Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

wheels, where nature was beneficent, and art had only sought to supplement, not to supplant


Lady Tilbury had breathed a sigh of relief untold, when it was found by Sir Thomas's will that she would not have to leave, on his demise, her home in the sunny southern country. He had never told her so explicitly; since, like many another as broad and sturdy as himself, he had never contemplated dying before, as he himself would have said, "well on in the eighties"; so that, although hoping for the best, it was music in her ears to hear her lawyer read aloud in his singsong, nasal, legal tones that although the family seat descended to Sir Thomas's eldest daughter, or failing her to the next in succession, his wife had a life-interest in the estate, and was to remain undisturbed in possession thereof.

As perhaps the place had a good deal to do with a certain halo invested by herself round Sir Thomas's bald head in the days when she, a belle, and irresistible in her early widowhood, accepted him (being ardently implored to do so), it is hardly to be wondered at that in middle lifeshe was little over forty when left to stand alone for the second time-Lady Tilbury was in an agony till the point was settled.

"Where should we go, Iva and I?" cried she,

ignoring the fact that she had other daughters. "Iva asthore," and the accent came out rich and sweet, "your mother will take care of her darling, go where she may"-but it turned out that she had no need to go anywhere.

After that, not only did Sir Thomas's lady reign on as she had done before at the ancestral seat, but Iva, who took a distinct step forward after the thrilling crisis was over, reigned also.

The two could not forget-though, to do them justice, no inkling of this was suffered to escape or was ever surmised by the others equally concerned that they had no territorial rights over the soil, such as Maud, Mabel, and Marianne had. They would look at each other meaningly when certain things were said. They held consultations from which all outsiders were excluded. Lady Tilbury felt awkward for some time after her husband's death when she had to give audience to Mr. Stokes, the farm-steward, or Grimes, the gamekeeper. She fancied they regarded her as a interloper, and were more deferential to the younger girls, the fat-faced Miss Tilburys, than to her own slim, sparkling Iva-the Irish girl without a sixpence. It was not for many months-till even a year and more had gone by-that she came to perceive no significance in their references to Miss Maud

or her sisters, no difference between their salutations to them and to Iva.

That time had passed; and Lady Tilbury was herself again. Iva emerged from the schoolroom, was taken to town, presented at Court, danced at a few balls, and returned home. She did not greatly affect the metropolis.

Perhaps it did not make quite so much of her as in the heat of her youth and the flush of her beauty she had secretly expected. It is very hard to make one's mark on the London of to-day. The throng is so dense-the number of pretty girls so great-feathers and frills convert faces and forms so strangely, until the plainest look "smart," and the least distinguished attract the eye-that poor, pretty Iva, dreaming perchance that she would bring the world to her feet, as a couple of Irish girls once did in bygone times, was fairly mortified and affronted on more than one occasion.

So she took a distaste to the whole thing. Without possessing more than the simple vanity of youth and inexperience, she had certainly supposed-imagined-pictured to herself scenes which were not only never realised, but which she came to perceive could only have been devised by an humiliating ignorance. Thus, to her original vexation was added a new ingredient.

She hated herself for being such a simpleton. When her mother exclaimed and conjectured, it is true that she made game of their joint disappointment—rather bitter game—and carried it off with a high hand. But she would not go to London a second year. She would wait till she knew its ways better, and could stand more securely on her own feet.

And she had been telling Lady Tilbury so one day, when Reggie Goffe came on leave from his regiment, and it turned out that since last seen by any one he had grown a long yellow moustache.

[blocks in formation]

JUST without the lodge gates of Tilbury Court there was assembled a small collection of odd, detached houses, which was not exactly a village, but was called so for want of a better


It had no main street; no whitewashed rows of cheerful shops and cottages; no inn, nor even a public-house; but the country road which ran through its midst was paved for a few hundred yards with rough cobbles, and the low walls of farmyards, with their accompanying outbuildings, abutted thereon.

There were also several neatly-thatched dwelling-houses of respectable pretensions, in front of which shrubs luxuriated, and created an air of retirement sufficient to induce the residence of people whose taste was for privacy.

There was a stumpy church, with a squat tower; a post office; and a trading establishment, which would have been known in Scotland as that of a "general merchant".

« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »