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with one to whom Amos in his full panoply of vulgar egotism and blatant self-assertion would come with all the shock of a novelty?

Was Iva not already condescending sufficiently in deigning to look kindly on himself? Was he not far, far beneath her as it was?

And neither Amos nor any of his family had ever shown the slightest sense of any distinction existing between them and others in a higher rank. They would be very well pleased that he should marry into a baronet's family, as they would phrase it; but he could already hear the pert Cecilia contradicting Lady Tilbury on her own ground, or John boldly chaffing the younger girls.

He pictured his brother's bow; Amos would salaam like a tradesman.

After all, would not Lady Tilbury prefer ignorance to revelations which might only work mischief? Lady Tilbury herself, if report spoke truly, had connections who were barely up to the Tilbury level. He wondered vaguely whether Sir Thomas in his courting days had come across any of these, and if not, and if they had been kept out of sight, how had Sir Thomas felt about it?

Had Lady Tilbury meant to give himself a friendly hint on the subject one day, when it chanced that the discussion turned on ties of

blood, and her ladyship, with a somewhat raised colour, had delivered herself of views which were not perhaps strictly orthodox, but which had found a ready echo in his breast? "We choose our friends-we cannot choose our relations, Mr. Druitt," she had concluded, with an emphasis which left him wondering.

Certes, he had not chosen Amos.

And yet he knew-knew for a truth, which argument could not reason away—that he would never be able to look himself in the face again if he yielded to the temptation of securing Iva Kildare's promise before revealing to her the (do not laugh at him) skeleton in his cupboard.

But no one, we repeat, ever guessed how much it cost Jabez to arrive at this conclusion.

He now went and came at Tilbury Court with all the confidence of a favoured suitor. Several weeks had elapsed since the day on which Iva would not go down to be with him alone in the drawing-room, and if there did happen to be any little demur of the kind now, it was so plausibly explained away that, with all his modesty and anxiety, he could not feel himself an intruder.

Once or twice he had been on the point of speaking-no, of writing; it would be easier to write than to speak-but things were very pleasant as they were, and there was always the arrière pensée of Amos.

So terrible was the latter, and so agreeable the former, that "Really Mr. Druitt is rather a slow man," said Lady Tilbury once, with a smile.

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Having taken in the astonishing fact that she was to have Mr. Druitt for a son-in-law a fact which required a good deal of swallowing, but sat kindly on the stomach once fairly gulpedthe volatile creature was now all agog to have matters settled, and announce the engagement. It might not be all she had once expected for Iva, but it had its good points; undeniably it had some very good points.

Mr. Druitt might be five-and-forty years of age, and might have made his fortune in a Manchester warehouse; but the fortune was there, and Mr. Druitt himself was a man of whom no one need be ashamed.

Furthermore, he lived close by, and lived at the finest place in the neighbourhood. What if it had not belonged to his ancestors?—it was his own. Sir Philip Goffe had inherited broad acres and could not keep them; Mr. Druitt owed no man a "Thank you," but reigned royally over the land he had rescued from destruction. Which was the better man?

"I shall give out that the match has my fullest approbation," concluded she, and beamed on Mr. Druitt in a way that pleased Mr. Druitt

very much. He liked Lady Tilbury amazingly. He admired her little less than Iva. When he had either the one or the other to talk to he was almost equally happy, and a seat between the two, with no one else to interrupt and distract, was Paradise.

If only he could have been sure that Iva would be of her mother's mind, when he must needs spring upon them Amos!

278

CHAPTER XXX.

MR. DRUITT'S DINNER-PARTY.

THURSDAY evening-the evening of Mr. Druitt's dinner-party-had arrived, and if only old Father Stevens had been alive to see it, how his eyes would have gloated over the bustle of preparation, the hurrying to and fro of important-faced domestics, the many lights, the general joyous din within and without the mansion!

But the old doctor had passed away very shortly before, and there was no one now to peep from the hole in the wall, where the grass had grown long and rank, hiding it even more securely than before from the ken of passers-by.

Only Iva now and again cast a glance towards the spot where she and Reggie had once stood together, the while he pointed to this and that upreared turret and rugged outline, with his light laugh and careless jestwhich had yet in it a wistful undertone, depriving her of all desire to join in the merriment.

Had Reggie forgotten the broken wall?

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