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of being made use of, or in any way
The words and manner were, of trodden under foot, than usual, course, irreproachable; yet Esther during the rest of the morning. felt that Mrs. Strangways implied,
‘Mrs. Strangways leaves Wey- This great, raw, country-looking mouth to-day,' she informed Esther girl must be Miss Fleming. There shortly before they left. 'I heard it can't be two such persons in the from my lodging-girl, who knows world as the Miss Fleming I have the chambermaid's sister at the heard of.' And with that inborn York. She goes by the two-twenty dignity of hers, which was fully train as we do. Wouldn't it be a equal to all Mrs. Strang ways' artifiremarkable coincidence' (Whitty cial assurance, she turned away as thought everything was a remark- soon as Mrs. Tudor had introduced able coincidence) ' if we were to tra- them, and began quietly asking Miss vel in the same carriage ? She's Whitty as to the disposal of the going back to Bath to join her luggage. husband. He's a queen's messen- Oh, it's all right, I think. I'll ger, you know, and returned from
just look at my card again. Six St. Petersburgh last night. The te- cases of Mrs. Tudor's and yours, legraph-the telegram, I mean to and four of Wilson's, and my own say-arrived quite late in the even- box, and the parrot's cage, and uming, and she sat up packing half the brella, and air-cushion, and handnight. Most devoted, wasn't it?' bag, and basket. It's all quite right;
Devoted to return to her hus- but, oh dear, Miss Fleming, how band? Well, Miss Whitty, I really much I wish it was safe for Loto to can't see it quite in that light. Be- go with the other dogs! he's so very sides, as she is not leaving till this strange, and I think I must say disafternoon, she might have deferred it agreeable in his temper to-day.' till the morning, and so have spared If poor Miss Whitty had an averherself the trouble of being devoted sion in the world it was for dogs; if at all.'
there had been anything she could Esther had been conscious, before have refused to a person with an inever seeing her, of an instinctive came of more than six hundred a dislike to Mrs. Strangways; and year, it would have been to carry that bow and smile she had once a dog wrapped up in her shawi. seen her accord to Paul Chichester, And then Loto, even for a fat old strangely enough, had not dispos- lapdog, was so superlatively dissessed her of the prejudice; so she gusting! Loto made asthmatic was by no means warm in her man- noises as she breathed; Loto had ner when Mrs. Strangways came a disagreeable filminess over her up, an hour later, as they were wait- eyes; Loto was vicious, and treacheing upon the platform for the train, rous, and snapping, and odious in and proffered a very friendly re- every sense. The sufferings of the newal of acquaintance with Mrs. celebrated young Spartan with his Tudor. Mrs. Strangways had seen fox were scarcely greater than what Mrs. Tudor several times on the Whitty endured as she pressed beach, but had not known whether Loto to her heart in her endeavours Mrs. Tudor had recognized her or to screen her from the porters at not. Sometimes people did not care that Weymouth station. for the trouble of making or renew- Keep her head covered, Miss ing acquaintance by the seaside. Whitty, kcep her head covered,' said She had met Mrs. Tudor at old Mrs. Mrs. Tudor, when they had taken their Bradshaw's last winter, and at Mrs. places in the carriage. “Don't mind Kennedy's tog The general was her trying to bite, it's only a playful laid up with the gout again. Mrs. way she has. Keep her well covered Tudor had heard it, no doubt? up, and seat yourself back. The
And this,' turning composedly, and guard will be coming in directly to staring straight in Esther's face, see the tickets.'
this is Miss Fleming, I am sure. *And if I should be found out! I have often heard of Miss Fleming cried Miss Whitty, who, between from my friend Jane Dashwood.' her exertions with Loto and the fears incident to her sex and age, ways until the train started; and that some one had taken her lug- then, and not till then, could Mrs. gage, was in a state of most remark- Strangways' eyes disengage themable heat. 'If they find the dog out selves sufficiently from the fastening at the last, what am I to do?' of her glove to perceive that there
* Please don't raise such absurd were other occupants besides herself difficulties, Miss Whitty,' said Mrs. in the carriage. Mrs. Tudor how Tudor, tartly. If you let the crea- very glad I am! You are going to ture be seen, of course I shall have Bath, of course? We shall be fellowto pay for it. But, remember, if you travellers for the remainder of the do, make no application to me. Dis- day, then! And Miss Fleming. I cussions with common people de- had not perceived you before; these stroy me. For the time being Loto horrid walls in the centre divide the is yours; I wash my hands of her. carriages so completely in two.' Esther, my dear, come and sit with 'I think those walls are the great me at my end of the carriage. It advantage of the Great Western and is necessary for Miss Whitty to have its branches,' said Esther. They a window to herself, in case poor enable one just to see as much as Loto requires air.'
one chooses, and no more, of one's By dint of incessant feeding with fellow-passengers.' sandwich and biscuits, to say no- It was unlike Esther Fleming to thing of occasional sharp nips round make so rude a speech; but some Loto's throat, Miss Whitty actually invincible desire seemed to propel succeeded in evading all the official her towards being disagreeable to vigilance of Weymouth, and Esther Mrs. Strangways. Her Aunt Thawas just hoping that they were to lia heard her with complacence. It travel without Mrs. Strangways was a decided impertinence for a for a companion, when, at the last woman like Mrs. Strangways to moment, a clear ringing laugh an- pretend she had not seen her, Mrs. nounced that lady to be still waiting Tudor, sooner; a woman in a doubtupon the platform.
ful set, with a questionable reputaEmpty carriage here,' drawled tion, and an income dependent upon a tall, silly-looking lad of eighteen, her husband's services as queen's glancing superciliously for a moment, messenger! Mrs. Tudor was glad with very elevated eyebrows, across to see that Esther, young as she poor Miss Whitty's shrinking figure. was, knew how to set people down,
Room here, Mrs. Strangways, if on occasion, and also what kind of you don't mind being so near the people it was right to set down. engine.'
I think I know that little lad's Oh, I shall be quite safe, thank face you were talking to, Mrs. you. Minnie will take care of me, Strangways; he's one of the Stanwon't you, Minnie? Good-bye, Ed- tons, just the same silly white face ward. Now mind, we are to see a as his mother. I suppose he and great deal of you in town next your young people are friends. Has spring. I shall never forgive you if your eldest son left school yet? I you don't come and see me at once. forget.' Good-bye. And then there was a “My eldest son, dear Mrs. Tudor! very warm leave-taking, and, as it my children are quite little. Minnie, seemed to Esther, a rather conspi- darling, come and say how do you cuous affectation of tenderness on do to Mrs. Tudor.' 'Edward's' face, as he whispered But Mrs. Strangways'eyes flashed. parting compliments in the ear of The ages of her three eldest chilthis lady, who, in spite of her tiny dred were bitter drops in her cup, hat, and turned-back hair, and man- thorns in her side, weapons of cruel ner of girlish heartiness, was still sharpness, ever ready to the hand of very nearly old enough to be his all female friends who chanced to own mother.
stand in need of any extraneous wea* Edward' continued to stand by pon of attack. Dates of all other the carriage, carrying on an inaudi- kinds may be falsified; but what ble conversation with Mrs. Strang- can put back the living, tangible at
tatestion conveyed by children of from the other children. Minnie eleven, twelve, and thirteen years of and I had to rush off to Austria last age?
Children tall of their age, Christmas, and when we got to too. The only way, and that a pre- Vienna, Mr. Strangway's had left for carious one, of suppressing such somewhere else, and I had to stay evidence is to keep any unplea- there in all the horrid, cold, German santly-old children as much as pos- winter by myself.' sible at school, and out of sight; 'So I heard,' remarked Mrs. and this Mrs. Strangways did, re- Tudor curtly: the world, in general, serving for her own companion her had not been behind hand in making youngest child, Minnie, who, by rea- many kindly surmises as to that last son of being pretty, and like herself, Viennese expedition of Mrs. Strangand small of her years, and consi- ways. Esther, my love, come and derably younger than the others, sit by me.
Do you remark that absorbed very nearly all the mater- little village to the left? That is nal instincts which Mrs. Strang- where your Aunt Engleheart and I ways' scantily-endowed nature could once lived in our young days.' supply.
