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Fan
by Henry Harford
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Miss Starbrow made her stand in the middle of the room, and turned her round, while Fan glanced shyly at her own reflection in the tall cheval- glass, almost wondering "if this be I."

"Yes, that will do well enough for the present," said her mistress. "But your hair is all uneven, Fan, and such lovely hair to be spoilt by barbarous neglect. Let me cut it even for you, and by-and-by we'll find out how to arrange it. Well, no; just now it looks best hanging loose on your back. When it grows long again, we'll put it up. Now come here to the light, and let me, see what you're like. Nearly fifteen years old, and pale and very thin, poor girl, which makes you look tall. Golden hair, good features, and a very pure skin for a girl who has lived a grimy life. And your eyes—don't be afraid to show them, Fan. If you had not looked at me yesterday with those eyes, I should have thought no more about you. Long lashes. Eyes grey—yes, grey decidedly, though at times they look almost sapphire blue; but the pupils are so large—that is perhaps the secret of their pathetic expression. That will do. You think it strange, do you not, Fan? that I should take you into my house and clothe you—a poor homeless girl; for I don't suppose that you can do anything for me, and you will therefore only be an extra expense. A great piece of folly, my friends would probably say. But don't be afraid, I care nothing for what others say. What I do, I do only to please myself, and not others. If I am disappointed in you, and find you different from what I imagine, I shall not keep you, and there will be an end of it all. Now don't look so cast-down; I believe that you are at heart a good, pure, truthful girl. I think I can see that much in your eyes, Fan. And there is, after all, something you can do for me—something which few can do, or do so well, which will be sufficient payment for all I am doing for you."

"Oh, ma'am, will you please tell me what it is?" exclaimed Fan, her voice trembling with eagerness.

"Perhaps you will do it without my telling you, Fan. I shall leave you to think about it and find out what it is for yourself. I must only tell you this; I have not taken you into my house because I am charitable and like doing good to the poor. I am not charitable, and care nothing about the poor. I have taken you in for my own pleasure; and as I think well of you, I am going to trust you implicitly. You may stay in this room when I am out, or go into the back room on this floor, where you can look out on the garden, and amuse yourself with the books and pictures till I come back. I am going out now, and at one o'clock Rosie will give you some dinner. Take no notice of her if she teases you. Mind me, and not the servants—they are nothing."

Miss Starbrow then changed her dress and went out, leaving Fan to her own devices, wondering what it was that she could do for her mistress, and feeling a little trouble about the maid who would give her her dinner at one o'clock; and after a while she went to explore that apartment at the back Miss Starbrow had spoken of. It was a large room, nearly square, with cream-coloured walls and dark red dado, and a polished floor, partly covered with a Turkish carpet; but there was very little furniture in it, and the atmosphere seemed chill and heavy, for it was the old unrenewed air of a room that was never used. On a large centre table a number of artistic objects were lying together in a promiscuous jumble: Japanese knick-knacks; an ivory card-case that had lost its cover, and a broken- bladed paper-knife; glove and collar and work-boxes of sandal-wood, mother-of-pearl, and papier-mache, with broken hinges; faded fans and chipped paper-weights; gorgeous picture-books with loosened covers, and a magnificent portrait-album which had been deflowered and had nothing left in it but the old and ugly, the commonplace middle-aged, and the vapid young; with many other things besides, all more or less defective.

This round table seemed like an asylum and last resting-place of things which had never been useful, and had ceased to be ornamental, which were yet not quite bad enough to be thrown into the dust-bin. To Fan it was a sort of South Kensington Museum, where she was permitted to handle things freely, and for some time she continued inspecting these rich treasures, after which she once more began to glance round the room. Such a stately room, large enough to shelter two or three families, so richly decorated with its red and cream colours, yet silent and cold and dusty and untenanted! On the mantelpiece of grey marble stood a large ornamental clock, which ticked not and the hands of which were stationary, supported on each side by bronzes—a stalwart warrior in a coat of mail in the act of drawing his sword, and a long-haired melancholy minstrel playing on a guitar. A few landscapes in oil were also hanging on the walls— representations of that ideal world of green shade and peace which was so often in Fan's mind. Facing the fireplace stood a tall bookcase, and opening it she selected a book full of poetry and pictures, and took it to an old sofa, or couch, to read. The sofa was under the large window, which had panes of coloured glass, and remembering that Miss Starbrow had told her that it looked on to the garden, she got on to the sofa and pushed the heavy sash up.

There was a good-sized garden without, and trees in it—poplar, lime, and thorn, now nearly leafless; but it was very pleasant to see them and to feel the mild autumn air on her face, so pleasant that Fan thought no more about her book. Ivy grew in abundance against the walls of the garden, and there were laurel and other evergreen shrubs in it, and a few China asters—white, red, and purple—still blooming. No sound came to her at that quiet back window, except the loud glad chirruping of the sparrows that had their home there. How still and peaceful it seemed! The pale October sunshine—pale, but never had sunshine seemed so divine, so like a glory shining on earth from the far heavenly throne—fell lighting up the dark leaves of ivy and laurel, stiff and green and motionless as if cut out of malachite, and the splendid red and purple shields of the asters; and filling the little dun-coloured birds with such joy that their loud chirping grew to a kind of ringing melody.

Oh, that dark forsaken room in Moon Street, full of bitter memories of miserable years! Oh, poor dead mother lying for ever silent and cold in the dark earth! Oh, poor world-weary woman in Dudley Grove, and all the countless thousands that lived toiling, hungry, hopeless lives in squalid London tenements—why had she, Fan, been so favoured as to be carried away from it all into this sweet restful place? Why—why? Then, even while she asked, wondering, thinking that it was all like a strange beautiful dream, unable yet to realise it, suddenly as by inspiration the meaning of the words Miss Starbrow had spoken to her flashed into her mind; and the thought made her tremble, the blood rushed to her face, and she felt her eyes growing dim with tears of joy. Was it true, could it be true, that this proud, beautiful lady—how much more beautiful now to Fan's mind than all other women!—really loved her, and that to be loved was all she desired in return? She was on her knees on the sofa, her arms resting on the window-sill, and forgetful now of the sunshine and leaves and flowers, and of the birds on the brown twigs talking together in their glad ringing language, she closed her eyes and resigned herself wholly to this delicious thought.

"Oh, here you are, sly little cat! Who said you might come into this room?"

Fan, starting up in alarm, found herself confronted with the pretty housemaid. But the pretty eyes were sparkling vindictively, the breath coming short and quick, and the pretty face was white with resentment.

"The lady told me to come here," returned Fan, still a little frightened.

"Oh, did she! and pray what else did she tell you? And don't lie, because I shall find you out if you do."

Fan was silent.

"You won't speak, you little sneak! When your mistress is out you must mind me—do you hear? Go instantly and take your filthy rags to the dust-bin, and ask cook for a bottle of carbolic acid to throw over them. We don't want any of your nasty infectious fevers brought here, if you please."

Fan hesitated a few moments, and then replied, "I'll only do what the lady tells me."

"You'll only do what the lady tells you!" she repeated, with a mocking whine. Then, in unconscious imitation of the scornful caterpillar in the wonderful story of Alice, she added, "You! And who are you! Shall I tell you what you are? A filthy, ragged little beggar picked out of the gutter, a sneaking area thief, put into the house for a spy! You vile cat, you! A starving mangy cur! Yes, I'll give you your dinner; I'll feed you on swill and dog-biscuits, and that's better than you ever had in your life. You, a diseased, pasty-faced little street-walker, too bad even for the slums, to keep you, to be dressed up and waited on by respectable servants! How dare you come into this house! I'd like to wring your miserable sick-chicken's neck for you!"

She was in a boiling rage, and stamped her foot and poured out her words so rapidly that they almost ran into each other; but Fan's whole previous life had served to make her indifferent to hard words, however unjust, and the housemaid's torrent of abuse had not the least effect.

Rosie, on her side, finding that her rage was wasted, sat down to recover herself, and then began to jeer at her victim, criticising her appearance, and asking her for the cast-off garments—"for which your la'ship will have no further use." Finding that her ridicule was received in the same silent passive way, she became more demonstrative. "Somebody's been trimming you," she said. "I s'pose Miss Starbrow was your barber—a nice thing for a lady! Well, I never! But there's one thing she forgot. Here's a pair of scissors. Now, little sick monkey, sit still while I trim your eyelashes. It'll be a great improvement, I'm sure. Oh, you won't! Well, then I'll soon make you." And putting the pair of small scissors between her lips, she seized Fan by the arms and tried to force her down on the sofa. Fan resisted silently and with all her strength, but her strength was by no means equal to Rosie's, and after a desperate struggle she was overcome and thrown on to the couch.

"Now, will you be quiet and let me trim you!" said the maid.

"No."

In speaking, Rosie had dropped the scissors from her mouth, and not being able to use her hands occupied in holding her victim down, she could do nothing worse than make faces, thrust out her tongue, and finally spit at Fan. Then she thought of something better. "If you won't be quiet and let me trim you," she said, "I'll pinch your arms till they're black and blue."

No reply being given, she proceeded to carry out her threat, and Fan set her teeth together and turned her face away to hide the tears. At length the other, tired of the struggle, released her. Fan bared her arm, displaying a large discoloration, and moistened it with her mouth to soothe the pain. She had a good deal of experience in bruises. "It'll be black by-and-by," she said, "and I'll show it to the lady when she comes back."

"Oh, you'll show it to her, you little tell-tale sneak! Then I'll be even with you and put rat's-bane in your dinner."

"Why don't you leave me alone, then?" said Fan.

