appear to be at home in this matter, but that
was not needed. She could question, and be in-
structed, and show sympathy. And then she could
draw him on to speak about the house. The house
was all very well, but the absence of an approach on
the south side was an inconvenience.
He was medi-
tating opening up one through the woods ; he had his
eye on a family who were the very people to put in-
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 205
to a lodge. He meant to have a couple of new
She could not do more than listen to this. She
could hardly as yet show approval of new lodges.
They had it, however. Several fine views of the
house were obtained from the path, and at each one she
felt increasingly better inclined to be the mistress of it.
Mr Smith in his turn was charmed with the wood-
path. Tt led through by far the most beautiful part
of the grounds. He must have it attended to, not
spoilt by being made too trim, but clear of rubbish,
The gravel was suggested by frequent dififi-culties.
There were places so soft from recent rain that they
were only to be crossed by scrambling up the bank,
and holding on by the bushes.
Helen appeared to her usual advantage here. She
disdained assistance, stepped hither and thither, held
back the branches for him, found her own way, and
jumped the bank to admiration.
" There is another bad part in front, I am afraid,"
said he, when they had just struggled on to firm
ground again. " I am afraid, Miss Tolleton, w^e shall
have to go up the side again."
2C6 MR SMITH:
" Not if the stepping-stones are there still. Look,
it is all right, there they are, and they go right
through the worst."
She sprang from one to another, he following less
*' Now that is the last of them, and it is quite dry
the rest of the way. All the water runs down here
from the heights, you see. There are no more bad
" You seem to know the way well ? "
" I used to come here often, alone."
" I wish I had been here then."
" In that case perhaps I should not have come."
" You certainly would not have come alone."
" Would you have come with me, Mr Smith ? "
" If you would have allowed me. Miss ToUeton."
They were laughing into each other's faces. The
charm was beginning to work.
*' Oh, what ferns ! " cried she next, " what beautiful
ferns ! I must have some of those ferns, please."
Of course he liked cutting them, she standing by
his side, receiving them as they were gathered.
Then he wanted to give her more than her hands
would hold. Then she was saucy, and threw away
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 20/
some which she declared he had spoilt. They were
beautiful ones, but he had been very careless, and
had not cut them properly, and he must do it better
another time. They took up a root together. Then
they agreed it was not worth carrying home. Then
she said it was he who had said so, and he affirmed
he was sure she thought it.
A great deal of time passed, and still they had not
got to the view. Mr Smith had almost forgotten
what he had been brought there to see. It took him
unawares, and he was surprised into great admiration
For some time the little path had been getting
steeper and steeper, but there had been no signs of an
opening in the woods. Suddenly it emerged on a
small plateau, evidently cleared by art ; and it ap-
peared this was the end.
On every side it was surrounded by trees. Be-
neath were cliffy so perpendicular as to form a
dangerous precipice, terminating as they did in a
bushy incline, at the bottom of which rolled the
Beyond the river were lanes, fields, and hedgerows ;
dotted here and there with red-tiled farmhouses half-
208 MR SMITH:
hidden by ivy, the growth of years, and nestling in
their ample stackyards.
In the distance theblue smoke of a town with its cath-
edral tower, could dimly be discerned against the sky.
Helen turned to her companion wdth a sense of
proud proprietorship. " What do you think of it ?
Have I exaggerated?"
" Indeed no, it is all that you promised me. It L
beautiful — perfectlybeautiful, a true English landscape
with all its best suggestions. How shall I thank you
for the pleasure this has given me ? But for you,
who knows how long I might have remained in ignor-
ance that such a spot existed ? "
" And look, that is all they have done for it ! " said
she, pointing to the rude bench which had fallen to
the ground on one side, and was evidently in the last
stage of decay.
" One had almost better make a seat of the rocks,"
sitting down as she spoke.
" There shall be a summer-house," said Mr Smith,
looking round, " where that seat is now. It will be a
pleasure to me to design it myself. Anything that
you can suggest, you may depend on seeing carried
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 209
Helen felt her triumph. It was not on the words,
however, that she placed dependence. " Words really
mean very little," was her private judgment, " it is the
look and the manner which mean everything." Mr
Smith's look and manner were animated, and she felt
sure she was gaining ground.