Mrs. Strangways leant her head The results of alternate, unbounded back quickly in her corner, and the indulgence and absolute neglect, expression of her face told Esther want of exercise by day, and sitting that Mrs. Tudor's manner had taken up late at night, did not seem to effect. After expressing due interest be very happy ones on Miss Min- in the two farm-roofs and half a nie Strangways, whose small face church spire that could be seen was sallow and pinched, and, even through the trees, she began to reat five years old, already wore a flect what kind of life this woman's good deal of the anxious, restless opposite her must be: this woman, look of her mother's. 'I don't
in the prime of life still, with chilwant to change my place, thank dren, sufficient means, all the things you, ma,' was her answer to her that go so long a way towards mother's request. 'I don't want to making up happiness; but whom, come by you. I like to stop here in spite of all her cool assurance, so and look at this woman and her many chance shafts from alien hands dog. And then Minnie perched her had power to wound, and upon small feet up on the opposite seat, whose handsome face unrest and and recommenced staring poor Miss discontent were already written in Whitty out of countenance with an handwriting not to be mistaken. air of cool superiority and aplomb Mrs. Strangways was very handthat was good to see.
some; perhaps it would not be too *Your daughter appears used to much to say that she was beautiful. have her own way,' said Mrs. Tudor, She had taken her hat off now, and
like most of the other young people was leaning her head back with her of this generation.'
eyes closed, so Esther was able to scru"Oh, poor little thing! She is tinize her closely. The delicate blueshockingly spoiled; so much with veined temples, off which the blonde, me, you see, and no companion of luxuriant hair was braided back, the her own age. I believe, really, I straight fine brows, the full rich lips, ought to get her a governess, but it the graceful lines--though slightly would take her so much out of my shrunken now-of cheek and neck, hands, I can't make up my heart all belonged to a higher class of to it.'
beauty than anything Esther had *And you would find a governess seen before. Her own opinion might a very heavy expense, Mrs. Strang- be that Mrs. Strangways' eyes, in ways, as you travel so much. 1 spite of all their blue, were cold and believe I have heard that you fre- hard of expression; that the mouth quently join Mr. Strangways when was sensual, the whole beauty too his services carry him abroad?' Cleopatra-like. The beauty itself
Oh, yes, Tom will have me go to was indisputable. No man would meet him whenever I can. It is a stop to ask himself what kind of great pity-it obliges me to part mind or soul looked out from so perfectly fair a face! No man would moonlight night when he was giving think herself, Esther Fleming, any- you Miss Dashwood's messages on thing but a dark, heavy-looking the balcony behind the curtains, you girl, beside Mrs. Strangways, al- know, that he was not a marrying though one was eighteen and the man? I don't know that I have other two or three and thirty at been so surprised by hearing anyleast. What did Paul really think thing for a long time. If one was of her ? Esther wondered. He had intimately acquainted with Colonel evaded the subject; he had implicated Dashwood, now, it would be posiopinions the reverse of favourable of tively one's duty to acquaint him her as a companion for Jane. But of the circumstances.' then, how sweetly Mrs. Strangways *Of what circumstances, Miss had smiled upon him! Whatever Whitty? asked Esther, with a quiet else his sentiments, any man receiv- smile. ing a sweet smile from such a mouth *Why, of Mr. Chichester giving could have no other opinion than out he does not intend to marry, and that Mrs. Strangways was one of the yet continuing to court Miss Dashmost beautiful, the most fascinating wood all the time. It is just the women in the world!
kind of thing to break a young girl's Just as she reached this point in heart: really I have no patience her meditations, Mrs. Strangways with such men.' opened her eyes.
"You know Paul 'I don't think you need have any Chichester, Miss Fleming, don't fears for Miss Dashwood. She is you?' she asked, abruptly.
not a girl at all likely to break her 'I know him slightly,' answered heart, nor I should think was Mr. Esther, and she felt thankful that Chichester a man to act dishonourshe possessed self-control enough not
ably. to colour before Mrs. Strangways. You speak with warmth, Miss ‘His engagement to Jane Dashwood Fleming,' said Mrs. Strangways. has, of course, made me hear a good 'Paul Chichester should be indebted deal of him.'
to you for your kind defence of Mrs. Strangways laughed, and her him.' laugh had a very bitter ring in it. It was with great difficulty Esther • Paul Chichester's engagement to could restrain herself from resentJane Dashwood! How simply you ing the implied impertinence of the said that, Miss Fleming! Has Jane speech; but she did so: and probably really made you believe Mr. Chi- her cool silence irritated her antagochester will marry her ?'