Rosie considered for some time, and finally said, "I'll leave you alone if you'll tell me what you are here for—everything about yourself, mind, and no lies; and what Miss Starbrow is going to do with you."

"I don't know, and I sha'n't say a word more," returned Fan, whereupon Rosie slapped her face and ran out of the room.

In spite of the rough handling she had been subjected to, and the pain in her arm, Fan very soon recovered her composure. Her happiness was too great to be spoiled by so small a matter, and very soon she returned to her place at the open window and to her pleasant thoughts.

About midday the maid came again bringing a tray. "Here's your food, starved puppy; lap it up, and may it choke you," she said, and left the room.

After she had been gone a few minutes, Fan, beginning to feel hungry, went to the table, and found a plate of stewed meat and vegetables, with bread and cheese, and a glass of ale. But over it all Rosie had carefully sprinkled ashes, and had also dropped a few pinches into the ale, making it thick and muddy. Now, although on any previous day of her hungry orphaned existence she would have wiped off the ashes and eaten the food, on this occasion she determined not to touch it. Her new surroundings and dress, and the thought that she was no longer without someone to care for her, had served to inspire in her a pride which was stronger than hunger. Presently she noticed that the door had a key to it, and in her indignation at the maid's persecution she ran and locked it, resolved to let the dinner remain there untasted until Miss Starbrow should return.

Presently Rosie came back, and finding the door locked, began knocking and calling. "Open, you cat!" she cried. "I must take the things down, now you've gobbled up your pig's food. Open, you spiteful little devil!"

"I haven't touched the dinner, and I sha'n't open the door till the lady comes," she answered, and would say no more.

After a good deal more abuse, Rosie in despair went away; but presently the cook came up, and Fan opened to her. She had a second supply of food and beer, without any ashes in it this time, and put it on the table. "Now, have your dinner, miss," she said, with mock humility. She was taking away the first tray, but at the door she paused and, looking back, said, "You won't say nothing to the missus, will you, miss?"

"If she'll let me be I'll not say anything," said Fan.

"Very well, miss, she won't trouble you no more. But, lors, she don't mean no harm; it's only her little funny ways." And having thus explained and smoothed matters over, she went off to the kitchen.

About five o'clock Miss Starbrow came in and found Fan still sitting by the open window in the darkening room.

"Why, my poor girl, you must be half frozen," she said, coming to the sofa.

But how little Fan felt the chill evening air, when she started up at the kind greeting, her eyes brightening and her face flushing with that strange new happiness now warming her blood and making her heart beat quick!

"Oh no, ma'am, I'm not a bit cold," she said.

The other pulled off her glove and touched the girl's cheek with her fingers.

"Your skin feels cold enough, anyhow," she returned. "Come into my room; it is warmer there."

Fan followed into the adjoining large bedroom, where a bright fire was burning in the grate; and Miss Starbrow, taking off her hat and cloak, sat down. After regarding the girl for some time in silence, she said with a little laugh, "What can I do with you, Fan?"

Fan was troubled at this, and glanced anxiously at the other's face, only to drop her eyes abashed again; but at last, plucking up a little courage, she said:

"Will you please let me do something in the house, ma'am?" And after a few moments she added, "I wish I could do something, and—and be your servant."

Miss Starbrow laughed again, and then frowned a little and sat silent for some time.

"The fact is," she said at length, "now that you are here I don't quite know what to do with you. However, that doesn't signify. I took you for my own pleasure, and it doesn't make much difference to have you in the house, and if it did I shouldn't care. But you must look after yourself for the present, as I have just got rid of one servant and there are only two to do everything. They are anxious for me not to engage a third just now, and prefer to do all the work themselves, which means, I suppose, that there will be more plunder to divide between them."

"And can't I help, ma'am?" said Fan, whose last words had not yet been answered.

"I fancy you would look out of place doing housework," said Miss Starbrow. "It strikes me that you are not suited for that sort of thing. If it hadn't been so, I shouldn't have noticed you. The only way in which I should care to employ you would be as lady's-maid, and for that you are unfit. Perhaps I shall have you taught needlework and that kind of thing by-and-by, but I am not going to bother about it just now. For the present we must jog along just how we can, and you must try to make yourself as happy as you can by yourself."

Just then the housemaid came up with tea for her mistress.

"Get me another cup—a large one, and some more bread-and-butter," said Miss Starbrow.

"The young person's tea is in the back room, ma'am," returned Rosie, with a tremor in her voice.

Miss Starbrow looked at her, but without speaking; the maid instantly retired to obey the order, and when she set the cup and plate of bread- and-butter on the tray her hand trembled, while her mistress, with a slight smile on her lips, watched her face, white with suppressed rage.

After tea, during which Miss Starbrow had been strangely kind and gentle to the girl, she said:

"Perhaps you can help me take off my dress, Fan, and comb out my hair."

This was strange work for Fan, but her intense desire to do something for her mistress partly compensated for her ignorance and awkwardness, and after a little while she found that combing those long rich black tresses was an easy and very delightful task. Miss Starbrow sat with eyes half- closed before the glass, only speaking once or twice to tell Fan not to hurry.

"The longer you are with my hair the better I like it," she said.

Fan was only too glad to prolong the task; it was such a pleasure to feel the hair of this woman who was now so much to her; if the glass had not been before them—the glass in which from time to time she saw the half- closed eyes studying her face—she would more than once have touched the dark tresses she held in her hand to her lips.

Miss Starbrow, however, spoke no more to her, but finishing her dressing went down to her seven o'clock dinner, leaving Fan alone by the fire. After dinner she came up again and sat by the bedroom fire in the dark room. Then Rosie came up to her.

"Captain Horton is in the drawing-room, ma'am," she said.

Miss Starbrow rose to go to her visitor.

"You can stay where you are, Fan, until bed-time," she said. "And by-and- by the maid will give you some supper in the back room. Is Rosie impudent to you—how has she been treating you to-day?"

Fan was filled with distress, remembering her promise, and cast down her eyes.

"Very well, say nothing; that's the best way, Fan. Take no notice of what anyone says to you. Servants are always vile, spiteful creatures, and will act after their kind. Good-night, my girl," and with that she went downstairs.

Fan sat there for half an hour longer in the grateful twilight and warmth of that luxurious room, and then Rosie's voice startled her crying at the door:

"Doggie! doggie! come and have its supper."

Fan got up and went to the next room, where her supper and a lighted lamp were on the centre table. Rosie followed her.

"Can you tell the truth?" she said.

"Yes," returned Fan.

"Well, then, have you told Miss Starbrow?"

"No."

"Did she ask you anything?"

"Yes, and I didn't tell her."

"Oh, how very kind!" said Rosie; and giving her a box on the ear, ran out of the room.

Not much hurt, and not caring much, Fan sat down to her supper. Returning to the bedroom she heard the sound of the piano, and paused on the landing to listen. Then a fine baritone voice began singing, and was succeeded by a woman's voice, a rich contralto, for they were singing a duet; and voice following voice, and anon mingling in passionate harmony, the song floated out loud from the open door, and rose and seemed to fill the whole house, while Fan stood there listening, trembling with joy at the sound.

The singing and playing continued for upwards of an hour, and Fan still kept her place, until the maid came up with a candle to show her to her bedroom. They went up together to the next floor into a small neatly- furnished room which had been prepared for her.

"Here's your room," said Rosie, setting down the candle on the table, "and now I'm going to give you a good spanking before you go to bed."

"If you touch me again I'll scream and tell Miss Starbrow everything," said Fan, plucking up a spirit.

Rosie shut and locked the door. "Now you can scream your loudest, cat, and she'll not hear a sound."

For a few moments Fan did not know what to do to save herself; then all at once the memory of some old violent wrangle came to her aid, and springing forward she blew out the candle and softly retreated to a corner of the room, where she remained silent and expectant.

"You little wretch!" exclaimed the other. "Speak, or I'll kill you!" But there was no answer. For some time Rosie stumbled about until she found the door, and after some jeering words retreated downstairs, leaving Fan in the dark.

She had defeated her enemy this time, and quickly locking the door, went to bed without a light.



CHAPTER VI

The next few days, although very sweet and full to Fan, were uneventful; then, early on a Wednesday evening, once more Miss Starbrow made her sit with her at her bedroom fire and talked to her for a long time.

"What did you tell me your name is?" she asked.

"Frances Harrod."

"I don't like it. I call it horrid. It was only your stepfather's name according to your account, and I must find you a different one. Do you know what your mother's name was—before she married, I mean?"

"Oh yes, ma'am; it was Margaret Affleck."

"Affleck. It is not common and not ugly. Frances Affleck—that sounds better. Yes, that will do; your name, as long as you live with me, shall be Affleck; you must not forget that."

"No, ma'am," Fan replied humbly. But she had some doubts, and after a while said, "But can you change my name, ma'am?"

"Change your name! Why, of course I can. It is just as easy to do that as to give you a new dress; easier in fact. And what do you know, Fan? What did they teach you at the Board School? Reading, I suppose; very well, take this book and read to me."

She took the book, but felt strangely nervous at this unexpected call to display her accomplishments, and began hurriedly reading in a low voice.

Miss Starbrow laughed.

"I can't stand that, Fan," she said. "You might be gabbling Dutch or Hindustani. And you are running on without a single pause. Even a bee hovering about the flowers has an occasional comma, or colon, or full stop in its humming. Try once more, but not so fast and a little louder."

The good-humoured tone in which she spoke served to reassure Fan; and knowing that she could do better, and getting over her nervousness, she began again, and this time Miss Starbrow let her finish the page.