He sat down upon the rocks beside her, and they
exhausted the subject of the summer-house. Helen
then entered on a topic she had earnestly desired to
open the evening before, but durst not, lest the un-
guarded speeches of her father or sisters might show
what she desired to conceal. She wished to hear
" You have not told me anything about your dinner-
party on Friday," she began, " and in our quiet neigh-
bourhood we like to know everything about everybody."
" It was a very dull dinner-party."
" Well, but that says nothing ; you must tell me
who were there, and all about it, and then I can esti-
mate the dulness."
" The Eector was there, and Miss Gray. Admiral
and Miss Fulton. And an old Lady Wranch or
Wrench, an aunt of Lord Sauffrenden's, T believe;
and several others I did not know."
VOL. I. O
210 MR SMITH:
"Why, I think you were pretty well off. The
Fultons are pleasant people."
" I had never met them before ; but they seem so,
" And who had you to take in to dinner, if it is a
fair question ? "
" I had Miss Fulton."
" Then, Mr Smith, you were well off. She is a most J
amusing and agreeable companion. Do you not
think so ?"
" Amusing, certainly."
" And agreeable ? Every one thinks her agree-
" Yes, agreeable in a certain degree. But perhaps
she is almost too agreeable to be completely so. If
you know what I mean, though it is invidious to
point out such a defect, she has rather too much
"You are severe. Can a woman be too agree-
" Certainly not, but she can try to be so too
" And is that all poor Miss Fulton's crime ? "
" Yes, that is all. I liked what I saw of Miss
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 211
Fulton very much ; but if I must say so, she talks
too fast, and too loud ; and, may I dare to add,
too much ? "
" Oh, Mr Smith ! "
She was not quite certain what to say. She had
no idea he would prove so particular.
" Too much," said she, thoughtfully ; " I wonder if
I do." From the bottom of her heart the words
came ; she was no more coquetting than if she had
been in her own room alone.
The answer was as quick as thought. " You ? No,
She blushed crimson. How provoking that she
should have appeared to be seeking this ! As if she
had deigned to angle for a comphment ! Appealed
for flattery which could not but be paid. It was too
stupid of her. And he had said it so earnestly, so
emphatically, that he must have thought it was what
she wanted. She sprang from her seat, vexation on
He rose also, surprised at the sudden cloud. " You
are not angry with me, Miss Toilet on ? " Angry ?
Her bright smile shone out again, '' Yo2c ! No, indeed.''
All was right.
212 MR SMITH:
There was more dallying on the way home. More
difficulties in getting over the muddy places. More
holding on by the branches.
The chit-chat began again, and all too soon the
stile came in view.
Simultaneously they looked to see if the road were
free. It was quite free, although Maria and Clare
Hunt had traversed it backwards and forwards
several times in the interval in hopes of meeting
Captain Wellwood. Mr Smith helped his companion
over the stile, and they paused to say good-bye.
Helen put the ferns into her left hand. "Next
time," said he, taking her right, ''that you and I
come here together, I hope it will be to inspect the
new summer-house." Not much in the words, but
they were suggestive.
" And now," said Helen to herself, as she walked
swiftly through the plantation, " how much and how
little of this shall I give them the benefit of ? If I
told the whole, Lily would be ridiculous. She must
never know it was arranged beforehand, and I nmst
be careful how I show that I really think he is
touched. So then, we met "accidentally, and walked
together ; shall I say where ? Yes, for it will come
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 213
out about the summer-house. Whatever I tell her,
however, she must be made to hold her tongue
Then she fell to musing on what had passed. His
words, his looks, were dwelt upon, and weighed in
the balance. How much meaning could she safely
attach to them ? How far could she calculate upon
him ? That he admired her, was interested in her
up to a certain point, she felt certain ; but was the
amount sufficient to bring him to her feet ? Not
yet. The result of her meditations was this — not yet.
Luncheon was over, and the sisters eagerly specu-
lating on the chances of Helen's luck having again
thrown Mr Smith in her way. It was two o'clock
when she entered the house. She had no idea it
was so late, and, smiling, bade them wait for her
adventures until she had satisfied her appetite.
" Adventures ! Then you had adventures ! " cried
Lily. " Here is your chop ; we put it to the fire at
once, so it is only tepid ; and the potatoes are on the
bar. What adventures? I do believe it was Mr
Smith ! "
" And here is your porter," said Carry. I didn't
pour it out, in case you would rather have some-
214 MR SMITH:
thing else for your headache. If you would, I'll
finish the porter myself"
" Let us ring for another bottle, Cany," said Lily.
" I'll share it with you, for my back aches with
sitting so long at those leaves. They are a great
success though, Helen. But now, what adventures ?
Do begin. You can talk and eat too."
" No, I can't ; " teazing a little was what Helen
enjoyed. ''But I shall be ready directly. I met
" I know you did ! Mr Smith ! Another small
bottle of porter, please " — (to Corker).
" I do wish you would take more care before the
servants," frowned her sister. "Corker must have
"No, nonsense. And what if he did? He may
hear me say it a hundred times if he likes. Mr
Smith! Mr Smith! Mr Smith ! There now, Nelly ;
if you won't tell me, I'll tell myself. Now you had
better begin, or I shall inform him outright. Here
She restrained herself, however, whilst the porter
was being poured out, and as she had done so,
Helen began as soon as they were again alone.
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 21 5
" Well, if you will be quiet, I'll tell you. Yes, it
was Mr Smith — (I knew it !) And I have been with
him for the last two hours ! "
The effect of this announcement was rapture.
" Oh, you dear good creature, then you really arc !
Oh, what fun ! What would Mrs Hunt say ? You
sly thing, why did you not tell us before ? And
now for the how, when, and where."
" At the stile, in the short cut. You told me to
go and think of him, you know, so it was that which
conjured him up."
" But what was he doing there ? "
'* Waiting for me, apparently. At least, it seemed
as if he had nothing else to do, for he was at my
There is no blind like the truth spoken in jest.
Lily was taken in at once.
'' Well ? "
" Then we set off together, but you will never
^* To the house?"
" The house ! What can you be thinking of ?
As if I could have gone to the house ! "
" ^^^ly not ? I thought, of course, it was there,"
2l6 MR SMITH:
in a disappointed tone. " There is no other parti-
cular place to go to. I thought he had been showing
you over the house."
" And you thought I would have gone ? Lily, you
really are too absurd. I told you not to go on so
fast, and you go faster and faster. I wonder, instead
of thinking I had been to the house, you did not
imagine I had been to the church ! You seem to
expect that to be the next thing."
" It will come to that," said Lily, readily. " But
where did you go to, then ? "
" To the view."
'' The view ? "
" Yes. Was that not a particular place ? "
" And what did you talk about ? " inquired Carry,
opening her lips for the first time since Mr Smith's
name had been mentioned, but still relenting towards
the subject, since it became plain the thing was
" All sorts of things. Improvements, cottages, Mr
Kodney, drainage,- and dirt."
" You talked of those ? " said Lily, incredulously.
" Indeed I did, and talked beautifully ; but as
they don't suit your carnal mind, perhaps it will
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 217
please you better to hear that we also talked of Lord
Sauffrenden, and of two new lodges, and an approach
through the woods.
" Very good ; but that is not what I want to hear
about, all the same."
" Do you want to hear about the summer-house ? "
" What summer-house ? "
" A summer-house at the view. There, you will
like that ; and when the summer-house is there, he
shall give us some fun at it."
Lily looked at her sister shrewdly. " Was it to
please you ? "
"Well, yes, in a way. To please himself, too.
And the path is to be gravelled, which will be a
great improvement. I never saw it so bad as it
" And when is it to be done ; not till summer, 1
suppose ? "
" It is to be begun to-morrow."
" Then, Helen, he is thinking of you."
2l8 MR SMITH
AN OLD FRIEND IS A YOUNG MAN.
After all this, it was really too delightful when Mrs
Hunt bridled and looked mysterious, saying that
if it was either, it was Maria.
We have now come up to the point when she
paid her afternoon visit at Freelands, and fell a prey
to the girls' love of fun and ridicule. Lily only
concealed her enjoyment by leaving the room, and
even Helen, demurely as she sat at her visitor's feet,
was obliged to cast down her eyes.
Mrs Hunt had untied her bonnet strings, and
taken off her shawl, and altogether behaved on this
visit in a more friendly way than she had ever done
before at the ToUetons. She had called the day
after their little entertainment, on purpose to let
them kliow that ]\Ir Smith had been there. It was
a week after the Tolletons' own dinner-party, and
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 219
her third essay to secure him had had the luck
usually assigned to that number.
Neither Maria nor Clare were with her ; they had
gone to the Eectory, but would take the short cut,
and join their mother in time to accompany her
home. It had been Mrs Hunt's plan. She wished
to have the best part of her visit by herself; to be
able to throw out pregnant suggestions which might
rankle in the Tolletons' bosoms, to plant seeds of
doubt and apprehension which must in due time
bear the proper fruit of hopeless despair. If Maria
had been with her, this might not have been so easy.
This was, however, only a part of her mission.
Like other great ambassadors she had her apparent
and her non-apparent business. She had to learn as
well as to communicate.
If Maria's simple attractions had really and truly
defeated, by their simplicity, the lures of these wily
ladies, they would surely by this time have found it
out. She thought at least they would, but she
would fain be certain. She wished to discover how
much they suspected ; she wondered if it were
possible that they could have suspected nothing.
In that case her task would be easy and delight-
220 MR SMITH:
ful. She would enlighten them with all the delicacy
in the world; but gently as she would plant the
arrow, it should be poisoned. If they really still
imagined they were going to have it all their own
way with Mr Smith, it was only her duty to open
their eyes. She little knew whom she had to deal
with. It is true that on other occasions the Miss
Tolletons had not been as reticent as perhaps pru-
dence demanded, with regard to their love matters.
They would freely tell who came six days in the
week, and who seven. They made confidences and
confessions, with heedless prodigality.
But now they were wise. They knew Mr Smith.
Instead of increasing his attentions, any remarks
coming to his ears were, Helen felt convinced, more
likely to put a stop to them altogether.
He was not aware of having paid any ; nor, in-
deed, strictly speaking, had he. She owned to herself
without a blush that, so far, the outside he had done
had been to receive hers. She had therefore warned
her sisters to be circumspect, and as they both
now entertained high hopes of a serious ending to
what had begun in jest, they were prepared to be
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 221
obedient to whatever her penetration and know-
ledge of the subject should dictate.
Accordingly Mrs Hunt was ill prepared' fur the
line of action decided upon.
Miss Tolleton would not allow that they had seen
anything of him. They fancied he was away from
home. Papa and he were great friends when he was
at home, and they all thought him such a very nice
old gentleman. However, she must not say "old"
to Mrs Hunt, perhaps. There were whispers which
she must not mention — must not disturb her with.
Had she not heard ? Was it possible she had not
heard ? But then people always were the last to
hear anything about themselves. It was just as well.
Mrs Hunt must not press her ; because, if she did,
it would be sure to slip out ; she never could keep
secrets. No, she would not tell if she could help it ;
Mrs Hunt would be vexed. People would talk — it
was vain to try and stop them. If there was nothing
in it, the report would die out of itself.
Mrs Hunt, •with burning cheeks, begged at least
to hear the report. It was hard if the report had
anything to do with her and hers, that she might not
222 MR SMITH:
even hear it. She put her hand on her young
friend's head as she spoke, and her tone was quite
Helen played with her rings. She really did not
know. She did so dislike gossip. At any rate, ^Irs
Hunt must not be angry with her. She must under-
stand that none of them had ever given the slightest
countenance to the story. Their answer had invari-
ably been, that if there were any truth in it, they
could trust Maria and Clare to brincr the news to
Freelands themselves. Of course, till that was done,
they could never think of making inquiries. Of all
things, they would shun being thought intrusive.
However, if Mrs Hunt would promise it was
about Mr Smith.
Then indeed Mrs Hunt felt that she had done the
girls injustice. Helen's voice was music in her ears.
About Mr Smith, and one — report did not say
which — of the Miss Hunts. All she wanted to say
was, that they might rely on her and her sisters'
discretion ; the subject should never be alluded to
before any one, if Mrs Hunt would just say so much,
was it Maria ?
Poor Mrs Hunt ! How elated was her crest !
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 223
How well, and modestly, she thought she did her
The many iniquities of Freelands were condoned,
the sisters for the time were almost as much to her
as to her daughters. Helen had never been looking
better. What a handsome creature she was, and
how improved in manner ! Her attention had been
quite wonderful, and she had sat and chatted with
her for nearly an hour before the girls came in, as
pleasantly as possible. Yes, she would own she
could be as agreeable as anybody when she chose.
