answer it to-night. I will help you to write the letter," Deleah
They wrote it between them, after Bessie had gone to bed, whither she
quickly repaired upon their return. The composition was mostly Deleah's,
and when finished it ran--
"I did not feel equal to an interview with you, and I am sure you will
excuse my having failed to keep the appointment. On thinking the matter
over I have decided that the arrangement you proposed to me the other day
is a quite unsuitable one, and I therefore write to decline. Having had
time for reflection, I have no doubt that you agree in the wisdom of this
"That is all, mama."
"My dear, no! It is so very cold."
"Well, we feel cold--you and I."
"But we must not forget what he did for us. We must always be grateful."
"I know. Mama, I am so tired of being grateful." Mrs. Day sighed; she was
tired of it too, truth to tell. "He is always throwing what he has done in
our faces, rubbing it into our skins. It is our gratitude which has made
him so detestable."
"It was kind of him to give that fifty pounds, and--"
"We will pay him back. We will pay him back to the last farthing, mama.
Sir Francis Forcus is _my_ friend; he said he would be; I will go to him,
and ask his advice. Only I hate--I hate to bother him."
"Then, let us try to muddle on alone."
"No. I am sure he would wish me." She waited, head on hand as she sat at
the table, looking down at, but not seeing the letter she had written for
her mother to copy. "He is such a sad man, mama," she said presently. "He
still grieves, and grieves, and grieves, for his wife."
"But he was kind to you, Deleah?"
"Yes. When he remembered. When he knew I was there. He loved her so much.
Miss Forcus has been telling me how he loved her. She was so beautiful, so
grand in manner and appearance, with such a fine character, so great and
good. There is a lovely monument to her in Cashelthrope churchyard. I went
to look at it this morning, after Miss Forcus had been speaking of her. A
white marble angel with a _heavenly_ face stands above the grave looking
upwards, a lily in her hand. Do you know what I felt, mama. I felt I would
die if I could give her back to him."
"I would," Deleah said, quite pale, and with a lip that trembled; "I would
die gladly if that could bring her back to him, and make him happy again."
Mrs. Day looked at her daughter with a rather startled attention, and
Deleah, glancing up, and catching her mother's eye, smiled brightly.
"Come, now let us send off this letter," she said.
When it was ready she ran down with it, herself, to the red pillar-box,
opposite the shop-door. "That matter is done with," she said as the letter
disappeared within the box, and she turned to re-enter. The light from the
street lamp fell on her mother's name, black letters on a white ground,
above the shop door. "Lydia Day, licensed to sell tobacco and snuff." "And
all that is nearly done with," she added, "and whatever happens I am not
She felt curiously strong and capable; competent to work her way, afraid
of no difficulties. "It is more than time I should grow up, and at last, I
have done so," she said to herself. She went through the badly-lit little
passage, and up the steep narrow stairs, with shoulders braced and head
up. It was the having made, that day, a decision every worldly-wise person
would have condemned, but that she felt in every fibre of her being to be
a right one, which had given her that feeling of confidence in herself she
had hitherto lacked. She had chosen between comfort, luxury, the approval
and adulation of the world, with Reggie Forcus, and the hard up-hill fight
for bare existence, with liberty and her own self-respect; and choosing,
as she knew, well, she had felt herself to have grown in mental and
"What has happened to me?" she asked of herself. "I feel like going out to
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