"You can read, I find. Better, I think, than any of the maids I have had. You have a very nice expressive voice, and you will do better when you read a book through from the beginning, and feel interested in it. I shall let you read every day to me. What else did you learn— writing?"

"Yes, ma'am, I always got a high mark for that. And we had Scripture lessons, and grammar, and composition, and arithmetic, and geography; and when I was in the fifth form I had history and drawing."

"History and drawing—well, what next, I wonder! That's what we are taxed a shilling in the pound for, to give education to a—well, never mind. But can you really draw, Fan? Here's pencil and paper, just draw something for me."

"What shall I draw, ma'am?" she said, taking the pencil and feeling nervous again.

"Oh, anything you like."

Now it happened that her drawing lessons had always given her more pleasure than anything else at school, but owing to Joe Harrod's having taken her away as soon as he was allowed to do so, they had not continued long. Still, even in a short time she had made some progress; and even after leaving school she had continued to find a mournful pleasure in depicting leaf and flower forms. Left to choose her own subject, she naturally began sketching a flower—a-rosebud, half-open, with leaves.

"Don't hurry, Fan, as you did with your reading. The slower you are the better it will be," said Miss Starbrow, taking up a volume and beginning to read, or pretending to read, for her eyes were on the face of the girl most of the time.

Fan, happily unconscious of the other's regard, gave eight or ten minutes to her drawing, and then Miss Starbrow took it in her hands to examine it.

"This is really very well done," she said, "but what in goodness' name did they teach you drawing for!' What would be the use of it after leaving school? Well, yes, it might be useful in one way. It astonishes me to think how you were trying to live, Fan. You were certainly not fit for that hard rough work, and would have starved at it. You were made, body and mind, in a more delicate mould, and for something better. I think that with all you have learnt at school, and with your appearance, especially with those truthful eyes of yours and that sweet voice, you might have got a place as nursery governess, to teach small children, or something of that sort. Why did you go starving about the streets, Fan?"

"But no one would take me with such clothes, ma'am. They wouldn't look at me or speak to me even in the little shops where I went to ask for work."

Miss Starbrow uttered a curious little laugh.

"What a strange thing it seems," she said, "that a few shillings to buy decent clothes may alter a person's destiny. With the shillings—about as many as the man of God pays for his sirloin—shelter from the weather and temptations to evil, three meals a day, a long pleasant life, husband and children, perhaps, and at last—Heaven. And without them, rags and starvation and the streets, and—well, this is a question for the mighty intellect of a man and a theologian, not for mine. I dare say you don't know what I'm talking about, Fan?"

"Not all, ma'am, but I think I understand a little."

"Very little, I should think. Don't try to understand too much, my poor girl. Perhaps before you are eighty, if you live so long, you will discover that you didn't even understand a little. Ah, Fan, you have been sadly cheated by destiny! Childhood without joy, and girlhood without hope. I wish I could give you happiness to make up for it all, but I can't be Providence to anyone."

"Oh, ma'am, you have made me so happy!" exclaimed Fan, the tears springing to her eyes.

Miss Starbrow frowned a little and turned her face aside. Then she said:

"Just because I fed and dressed and sheltered you, Fan—does happiness come so easily to you?"

"Oh no, ma'am, not that—it isn't that," with such keen distress that she could scarcely speak without a sob.

"How then have I made you happy? Will you not answer me? I took you because I believed that you would trust me, and always speak openly from your heart, and hide nothing."

"Oh, ma'am, I'm afraid to say it. I was so happy because I thought— because—" and here she sunk her voice to a trembling whisper—"I thought that you loved me."

Miss Starbrow put her arm round the girl's waist and drew her against her knees.

"Your instinct was not at fault, Fan," she said in a caressing tone. "I do love you, and loved you when I saw you in your rags, and it pained my heart when I told you to clean my doorsteps as if you had been my sister. No, not a sister, but something better and sweeter; my sisters I do not love at all. And do you know now what I meant, Fan, when I said that there was something you could do for me?"

"I think I know," returned Fan, still troubled in her mind and anxious. "It was that made me feel so happy. I thought—that you wanted me to love you."

"You are right, my dear girl; I think that I made no mistake when I took you in."

On that evening Fan had tea with her mistress, and afterwards, earlier than usual, was allowed to comb her hair out—a task which gave her the greatest delight. Miss Starbrow then put on an evening dress, which Fan now saw for the first time, and was filled with wonder at its richness and beauty. It was of saffron-coloured silk, trimmed with black lace; but she wore no ornaments with it, except gold bracelets on her round shapely arms.

"What makes you stare so, Fan?" she said with a laugh, as she stood surveying herself in the tall glass, and fastening the bracelets on.

"Oh, ma'am, you do look so beautiful in that dress! Are you going to the theatre to-night?"

"No, Fan. On Wednesday evenings I always have a number of friends come in to see me—all gentlemen. I have very few lady friends, and care very little for them. And, now I think of it, you can sit up to-night until I tell you to go to bed."

"Yes, ma'am."

Miss Starbrow was moving towards the door. Then she paused, and finally came back and sat down again, and drew Fan against her knee as before.

"Fan," she said, "when you speak about me to others, and to me in the presence of others, or of the servants, call me Miss Starbrow. I don't like to hear you call me ma'am, it wounds my ear. Do you understand?"

"Yes—Miss Starbrow."

"But when we are alone together, as we are now, let me hear you call me Mary. That's my Christian name, and I should like to hear you speak it. Will you remember?"

"Yes"; and then from her lips trembled the name "Mary."

"It sounds very loving and sweet," said the other, and, drawing the girl closer, for the first time she kissed her.

With the memory of those tender words and the blissful sensation left by that unexpected kiss, Fan spent the evening alone, hearing, after her supper, the arrival of visitors, and the sound of conversation and laughter from the drawing-room, and then music and singing. Later in the evening the guests went to sup into the dining-room, and there they stayed playing cards until eleven o'clock or later, when she heard them leaving the house.

They were not all gone, however; three of Miss Starbrow's intimate friends still lingered, drinking whisky-and-water and talking. There was Captain Horton—captain by courtesy, since he was no longer in the army —a tall, fine-looking man, slightly horsy in his get-up, with a very large red moustache, reddish-brown hair, and keen blue eyes. He wore a cut-away coat, and was standing on the hearthrug, his hands thrust into his trousers pockets, and smiling as he talked to a young clerical gentleman near him—the Rev. Octavius Brown. The Rev. Octavius was curate of a neighbouring ritualistic church, but in his life he was not ascetic; he loved whisky-and-water not wisely but too well, and he was passionately devoted to the noble game of Napoleon. Mr. Brown had just won seven shillings, and was in very high spirits; for being poor he had a great dread of losing, and played carefully for very small stakes, and seldom won more than half-a-crown or three shillings. At some distance from them a young gentleman reclined in an easy-chair, smoking a cigarette, and apparently not listening to their conversation. This was Mr. Merton Chance, clerk in the Foreign Office, and supposed by his friends to be extremely talented. He was rather slight but well-formed, a little under the medium height, clean shaved, handsome, colourless as marble, with black hair and dark blue eyes that looked black.

Miss Starbrow, who had left the room a few minutes before, came in, and standing by the table listened to the curate.

"Miss Starbrow," said he, appealing to her, "is it not hard? Captain Horton either doubts my veracity or believes that I am only joking when I assure him that what I have just told him is plain truth."

"Well, let me hear the whole story," she replied, "and I'll act as umpire."

"I couldn't wish for a juster one—nor for a fairer," he replied with a weak smile. "What I said was that I had once attended a dinner to the clergy in Yorkshire, at which there were sixteen of us present, and the surnames of all were names of things—objects or offices or something— connected with a church."

"Well, what were the names?"

"You see he remembers only one—a Mr. Church," said Captain Horton.

"No, pardon me. A Mr. Church, and a Mr. Bishop, and a Mr. Priest, and a Mr. Cross, and—and oh, yes, Mr. Bell."

"Five of your sixteen," said Captain Horton, checking them off on his fingers.

"And a Mr. Graves, and a Mr. Sexton, and—and—of course, I can't remember all the names now. Can you expect it, Miss Starbrow?"

"No, of course not; but you have only named seven. If you can remember ten I shall decide in your favour."

"Thank you. There was a Mr. Church—"

"No, no, old man, we've had that already," cried the Captain.

"Mr. Tombs," he continued, and fell again to thinking.

"That makes eight," said Miss Starbrow. "Cheer up, Mr. Brown, you'll soon remember two others."

"Your own name makes nine, Mr. Brown," broke in Mr. Chance, "only I can't make out what connection it has with a church."

The other two laughed.

"I'm afraid it looks very bad for you," said Miss Starbrow.

"No, no, Miss Starbrow, please don't think that. Wait a minute and let me see if I can remember how that was," said the poor curate. "I think I said that all present at the table except myself—"

"No, there was no exception," interrupted Captain Horton. "Now, if you sixteen fellows had been Catholic priests instead of in the Established Church, and you were Scarlett by name instead of Brown—"

"Don't say any more—please!" cried the curate, lifting his hand. "You are going too far, Captain Horton. I like a little innocent fun well enough, but I draw the line at sacred subjects. Let us drop the subject."

"Oh, yes, of course, that's a good way of getting out of it. And as for jesting about sacred matters, I always understood that one couldn't prove his zeal for Protestantism better than by having a shot at the Roman business."

"I am happy to say that I do not class myself with Prots," said the curate, getting up from his chair very carefully, and then consulting his watch. "I must run away now—"

"You can't do it," interrupted the Captain.

Miss Starbrow laughed. "Don't go just yet, Mr. Brown," she said. "I wish you all to help me with your advice, or with an opinion at least. You know that I have taken in a young girl, and I have not yet decided what to do with her. I shall call her down for you to see her, as you are all three my very candid friends, and you shall tell me what you think of her appearance."