This was for Maria and Clare going home.
"Lily seemed in great spirits,'' observed Clare,
thoughtfully. She had remarked that, on the occa-
sion of their disturbing the afternoon tea-party at
Freelands, Lily had been next Captain Wellwood.
" Oh, she's a silly creature that's always in spirits,"
said her mother, in whose eyes Lily had not gone up
so high as the others, " She's one of those that can't
help laughing when there's nothing in the world to
laugh at. Once or twice when we were sitting talk-
ing quite quietly, Helen and I, she began to smirk and
giggle, as if one of us had said something ridiculous.
It's a bad habit to get into, as I have always warned
224 MR SMITH:
you two. I must say that, for Helen, she is by far
the best behaved of any of them. I'm really aston-
ished Mr Smith does not admire her ! "
"Carry was very good to you, too, mamma," said
Clare, with a quick suppressing glance at Maria,
who she feared was about to commit herself.
" Yes, Carry was civil enough ; but she is not so
good-natured as Helen. Helen says very pretty
things. I must say I had a nice visit, and I really
think the girls much improved."
" My dear," as soon as she got home, " I do think
those Tolleton girls are improved. We had quite a
pleasant time there this afternoon. Helen made me
take off my things, and settle myself comfortably ;
and she and I sat and chatted away till the girls
came. I assure you I was quite surprised to see
them — the time had passed so quickly."
*'You must have been deep in your neighbour's
affairs, Polly. Come, now, what tit-bit of scandal
had the fair ladies picked up for you to-day, that you
were quite of one mind about ? Who has been com-
mitting some atrocious delinquency, exceeding ^ven J
themselves? Or what have you learnt new about
Mr Smith ? "
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 225
" Oh fie, doctor — to think such a thing ! Can't
I have a pleasant afternoon without your talking that
nonsense ? Mr Smith, indeed ! I am not likely to
learn much of Mr Smith at Freelands, from what I
hear. They thought he was away from home. Any-
thing new about Mr Smith will have to come from
another quarter, I suspect. Girls, go and take off
your things, if you don't want to be late for tea."
" It was about Mr Smith, all the same, however,"
said she, as soon as the door closed. " You are so
sharp, my dear, there's no putting you off. Well,
what do you think? It's all over the place that
he's after Maria ! "
Looking at her triumphant face, a smile gradually
" Do you really mean to say so ? "
" Indeed I do ! and on the very best authority —
though you will hardly believe me — Helen Tolleton
herself. Now I'll tell you what I think. Of course
it must have been pepper and vinegar to their proud
stomachs, after the open way they went after him —
Helen in particular ; and that makes it all the more
certain. She wouldn't wish to believe it, you know,
as long as she could possibly help ; but she has got
VOL. I. P
226 MR SMITH:
the sense to see the thing is done, and wishes to put
a bold face on it."
" Will they try to put ]\Iaria off him, do you
" If they do I'll be even with them. But no, they
won't. I do think they have a sort of kindly feeling
for our girls ; and if Maria became Mrs Smith, they
reckon they would be up at the Hill all day long. A
fine thing for them ; they would make good use of
her. No, I don't think they would wish to put her
off him. If he doesn't take up with themselves,
I do believe they would as soon Maria had him
"And what had Miss Helen to say about it?
Where had she picked it up, I wonder ? "
" She wouldn't name names ; but I suspect it had
come from more quarters than one. Their meetings
in the village, she said, and Maria using the short cut.
However it was I said it was Maria — that is to say "
— alarmed at her iiusband's face — " she said it was
one, and begged to know which. So I said I was
sure loe had never thought of such a thing, and had
never noticed anything particular from Mr Smith to
either ; but that if it ivas either, it was Maria."
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 22/
" I would not have said it — I would not indeed.
I wonder, Polly, at your committing yourself to that.
Now it will be set about everywhere that we told
them it was Maria."
Care sat upon the doctor's brow, in spite of his
" Oh no, it won't, Eobert. You needn't fear.
That Helen is a good-natured creature on the whole ;
and she begged so hard, and promised so faithfully
not to tell. She would hardly tell me, till I made
her. She seemed to be quite afraid I would be put