nist more than the bitterest retort “Miss Dashwood has said very she could have made. It was evilittle to me on the subject. I believe dent to Mrs. Strangways that the girl the engagement is considered an knew more of the whole matter than
she either said or intended to say; Open, but none the less sure of evident that Paul was not a stranger ending in smoke! Why, every one to her, and that, while she professed knows that poor Jane Dashwood is to believe in his engagement, she over head and ears in love with was not one whit surprised to hear some one else. And as to Paul-as of his intention of not marrying. to Mr. Chichester, I mean-he never Was there more still than this? makes any concealment of his fixed Could Paul, who professedly never intention of not marrying at all.” admired any but fair, refined women,
Miss Whitty, from her corner, be taken by the rude hearty goodheard this and looked up, quite looks, the mere country flesh-andexcited. 'Mr. Chichester
blood comeliness of a face like that? means to marry! What a remark- Mrs. Strangways leaned her head able, what a very remarkable thing, back in the corner of the carriage, and such a young man, too! There after curtly desiring her daughter to must be something in the back- come and sit beside her at once; ground, for certain; better not in- Miss Fleming commenced a cheerful quire, perhaps! Miss Fleming, who conversation with Whitty upon the would ever have thought, that probabilities of Lota's sleep lasting
until they reached Bath-and pos- red. The little wretch you saw at sessed, I suppose, by that sort of Weymouth was one of her boys, no magnetic influence which communi- doubt, the fearful boys that she cates itself to any two women who always manages to get round her in are, or ever shall be, rivals-not the country or at the sea-side-faute another word, not another look was de micus'! (and as Mrs. Strang ways exchanged between them during all grows older it is an undoubted fact the remainder of the time that they that her worshippers grow younger); continued in enforced companion- as to Arthur ship.
'As to Arthur, Jenny ? asked Miss Millicent, somewhat mali
ciously. CHAPTER XVIII.
"Well, I don't mind saying, deli
berately, that Mrs. Strang ways AN UNKNOWN RIVAL,
writes to him-I have seen her notes A friend was waiting on the plate numbers of times—writes and asks form at Bath to receive Mrs. Strang- him, in that sort of way she has, to ways when they arrived-a tall and meet her at such an hour on such a handsome friend; older, and ve day. “It would be quite a kindness different looking to the Edward of to Mr. Strangways, who has another Weymouth; but who, apparently, engagement," et cetera. Then, of stood quite as high as that young course, Arthur goes. How could he gentleman himself in Mrs. Strang- refuse to go, even if he wished ?' ways' regards.
' And with what object does she Is that her husband, Aunt ask him?' said Esther. What can Thalia ?' Esther asked, as she and be any woman's object in comproMrs. Tudor were standing waiting mising her own self-respect for so for Whitty and the luggage. “Is very slight a reward as Mr. Arthur that very good-looking person who Peel's companionship?' is talking to Mrs. Strangways her 'I suppose when we are past husband ?
thirty we shall know,' replied Jane, * That very good-looking person is petulantly; that is to say, if we are Arthur Peel,' answered Mrs. Tudor. still eager and athirst for attention, "Whatever man you see beside Mrs. and willing to cast our reputation Strangways, at any time, or in any away with our own hands, sooner place, you may feel very safely as- than not be spoken of at all, as she sured is not her own husband. That is. Wait till you have known her woman is outstepping all bounds. longer before you try to analyze I shall desire you to be careful in Mrs. Strangways' motives, Miss recognizing her until I have made Fleming. If you have a turn for out, exactly, at what houses she is moral dissection, like Paul, I can received at present.'
assure you her character is well Esther had not time then to worth attention. I used to study trouble herself further about either her, myself, until, one day, the Arthur Peel or Mrs. Strangways, but thought struck me that most prothe next morning, during an early bably she was what I should be, visit that she received from the myself, in another dozen years, and Dashwoods, she mentioned the twi- then I gave up the whole investigalight meeting which she had seen tion in disgust. You have seen the night before on the platform. Paul, by the way ? he told me all 'Is it necessary for Mrs. Strang- about you in a letter-oh yes, he ways' safety that some one should dous write to me-such queer lovealways receive her and see her off letters-I must show you some of when she travels, Miss Dashwood ? them! Do you like him? He was or do you suppose that “ Edward very guarded, and didn't say whether and Mr. Peel were both what poor he talked to you for five minutes or Miss Whitty would call “ happy co- five hours, or alone or before your incidences?",
aunt. Do you think him handsome? Coincidences! not a bit, said do you think I have chosen well?' Jane; and her face turned rather • Esther thinks him too good for