She then opened the door and called Fan down, and the poor girl was brought into the neighbourhood of the three gentlemen, and stood with eyes cast down, her pale face reddening with shame to find herself the centre of so much curiosity.

Miss Starbrow glanced at the Captain, who was keenly studying Fan's face, as he stood before the fire, stroking his red moustache.

"Well, if I'm to give a candid opinion," he said, "all I can say is that she looks an underfed little monkey."

"I think you are excessively rude!" returned Miss Starbrow, firing up. "She is too young to feel your words, perhaps, but they are nothing less than insulting to my judgment."

"Oh, confound it, Pollie, you are always flying out at me! I dare say she's a good girl—she looks it, but if you want me to say that she's good-looking, I can't be such a hypocrite even to please you."

Miss Starbrow flashed a keen glance at him, and then without replying turned to Mr. Brown.

"Really—honestly, Miss Starbrow," he said, "you couldn't have selected a more charming-looking girl. But your judgment is always—well, just what it should be; that goes without saying."

She turned impatiently from him and looked at Mr. Chance, still gracefully reclining in his chair.

"Is my poor opinion really worth anything to you?" he said, and rising he walked over to the girl and touched her hand, which made her start a little. "I wish to see your eyes—won't you look at me?" He spoke very gently.

Fan glanced up into his face for a moment.

"Thank you—just what I thought," said he, returning to his seat.

"Well?" said Miss Starbrow.

"Must I put it in words—those poor symbols?" he returned. "I know so well that you can understand without them."

"Perhaps I might if I tried very hard, but I choose not to try," she replied, with a slight toss of her head.

"It is a pleasure to obey; but the poor girl looks nervous and uncomfortable, and would be so glad not to hear my personal remarks."

"Oh yes, it was thoughtless of me to keep her here—thanks for reminding me," said Miss Starbrow, with a strange softening of her voice her friends were not accustomed to hear. "Run up to your room, Fan, and go to bed. I'm sorry I've kept you up so late, poor child."

And Fan, with a grateful look towards Mr. Chance, left the room gladly enough.

"When she first came into the room I wondered what had attracted you," said Mr. Chance. "I concluded that it must be something under those long drooping eyelashes, and when I looked there I found out the secret."

"Intelligent eyes—very intelligent eyes—I noticed that also," said Mr. Brown.

"Oh no, heaven forbid—I did not mean anything of the kind," said Mr. Chance. "Intelligence is a masculine quality which I do not love to see in a woman: it is suitable for us, like a rough skin and—moustachios," with a glance at Captain Horton, and touching his own clean-shaven upper lip. "The more delicate female organism has something finer and higher than intelligence, which however serves the same purpose—and other purposes besides."

"I don't quite follow you," said the curate, again preparing to take his leave. "I dare say it's all plain enough to some minds, but—well, Mr. Chance, you'll forgive me for saying that when you talk that way I don't know whether I'm standing on my head or my heels."

"Naturally, you wouldn't," said Captain Horton, with a mocking smile. "But don't go yet, Brown; have some more whisky-and-water."

"No, thanks, no more. I never exceed two or three glasses, you know. Thank you, my dear Miss Starbrow, for a most delightful evening." And after shaking hands he made his way to the door, bestowing a kindly touch on each chair in passing, and appearing greatly relieved when he reached the hall.

Captain Horton lit a cigarette and threw himself into an easy-chair. Mr. Chance lit another cigarette; if the other was an idle man, he (Chance) was in the Foreign Office, and privileged to sit up as late as he liked.

"On the whole," he said in a meditative way, "I am inclined to think that Brown is a rather clever fellow."

Miss Starbrow laughed: she was still standing. "You two appear to be taking it very quietly," she said. "It is one o'clock—why will you compel me to be rude?"

Then they started up, put on their coats, exchanged a few words at the door with their hostess, and walked down the street together. Presently a hansom came rattling along the quiet street.

"Keb, sir?" came the inevitable question, in a tone sharp as a whip- crack, as the driver pulled up near the kerb.

"Yes, two cabs," said Captain Horton. "I'll toss you for the first, Chance"; and pulling out a florin he sent it spinning up and deftly caught it as it fell. "Heads or tails?"

"Oh, take it yourself, and I'll find another."

"No, no, fair play," insisted the Captain.

"Very well then, heads."

"Tails!" cried the other, opening his hand. "Goodnight, old man, you're sure to find one in another minute. Oxford Terrace," he cried to the driver, jumping in. And the cabman, who had watched the proceedings with the deep interest and approval of a true sporting man, shook the reins, flicked the horse's ears with his whip, clicked with his tongue, and drove rapidly away.

Left to himself, Mr. Chance sauntered on in no hurry to get home, and finally stood still at a street corner, evidently pondering some matter of considerable import to him. "By heaven, I'm more than half resolved to try it!" he exclaimed at last. And after a little further reflection, he added, "And I shall—

"He either fears his fate too much, Or his deserts are small, Who dares not put it to the touch To win or lose it all."

Then he turned and walked deliberately back to Dawson Place: coming to the house which he had lately quitted, he peered anxiously at windows and doors, and presently caught sight of a faint reflection from burning gas or candle within on the fanlight over the street door, which, he conjectured, came from the open dining-room.

"Fortune favours me," he said to himself. "'Faint heart never won fair lady.' A happy inspiration, I am beginning to think. Losing that toss will perhaps result in my winning a higher stake. There's a good deal of dash and devilry in that infernal blackguard Horton, and doubtless that is why he has made some progress here. Well then, she ought to appreciate my spirit in coming to her at this time of night, or morning, rather. There's a wild, primitive strain in her; she's not to be wooed and won in the usual silly mawkish way. More like one of the old Sabine women, who liked nothing better than being knocked down and dragged off by their future lords. I suppose that a female of that antique type of mind can be knocked down and taken captive, as it were, with good vigorous words, just as formerly they were knocked down with the fist or the butt end of a spear."

His action was scarcely in keeping with the daring, resolute spirit of his language: instead of seizing the knocker and demanding admittance with thunderous racket, he went cautiously up the steps, rapped softly on the door with his knuckles, and then anxiously waited the result of his modest summons.

Miss Starbrow was in the dining-room, and heard the tapping. Her servants had been in bed two hours; and after the departure of her late guests she had turned off the gas at the chandelier, and was leaving the room, when seeing a Globe, left by one of her visitors, she took it up to glance at the evening's news. Something she found in the paper interested her, and she continued reading until that subdued knocking attracted her attention. Taking up her candle she went to the door and unfastened it, but without letting down the chain. Her visitor hurriedly whispered his name, and asked to be admitted for a few minutes, as he had something very important to communicate.

She took down the chain and allowed him to come into the hall. "Why have you come back?" she demanded in some alarm. "Where is Captain Horton?— you left together."

"He went home in the first cab we found. We tossed for it, and he won, for which I thank the gods. Then, acting on the impulse of the moment, I came back to say something to you. A very unusual—very eccentric thing to do, no doubt. But when something involving great issues has to be done or said, I think the best plan is not to wait for a favourable opportunity. Don't you agree with me?"

"I don't understand you, Mr. Chance, and am therefore unable to agree with you. I hope you are not going to keep me standing here much longer."

"Not for a moment! But will you not let me come inside to say the few words I have to say?"

"Oh yes, you may come in," she returned not very graciously, and leading the way to the dining-room, where decanters, tumblers, and cards scattered about the table, seen by the dim light of one candle, gave it a somewhat disreputable appearance. "What do you wish to say to me?" she asked a little impatiently, and seating herself.

He took a chair near her. "You are a little unkind to hurry me in this way," he said, trying to smile, "since you compel me to put my request in very plain blunt language. However, that is perhaps the best plan. Twice I have come to you intending to speak, and have been baffled by fate—"

"Then you might have written, or telegraphed," she interrupted, "if the matter was so important."

"Not very well," he returned, growing very serious. "You know that as well as I do. You must know, dear Miss Starbrow, that I have admired you for a long time. Perhaps you also know that I love you. Miss Starbrow, will you be my wife and make me happy?"

"No, Mr. Chance, I cannot be your wife and make you happy. I must decline your offer."

Her cold, somewhat ironical tone from the first had prepared him for this result, and he returned almost too quickly, "Oh, I see, you are offended with me for coming to you at this hour. I must suffer the consequences of my mistake, and study to be more cautious and proper in the future. I have always regarded you as an unconventional woman. That, to my mind, is one of your greatest charms; and when I say that I say a good deal. I never imagined that my coming to you like this would have prejudiced you against me."

She gave a little laugh, but there was an ominous cloud on her face as she answered: "You imagined it was the right thing to do to come at half- past one o'clock in the morning to offer me your hand! Your opinion of my conduct is not a subject I am the least interested in; but whether I am unconventional or not, I assure you, Mr. Chance, that I am not to be pushed or driven one step further than I choose to go."

"I should never dream of attempting such a thing, Miss Starbrow. But it would be useless to say much more; whatever line I take to-night only makes matters worse for me. But allow me to say one thing before bidding you good-night. The annoyance you feel at the present moment will not last. You have too much generosity, too much intellect, to allow it to rest long in your bosom; and deeply as I feel this rebuff, I am not going to be so weak as to let it darken and spoil my whole life. No, my hope is too strong and too reasonable to be killed so easily. I shall come to you again, and again, and again. For I know that with you for a wife and companion my life would be a happy one; and not happy only, for that is not everything. An ambitious man looks to other greater and perhaps better things."

The cloud was gone from her brows, and she sat regarding him as he spoke with a slight smile on her lips and a curious critical expression in her eyes. When he finished speaking she laughed and said, "But is my happiness of such little account—do you not propose to make me happy also, Mr. Chance?"

"No," he returned, his face clouding, and dropping his eyes before her mocking gaze. "You shall not despise me. Single or married, you must make your own happiness or misery. You know that; why do you wish to make me repeat the wretched commonplaces that others use?"

"I'm glad you have so good an opinion of yourself, Mr. Chance," she replied. "I was vexed with you at first, but am not so now. To watch the changes of your chameleon mind, not always successful in getting the right colour at the right moment, is just as good as a play. If you really mean to come again and again I shall not object—it will amuse me. Only do not come at two o'clock in the morning; it might compromise me, and, unconventional as I am, I should not forgive you a second time. But honestly, Mr. Chance, I don't believe you will come again. You know now that I know you, and you are too wise to waste your energies on me. I hope you will not give up visiting me—in the daytime. We admire each other, and I have always had a friendly feeling for you. That is a real feeling—not an artificial one like the love you spoke of."

He rose to go. "Time will show whether it is an artificial feeling or not," he said; and after bidding good-night and hearing the door close after him, he walked away towards Westbourne Grove. He had gone from her presence with a smile on his lips, but in the street it quickly vanished from his face, and breaking into a rapid walk and clenching his fists, he exclaimed, between his set teeth, "Curse the jade!"

It was not a sufficient relief to his feelings, and yet he seemed unable to think of any other expression more suitable to the occasion, for after going a little further, he repeated, "Curse the jade!"

Then he walked on slower and slower, and finally stopped, and turning towards Dawson Place, he repeated for the third time, "Curse the jade!"



CHAPTER VII

Fan saw no more company after that evening, for which she was not sorry; but that had been a red-letter day to her—not soon, perhaps never, to be forgotten.

Great as the human adaptiveness is at the age at which Fan then was, that loving-kindness of her mistress—of one so proud and beautiful above all women, and, to the girl's humble ideas, so rich "beyond the dreams of avarice"—retained its mysterious, almost incredible, character to her mind, and was a continual cause of wonder to her, and at times of ill- defined but anxious thought. For what had she—a poor, simple, ignorant useless girl—to keep the affection of such a one as Miss Starbrow? And as the days and weeks went by, that vague anxiety did not leave her; for the more she saw of her mistress, the less did she seem like one of a steadfast mind, whose feelings would always remain the same. She was touchy, passionate, variable in temper; and if her stormy periods were short-lived, she also had cold and sullen moods, which lasted long, and turned all her sweetness sour; and at such times Fan feared to approach her, but sat apart distressed and sorrowful. And yet, whatever her mood was, she never spoke sharply to Fan, or seemed to grow weary of her. And once, during one of those precious half-hours, when they sat together at the bedroom fire before dinner, when Miss Starbrow in a tender mood again drew the girl to her side and kissed her, Fan, even while her heart was overflowing with happiness, allowed something of the fear that was mixed with it to appear in her words.

"Oh, Mary, if I could do something for you!" she murmured. "But I can do nothing—I can only love you. I wish—I wish you would tell me what to do to—to keep your love!"

Miss Starbrow's face clouded. "Perhaps your heart is a prophetic one, Fan," she said; "but you must not have those dismal forebodings, or if they will come, then pay as little heed to them as possible. Everything changes about us, and we change too—I suppose we can't help it. Let us try to believe that we will always love each other. Our food is not less grateful to us because it is possible that at some future day we shall have to go hungry. Oh, poor Fan, why should such thoughts trouble your young heart? Take the goods the gods give you, and do not repine because we are not angels in Heaven, with an eternity to enjoy ourselves in. I love you now, and find it sweet to love you, as I have never loved anyone of my own sex before. Women, as a rule, I detest. You can do, and are doing, more than you know for me."

Fan did not understand it all; but something of it she did understand, and it had a reassuring effect on her mind.

Her life at this period was a solitary one. After breakfast she would go out for a walk, usually to Kensington Gardens, and returning by way of Westbourne Grove, to execute some small commissions for her mistress. Between dinner and tea the time was mostly spent in the back room on the first floor, which nobody else used; and when the weather permitted she sat with the window open, and read aloud to improve herself in the art, and practised writing and drawing, or read in some book Miss Starbrow had recommended to her. With all her time so agreeably filled she did not feel her loneliness, and the life of ease and plenty soon began to tell on her appearance. Her skin became more pure and transparent, although naturally pale; her eyes grew brighter, and could look glad as well as sorrowful; her face lost its painfully bony look, and was rounder and softer, and the straight lines and sharp angles of her girlish form changed to graceful curves from day to day. Miss Starbrow, regarding her with a curious and not untroubled smile, remarked:

"You are improving in your looks every day, Fan; by-and-by you will be a beautiful girl—and then!"

The attitude of the servants had not changed towards her, the cook continuing to observe a kind of neutrality which was scarcely benevolent, while the housemaid's animosity was still active; but it had ceased to trouble her very much. Since the evening on which Fan had baffled her by blowing out the candle, Rosie had not attempted to inflict corporal punishment beyond an occasional pinch or slap, but contented herself by mocking and jeering, and sometimes spitting at her.

Rosie is destined to disappear from the history of Fan's early life in the first third of this volume; but before that time her malice bore very bitter fruit, and for that and other reasons her character is deserving of some description.

She was decidedly pretty, short but well-shaped, with a small English slightly-upturned nose; small mouth with ripe red lips, which were never still except when she held them pressed with her sharp white teeth to make them look redder and riper than ever. Her brown fluffy hair was worn short like a boy's, and she looked not unlike a handsome high-spirited boy, with brown eyes, mirthful and daring. She was extremely vivacious in disposition, and active—too active, in fact, for she got through her housemaid's work so quickly that it left her many hours of each day in which to listen to the promptings of the demon of mischief. It was only because she did her work so rapidly and so well that her mistress kept her on—"put up with her," as she expressed it—in spite of her faults of temper and tongue. But Rosie's heart was not in her work. She was romantic and ambitious, and her shallow little brain was filled with a thousand dreams of wonderful things to be. She was a constant and ravenous reader of Bow Bells, the London Journal, and one or two penny weeklies besides; and not satisfied with the half-hundred columns of microscopical letterpress they afforded her, she laid her busy hands on all the light literature left about by her mistress, and thought herself hardly treated because Miss Starbrow was a great reader of French novels. It was exceedingly tantalising to know that those yellow-covered books were so well suited to her taste, and not be able to read them. For someone had told her what nice books they were—someone with a big red moustache, who was as fond of pretty red lips as a greedy school-boy is of ripe cherries.

Many were the stolen interviews between the daring little housemaid and her gentleman lover; sometimes in the house itself, in a shaded part of the hall, or in one of the reception-rooms when a happy opportunity offered—and opportunities always come to those who watch for them; sometimes out of doors in the shadow of convenient trees in the neighbouring quiet street and squares after dark. But Rosie was not too reckless. There was a considerable amount of cunning in that small brain of hers, which prevented her from falling over the brink of the precipice on the perilous edge of which she danced like a playful kid so airily. It was very nice and not too naughty to be cuddled and kissed by a handsome gentleman, with a big moustache, fine eyes, and baritone voice! but she was not prepared to go further than that—just yet; only pretending that by-and-by—perhaps; firing his heart with languishing sighs, the soft unspoken "Ask me no more, for at a touch I yield"; and then she would slip from his arms, and run away to put by the little present of sham jewellery, and think it all very fine fun. They were amusing themselves. His serious love-making was for her mistress. She—Rosie—had a future—a great splendid future, to which she must advance by slow degrees, step by step, sometimes even losing ground a little—and much had been lost since that starved white kitten had come into the house.

When Miss Starbrow, in a fit of anger, had dismissed her maid some months before, and then had accepted some little personal assistance in dressing for the play, and at other times, from her housemaid, Rosie at once imagined that she was winning her way to her mistress's heart, and her silly dream was that she would eventually get promoted to the vacant and desirable place of lady's-maid. The cast-off dresses, boots, pieces of finery, and many other things which would be her perquisites would be a little fortune to her, and greatly excited her cupidity. But there were other more important considerations: she would occupy a much higher position in the social scale, and dress well, her hands and skin would grow soft and white, and her appearance and conversation would be that of a lady; for to be a lady's-maid is, of course, the nearest thing to being a lady. And with her native charms, ambitious intriguing brain, what might she not rise to in time? and she had been so careful, and, she imagined, had succeeded so well in ingratiating herself with her mistress; and by means of a few well-constructed lies had so filled Miss Starbrow with disgust at the ordinary lady's-maid taken ready-made out of a registry-office, that she had begun to look on the place almost as her own. She had quite overlooked the small fact that she was not qualified to fill it, and never would be. If she had proposed such an arrangement, Miss Starbrow would have laughed heartily, and sent the impudent minx away with a flea in her ear; but she had not yet ventured to broach the subject.

Fan's coming into the house had not only filled her with the indignation natural to one of her class and in her position at being compelled to wait on a girl picked up half-starved in the streets; but when it appeared that her mistress meant to keep Fan and make much of her, then her jealousy was aroused, and she displayed as much spite and malice as she dared. She had not succeeded in frightening Fan into submission, and she had not dared to invent lies about her; and unable to use her only weapon, she felt herself for the time powerless. On the other hand, it was evident that Fan had made no complaints.

"I'd like to catch the little beggar daring to tell tales of me!" she exclaimed, clenching her vindictive little fists in a fury. But when her mistress gave her any commands about Fan's meals, or other matters, her tone was so sharp and peremptory, and her eyes so penetrating, that Rosie knew that the hatred she cherished in her heart was no secret. The voice, the look seemed to say plainly, as if it had been expressed in words, "One word and you go; and when you send to me for a character, you shall have justice but no mercy."

This was a terrible state of things for Rosie. There was nothing she could do; and to sit still and wait was torture to one of her restless, energetic mind. When her mistress was out of the house she could give vent to her spite by getting into Fan's room and teasing her in every way that her malice suggested. But Fan usually locked her out, and would not even open the door to take in her dinner when it was brought; then Rosie would wait until it was cold before leaving it on the landing.

When Miss Starbrow was in the house, and had Fan with her to comb her hair or read to her, Rosie would hang about, listening at keyholes, to find out how matters were progressing between "lady and lady's-maid." But nothing to give her any comfort was discovered. On the contrary, Miss Starbrow showed no signs of becoming disgusted at her own disgraceful infatuation, and seemed more friendly towards the girl than ever. She took her to the dressmaker at the West End, and had a very pretty, dark green walking-dress made for her, in which Fan looked prettier than ever. She also bought her a new stylish hat, a grey fur cape, and long gloves, besides giving her small pieces of jewellery, and so many things besides that poor Rosie was green with envy. Then, as a climax, she ordered in a new pretty iron bed for the girl, and had it put in her own room.

"Fan will be so much warmer and more comfortable here than at the top of the house," she remarked to Rosie, as if she too had a little malice in her disposition, and was able to take pleasure in sprinkling powder on a raw sore.



CHAPTER VIII

Not until the end of November did anything important occur to make a break in Fan's happy, and on the whole peaceful, life in Dawson Place; then came an eventful day, which rudely reminded her that she was living, if not on, at any rate in the neighbourhood of a volcano. One morning that was not wet nor foggy Miss Starbrow made up her mind to visit the West End to do a little shopping, and, to the maid's unbounded disgust, she took Fan with her. An hour after breakfast they started in a hansom and drove to the Marble Arch, where they dismissed the cab.

"Now," said Miss Starbrow, who was in high spirits, "we'll walk to Peter Robinson's and afterwards to Piccadilly Circus, looking at all the shops, and then have lunch at the St. James's Restaurant; and walk home along the parks. It is so beautifully dry underfoot to-day."

Fan was delighted with the prospect, and they proceeded along Oxford Street. The thoroughfares about the Marble Arch had been familiar to her in the old days, and yet they seemed now to have a novel and infinitely more attractive appearance—she did not know why. But the reason was very simple. She was no longer a beggar, hungry, in rags, ashamed, and feeling that she had no right to be there, but was herself a part of that pleasant world of men and women and children. An old Moon Street neighbour, seeing her now in her beautiful dress and with her sweet peaceful face, would not have recognised her.

At Peter Robinson's they spent about half an hour, Miss Starbrow making some purchases for herself, and, being in a generous mood, she also ordered a few things for Fan. As they came out at the door they met a Mr. Mortimer, an old friend of Miss Starbrow's, elderly, but dandified in his dress, and got up to look as youthful as possible. After warmly shaking hands with Miss Starbrow, and bowing to Fan, he accompanied them for some distance up Regent Street. Fan walked a little ahead. Mr. Mortimer seemed very much taken with her, and was most anxious to find out all about her, and to know how she came to be in Miss Starbrow's company. The answers he got were short and not explicit; and whether he resented this, or merely took a malicious pleasure in irritating his companion, whose character he well knew, he continued speaking of Fan, protesting that he had not seen a lovelier girl for a long time, and begging Miss Starbrow to note how everyone—or every man, rather, since man only has eyes to see so exquisite a face—looked keenly at the girl in passing.

"My dear Miss Starbrow," he said, "I must congratulate you on your—ahem —late repentance. You know you were always a great woman-hater—a kind of she-misogynist, if such a form of expression is allowable. You must have changed indeed before bringing that fresh charming young girl out with you." He angered her and she did not conceal it, because she could not, though knowing that he was studying to annoy her from motives of revenge. For this man, who was old enough to be her father, and had spent the last decade trying to pick up a woman with money to mend his broken fortunes— this watery-eyed, smirking old beau, who wrote himself down young, going about Regent Street on a cold November day without overcoat or spectacles—this man had had the audacity to propose marriage to her! She had sent him about his business with a burst of scorn, which shook his old, battered moral constitution like a tempest of wind and thunder, and he had not forgotten it. He chuckled at the successful result of his attack, not caring to conceal his glee; but this meeting proved very unfortunate for poor Fan. After dismissing her old lover with scant courtesy, Miss Starbrow caught up with the girl, and they walked on in silence, looking at no shop-windows now. One glance at the dark angry face was enough to spoil Fan's pleasure for the day and to make her shrink within herself, wondering much as to what had caused so great and sudden a change.

Arrived at Piccadilly Circus, Miss Starbrow called a cab.

"Get in, Fan," she said, speaking rather sharply. "I have a headache and am going home."

The headache seemed so like a fit of anger that Fan did not venture to speak one word of sympathy.

After reaching home, Miss Starbrow, without saying a word, went to her room. Fan ventured to follow her there.

"I wish to be left alone for the rest of the day," said her mistress. "Tell Rosie that I don't wish to be disturbed. After you have had your dinner go down to the drawing-room and sit there by the fire with your book. And—stay, if anyone calls to see me, say that I have a headache and do not wish to be disturbed."

Fan went sorrowfully away and had her dinner, and was mocked by Rosie when she delivered the message, and then taking her book she went to the drawing-room on the ground-floor. After she had been there half an hour she heard a knock, and presently the door was opened and Captain Horton walked in.

"What, alone, Miss Affleck! Tell me about Miss Starbrow," he said, advancing and taking her hand.

Fan explained that Miss Starbrow was lying down, suffering from a headache, and did not wish to be disturbed.

"I am sorry to hear it," he said. "But I can sit here and have a little conversation with you, Fan—your name is Fan, is it not?"

He sat down near the fire still keeping her hand in his, and when she tried gently to withdraw it, his grasp became firmer. His hand was very soft, as is usual with men who play cards much—and well; and it held tenaciously—again a characteristic of the card-playing hand.

"Oh, please, sir, let me go!" she said.

"Why, my dear child, don't you know it's the custom for a gentleman to hold a girl's hand in his when he talks to her? But you have always lived among the very poor—have you not?—where they have different customs. Never mind, Fan, you will soon learn. Now look up, Fan, and let me see those wonderful eyes of yours; yes, they are very pretty. You don't mind my teaching you a little, do you, Fan, so that you will know how to behave when you are with well-bred people?"

"No, sir; but please, sir, will you let me go?"

"Why, you foolish child, I am not going to hurt you. You don't take me for a dentist, do you?" he continued, trying to make her laugh. But his smile and the look in his eyes only frightened her. "Look here, Fan, I will teach you something else. Don't you know that it is the custom among ladies and gentlemen for a young girl to kiss a gentleman when he speaks kindly to her?"

"No," said Fan, reddening and trying again to free herself.

"Don't be so foolish, child, or you will never learn how to behave. Do you know that if you make a noise or fuss you'll disturb your mistress and she will be very angry with you. Come now, be a good dear little girl."

And with gentle force he drew her between his knees and put his arm round her. Fan, afraid to cry out, struggled vainly to get free; he held her firmly and closely, and had just put his lips to her face when the door swung open, and Miss Starbrow sailed like a tragedy-queen into the room, her head thrown back, her face white as marble and her eyes gleaming.

The visitor instantly rose, while Fan, released from his grip, her face crimson with shame, slunk away, trembling with apprehension.

"Captain Horton, what is the meaning of this?" demanded the lady.

"Why nothing—a mere trifle—a joke, Pollie. Your little girl doesn't mind being kissed by a friend of the family—that's all."

"Come here, Fan," she said, in a tone of concentrated rage; and the girl, frightened and hesitating, approached her. "This is the way you behave the moment my back is turned. You corrupt-minded little wretch! Take that!" and with her open hand she struck the girl's face a cruel blow, with force enough to leave the red print of her fingers on the pale cheek.

Fan, covering her face with her hands, shrunk back against the wall, sobbing convulsively.

"Oh, come, Pollie!" exclaimed Horton, "don't be so hard on the poor monkey—she's a mere child, you know, and didn't think any harm."

Miss Starbrow made no reply, but standing motionless looked at him— watched his face with a fierce, dangerous gleam in her half-closed eyes.

"Don't stand snivelling here," she spoke, turning to Fan. "Go up instantly to the back room, and stay there. I shall know how to trust a girl out of the slums another time."

Crying bitterly she left the room, and her mistress shut the door after her, remaining there with her lover.

Fan found the window of the back room open, but she did not feel cold; and kneeling on the sofa, with her face resting on her hands, and still crying, she remained there for a long time. A little wintry sunshine rested on the garden, brightening the brown naked branches of the trees and the dark green leaves of ivy and shrub, and gladdening the sparrows. By-and-by the shortlived sunshine died away, and the sparrows left. It was strangely quiet in the house; distinctly she heard Miss Starbrow come out of the drawing-room and up the stairs; she trembled a little then and felt a little rebellious stirring in her heart, thinking that her mistress was coming up to her. But no, she went to her own room, and closed the door. Then Rosie came in, stealing up to her on tiptoe, and curiously peering into her face.

"Oh I say—something's happened!" she exclaimed, and tripped joyfully away. Half an hour later she came up with some tea.

"I've brought your la'ship a cup of tea. I'm sure it will do your head good," she said, advancing with mincing steps and affecting profound sympathy in her tone.

"Take it away—I shan't touch it!" returned Fan, becoming angry in her misery.

"Oh, but your la'ship's health is so important! Society will be so distressed when it hears that your la'ship is unwell! I'll leave the cup in the window in case your la'ship—"

Fan pushed cup and saucer angrily away, and over they went, falling outside down to the area, where they struck with a loud crash and were shivered to pieces.

Rosie laughed and clapped her hands in glee. "Oh, I'm so glad you've smashed it!" she exclaimed. "I'll tell Miss Starbrow, and then you'll see! That cup was the thing she valued most in the house. She bought it at a sale at Christie and Manson's and gave twenty-five guineas for it. Oh, how mad she'll be!"

Fan paid no heed to her words, knowing that there was no truth in them. While pushing it away she had noticed that it was an old kitchen cup, chipped and cracked and without a handle; the valuable curio had as a fact been fished out of a heap of rubbish that morning by the maid, who thought that it would serve very well for "her la'ship's tea."

Rosie got tired of tormenting her, and took herself off at last; then another hour went slowly by while it gradually grew dark; and as the lights faded her rebellious feelings left her, and she began to hope that Miss Starbrow would soon call her or come to her. And at length, unable to bear the loneliness and suspense, she went to the bedroom door and softly knocked. There was no answer, and trying the door she found that it was locked. She waited outside the door for about half an hour, and then hearing her mistress moving in the room she tapped again, with the same result as before. Then she went back despairingly to the back room and her place beside the window. The night was starry and not very cold, and to protect herself from the night air she put on her fur cape. Hour after hour she listened to the bells of St. Matthew's chiming the quarters, feeling a strange loneliness each time the chimes ceased; and then, after a few minutes' time, beginning again to listen for the next quarter. It was getting very late, and still no one came to her, not even Rosie with her supper, which she had made up her mind not to touch. Then she dropped her head on her hands, and cried quietly to herself. She had so many thoughts, and each one seemed sadder than the last. For the great tumult in her soul was over now, and she could think about it all, and of all the individuals who had treated her cruelly. She felt very differently towards them. Captain Horton she feared and hated, and wished him dead with all her heart; and Rosie she also hated, but not so intensely, for the maid's enmity had not injured her. Against Mary she only felt a great anger, but no hatred; for Mary had been so kind, so loving, and she could not forget that, and all the sweetness it had given her life. Then she began to compare this new luxurious life in Dawson Place to the old wretched life in Moon Street, which now seemed so far back in time; and it seemed strange to her that, in spite of the great difference, yet to-night she felt more unhappy than she had ever felt in the old days. She remembered her poor degraded mother, who had never turned against her, and cried quietly again, leaning her face on the window-sill. Then she had a thought which greatly perplexed her, and she asked herself why it was in those old days, when hard words and unjust blows came to her, she only felt a fearful shrinking of the flesh, and wished like some poor hunted animal to fly away and hide herself from her tormentors, while now a spirit of resentment and rebellion was kindled in her and burnt in her heart with a strange fire. Was it wrong to feel like that, to wish that those who made her suffer were dead? That was a hard question which Fan put to herself, and she could not answer it.

Her long fast and the excitement she had experienced, with so many lonely hours of suspense after it, began to tell on her and make her sleepy. It was eleven o'clock; she heard the servants going round to fasten doors and turn off the gas, and finally they passed her landing on their way to bed. It was getting very cold, and giving up all hope of being called by her mistress, she closed the window and, with an old table-cover for covering, coiled herself up on the sofa and went to sleep.

When she woke it was with a start; her face had grown very cold, and she felt a warm hand touching her cheek. The hand was quickly withdrawn when she woke, and looking round Fan saw someone seated by her, and although there was only the starlight from the window in the dim room, she knew that it was her mistress. She raised herself to a sitting position on the sofa, but without speaking. All her bitter, resentful feelings had suddenly rushed back to her heart.

"Well, you have condescended to wake at last," said Miss Starbrow. "Do you know that it is nearly one o'clock in the morning?"

"No," returned Fan.

"No! well then, I say yes. It is nearly one o'clock. Do you intend to keep me here waiting your pleasure all night, I wonder!"

"I don't want you to come here. I had no place to sleep because you locked me out of your room."

"And for an excellent reason," said the other sharply. "How could I admit you into my room after the outrageous scene I witnessed downstairs! You seem to think that you can behave just how you like in my house, and that it will make no difference."

Fan was silent.

"Oh, very well, Miss Fan, if you have nothing to say for yourself!"

"What do you want me to say?"

"Say! I wonder at the question. I want you to tell me the truth, of course. That is, if you can. How did it all happen—you must tell me everything just as it occurred, without concealment or prevarication."

Fan related the facts simply and clearly; she remembered every word the Captain had spoken only too well.

"I wish I knew whether you have told me the simple truth or not," said Miss Starbrow.

"May God strike me dead if I'm not telling the truth!" said Fan.

"There, that will do. A young lady is supposed to be able to answer a question with a simple yes or no, without swearing about it like a bargee on the Regent's Canal."

"Then why don't you believe me when I say yes and no, and—and why didn't you ask me before you struck me?"

"I shouldn't have struck you if I had not thought you were a little to blame. It is not likely. You ought to know that after all my kindness to you—but I dare say that is all forgotten. I declare I have been treated most shamefully!" And here she dropped her face into her hands and began crying.

But the girl felt no softening of the heart; that strange fire was still burning in her, and she could only think of the cruel words, the unjust blow.

Miss Starbrow suddenly ceased her crying. "I thought that you, at any rate, had a little gratitude and affection for me," she said. "But of course I was mistaken about that as I have been about everything else. If you had the faintest spark of sympathy in you, you would show a little feeling, and—and ask me why I cry, or say something."

For some moments Fan continued silent, then she moved and touched the other's hand, and said very softly, for now all her anger was melting away, "Why do you cry, Mary?"

"You know, Fan, because I love you, and am so sorry I struck you. What a brute I was to hurt you—a poor outcast and orphan, with no friend but me in the world. Forgive me, dear Fan, for treating you so cruelly!" Then she put her arms about the girl and kissed her, holding her close to her breast.

"Oh, Mary, dear," said Fan, now also crying; "you didn't hurt me very much. I only felt it because—because it was you."

"I know, Fan, and that's why I can't forgive myself. But I shall never, never hurt you again, for I know that you are truth itself, and that I can trust you. And now let us go down and have some supper together before going to bed. I know you've had nothing since lunch, and I couldn't touch a morsel, I was so troubled about that wretch of a man. I think I have been sitting here quite two hours waiting for you to wake."

Together they went down to the dining-room, where a delicate little supper, such as Miss Starbrow loved to find on coming home from the play, was laid out for them. For the first time Fan sat at table with her mistress; another new experience was the taste of wine. She had a glass of Sauterne, and thought it very nice.



CHAPTER IX

On the next morning, after a sharp frost, the sun shone brightly as in spring. Fan was up early and enjoyed her breakfast, notwithstanding the late supper, and not in the least disturbed by the scornful words flung at her by the housemaid when she brought up the tray. After breakfasting she went to Miss Starbrow's room, to find her still in bed and not inclined to get up.

"Put on your dress and go for a walk in Kensington Gardens," she said. "I think it is a fine day, for a wonder. You may stop out until one o'clock, if you like, and take my watch, so as to know the time. And if you wish to rest while out don't sit down on a bench, or you will be sure to have someone speak to you. According to the last census, or Registrar- General's report, or whatever it is, there are twenty thousand young gentlemen loafers in London, who spend their whole time hanging about the parks and public places trying to make the acquaintance of young girls. Sit on a chair by yourself when you are tired—you can always find a chair even in winter—and give the chairman a penny when he comes to you."

"I haven't got a penny, Mary. But it doesn't matter; I'll not get tired."

"Then I must give you a purse and some money, and you must never go out without it, and don't mind spending a little money now and then, and giving away a penny when you feel inclined. Give me my writing desk and the keys."

She opened the desk and took out a small plush purse, then some silver and coppers to put in it, and finally a sovereign.

"The silver you can use, the sovereign you must not change, but keep it in case you should require money when I am not with you."

With all these fresh proofs of Mary's affection to make her happy, in her lovely new dress and hat, and the beautiful gold chain on her bosom, Fan went out for her walk feeling as light-hearted as a linnet. It was the last day of November, usually a dreary time in London, but never had the world looked so bright and beautiful to Fan as on that morning; and as she walked along with swift elastic tread she could hardly refrain from bursting bird-like into some natural joyous melody. Passing into the Gardens at the Queen's Road entrance, she went along the Broad Walk to the Round Pond, and then on to the Albert Memorial, shining with gold and brilliant colours in the sun like some fairy edifice. Running up the steps she walked round and round the sculptured base of the monument, studying the marble faces and reading the names, and above all admiring the figures there—blind old Homer playing on his harp, with Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, and all the immortal sons of song, grouped about him listening. But nothing to her mind equalled the great group of statuary representing Asia at one of the four corners, with that colossal calm- faced woman seated on an elephant in the centre. What a great majestic face, and yet how placid and sweet it looked, reminding her a little of Mary in her kindly moods. But this noble face was of marble, and never changed; Mary's changed every hour, so that the soft expression when it came seemed doubly sweet. By-and-by she walked away towards the bridge over the Serpentine, and in the narrow path, thickly bordered with trees and shrubs and late flowers, she stepped aside to make room for a lady to pass, who held by the hand a little angel-faced, golden-haired child, dressed in a quaint pretty costume. The child stood still and looked up into Fan's face, and then she also involuntarily stopped, so taken was she with the little thing's beauty.

"Mammy," said the child, pointing to Fan, "I'se like to tiss the pretty laly."

"Well, my darling, perhaps the young lady will kiss you if you ask very nicely," said the mother.

"Oh, may I kiss her?" said Fan, reddening with pleasure, and quickly stooping she pressed her lips to the little cherub face.

"I loves you—what's your name?" said the child.

"No, darling, you must not ask questions. You've got your kiss and that ought to satisfy you"; and with a smile and nod to Fan she walked on.

Fan pursued her walk to the Serpentine, with a new delicious sensation in her heart. It was so strange and sweet to be spoken to by a lady, a stranger, and treated like an equal! And in the days that were not so long ago with what sad desire in her eyes had she looked at smiling beautiful faces, like this lady's face, and no smile and no gentle word had been bestowed on her, and no glance that did not express pity or contempt!

At the head of the Serpentine she stood for ten or fifteen minutes to watch the children and nursemaids feeding the swans and ducks. The swans were very stately and graceful, the ducks very noisy and contentious, and it was great fun to see them squabbling over the crumbs of bread. But after leaving the waterside she came upon a scene among the great elms and chestnuts close by which amused her still more. Some poor ragged children—three boys and a girl—were engaged in making a great heap of the old dead fallen leaves, gathering them in armfuls and bringing them to one spot. By-and-by the little girl came up with a fresh load, and as she stooped to put it on the pile, the boys, who had all gathered round, pushed her over and covered her with a mass of old leaves; then, with a shout of laughter at their rough joke, they ran away. She struggled out and stood up half-choked with dust, her face covered with dirt, and dress and hair with the black half-rotten leaves. As soon as she got her breath she burst out in a prolonged howl, while the big tears rushed out, making channels on her grimy cheeks.

"Oh, poor little girl, don't cry," said Fan, going up to her, but the child only howled the louder. Then Fan remembered her money and Mary's words, and taking out a penny she offered it to the little girl. Instantly the crying ceased, the child clutched the penny in her dirty little fist, then stared at Fan, then at the penny, and finally turned and ran away as fast as she could run, past the fountains, out at the gate, and into the Bayswater Road.

When she was quite out of sight Fan resumed her walk, laughing a little, but with misty eyes, for it was the first time in her life that she had given a penny away, and it made her strangely happy. Before quitting the Gardens, however, one little incident occurred to interfere with her pleasure. Close to the Broad Walk she suddenly encountered Captain Horton walking with a companion in the opposite direction. There was no time to turn aside in order to avoid him; when she recognised him he was watching her face with a curious smile under his moustache which made her feel a little uncomfortable; then, raising his hat, he passed her without speaking.

"You know that pretty girl?" she heard his friend ask, as she hurried away a little frightened towards the Queen's Road gate.

Miss Starbrow appeared very much put out about this casual encounter in the Gardens when Fan related the incidents of her walk.

"I'll not walk there again, Mary, so as not to meet him," said Fan timidly.

"On the contrary, you shall walk there as often as you like—I had almost said whether you like it or not; and in the Grove, where you are still more likely to meet him." She spoke angrily; but after a while added, "He couldn't well have done less than notice you when he met you, and I do not think you need be afraid of anything. It is not likely that he would address you. He put an altogether false complexion on that affair yesterday—a cowardly thing to do, and caused us both a great deal of pain, and for that I shall never forgive him. Think no more about it, Fan."

It was pretty plain, however, that she permitted herself to think more about it; for during the next few days she was by no means cheerful, while her moody fits and bursts of temper were more frequent than usual. Then, one Wednesday evening, when Fan assisted her in dressing to receive her visitors, she seemed all at once to have recovered her spirits, and talked to the girl and laughed in a merry light-hearted way.

"Poor Fan, how dull it must always be for you on a Wednesday evening, sitting here so long by yourself," she said.

"Oh no, Mary, I always open the door and listen to the music; I like the singing so much."

"That reminds me," said Miss Starbrow. "Who do you think is coming this evening?"

"Captain Horton," she answered promptly.

Miss Starbrow laughed. "Yes; how quick you are at guessing. I must tell you all about it; and do you know, Fan, I find it very delightful to have a dear trusty girl to talk to. I suppose you have noticed how cross I have been all these days. It was all on account of that man. He offended me so much that day that I made up my mind never to speak to him again. But he is very sorry; besides, he looked on you as little more than a child, and really meant it only for a joke. And so I have half forgiven him, and shall let him visit me again, but only on Wednesday evenings when there will be others. I shall not allow him to come whenever he likes, as he used to do. Fan was silent. Miss Starbrow, sitting before the glass, read the ill-concealed trouble in the girl's face reflected there.

"Now don't be foolish, Fan, and think no more about it," she said. "You are very young—not nearly sixteen yet, and gentlemen look on girls of that age as scarcely more than children, and think it no harm to kiss them. He's a thoughtless fellow, and doesn't always do what is right, but he certainly did not think any harm or he would not have acted that way in my house. That's what he says, and I know very well when I hear the truth."

After finishing her hair, Miss Starbrow, not yet satisfied that she had removed all disagreeable impression, turned round and said, "Now, my solemn-faced girl, why are you so silent? Are you going to be cross with me? Don't you think I know best what is right and believe what I tell you?"

The tears came to the girl's eyes. "I do believe you know best, Mary," she said, in a distressed voice. "Oh, please don't think that I am cross. I am so glad you like to talk to me."

Miss Starbrow smiled and touched her cheek, and at length stooped and kissed her; and this little display of confidence and affection chased away the last remaining cloud, and made Fan perfectly happy.

The partial forgiveness extended to Captain Horton did not have exactly the results foretold. Miss Starbrow was fond of affirming that when her mind was once made up about anything it was not to be moved; but in this affair she had already yielded to persuasion, and had permitted the Captain to visit her again; and by-and-by the second resolution also proved weak, and his visits were not confined to Wednesday evenings. She had struggled against her unworthy feeling for him, and knowing that it was unworthy, that the strength she prided herself so much on was weakness where he was concerned, she was dissatisfied in mind and angry with herself for making these concessions. She really believed in the love he professed for her, and did not think much the worse of him for being a man without income or occupation, and a gambler to boot; but she feared that a marriage with him would only make her miserable, and between her love for him, which could not be concealed, and the fear that he would eventually win her consent to be his wife, her mind was in a constant state of anxiety and restlessness. The little indiscretion he had been guilty of with Fan she had forgiven in her heart: that he had actually conceived a fondness for this poor young girl she could not believe, for in that case he would have been very careful not to do anything to betray it to the woman he wished to marry; but though she had forgiven him, she was resolved not to let him know it just yet, and so continued to be a little distant and formal in her manner, never calling him by his christian name, "Jack," as formerly, and not allowing him to call her "Pollie."

All this was nothing to Fan, as she very rarely saw him, but on the few occasions when she accidentally met him, in the house or when out walking, he always had that curious smile on his lips, and studied her face with a bold searching look in his eyes, which made her uncomfortable and even a little afraid.

One day, about the middle of December, Miss Starbrow began to speak to her about her future.

"You have improved wonderfully, Fan, since you first came," she said, "but I fear that this kind of improvement will not be of much practical use, and my conscience is not quite satisfied about you. I have taken this responsibility on myself, and must not go on shutting my eyes to it. Some day it will be necessary for you to go out into the world to earn your own living; that is what we have got to think about. Remember that you can't have me always to take care of you; I might go abroad, or die, or get married, and then you would be left to your own resources. You couldn't make your living by simply looking pretty; you must be useful as well as ornamental; and I have taught you nothing—teaching is not in my line. It would be a thousand pities if you were ever to sink down to the servant-girl level: we must think of something better than that. A young lady generally aspires to be a governess. But then she must know everything—music, drawing, French, German, Latin, mathematics, algebra; all that she must have at her finger-ends, and be able to gabble political economy, science, and metaphysics to boot. All that is beyond you—unattainable as the stars. But you needn't break your heart about it. She doesn't get much. Her wages are about equal to those of a kitchen-maid, who can't spell, but only peel potatoes. And the more learned she is, the more she is disliked and snubbed by her betters; and she never marries, in spite of what the Family Herald says, but goes on toiling until she is fifty, and then retires to live alone on fifteen shillings a week in some cheap lodging for the remnant of her dreary life. No, poor Fan, you can't hope to be anything as grand as a governess."

Fan laughed a little: she had grown accustomed to and understood this half-serious mocking style of speech in which her mistress often indulged.

"But," she continued, "you might qualify yourself for some other kind of employment less magnificent, but still respectable, and even genteel enough. That of a nursery-governess, for instance; you are fond of children, and could teach them their letters. Or you could be companion to a lady; some simple-minded, old-fashioned dame who stays at home, and would not require you to know languages. Or, better still perhaps, you might go into one of the large West End shops. I do not think it would be very difficult for you to get a place of that kind, as your appearance is so much in your favour. I know that your ambition is not a very soaring one, and a few months ago you would not have ventured to dream of ever being a young lady in a shop like Jay's or Peter Robinson's. Yet for such a place you would not have to study for years and pass a stiff examination, as a poor girl is obliged to do before she can make her living by sitting behind a counter selling penny postage-stamps. Homely girls can succeed there: for the fine shop a pretty face, an elegant figure, and a pleasing lady-like manner are greatly prized—more than a knowledge of archaeology and the higher mathematics; and you possess all these essentials to start with. But whether you are destined to go into a shop or private house, it is important that you should make a better use of your time just now, while you are with me, and learn something— dressmaking, let us say, and all kinds of needlework; then you will at least be able to make your own clothes."

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