out. I told her idle reports never put me out, and
made believe I put no faith in it. I daresay she
thinks we have many such. But I said I wouldn't
have it repeated to the girls. She promised me that.
" She mayn't repeat it to the girls, but she may to
worse people. However, it cannot be helped now ; I
only hope it won't get round to Smith. They would
never go to him with it, eh ? "
"That you may be quite easy about, my dear.
From Helen's whole way of talking, I am convinced
they see very little of him. I could almost take my
oath they have never met since we found him there
228 MR SMITH:
"Why, you told me he dined with them last
"I took it for granted his Monday engagement
was to them, but I am rather inclined to think I was
mistaken. Neither he nor they ever said so, you
know. I fancy one or other of them would, if it had
been the case."
" You think he is quite off there, then ? "
" If he ever was on. Perhaps I was rather hasty,
but I must say it appeared at first as if they were
tooth and nail after him. It might have been only
their flirting ways. They never can let a man pass,
be he what he may, as old as an owl, and as ugly as
a hippopotamus. However, whether that was all or
not, it's plain he never had any thought of them ; and
I'm bound to say Helen gave me the.^pression to-
day, that there never was, nor had been, anything
Which was exactly the impression^Aelen intended
She knew — who better ? — that Mr Smith was not
away. If he had been, how could he have brought
down that delicious little plan of the summer-house
for her inspection, the very day before ? And how
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 229
could she have accompanied him to the edge of the
plantation, when he went away ? And how could he
have been obliged to go away sooner than he need
otherwise have done, because he was going to meet
an old friend at the station? And how could they
be expecting him to bring the old friend to luncheon
the very day after Mrs Hunt's call ? No, no ; he
was safe at home. And Miss Helen, it was rather a
risky story; you ought to have ascertained at least
that Mrs Hunt had not caught a glimpse of the
grey hat on its way through the plantation, or laid
hold of its wearer elsewhere, and wormed the truth
out of him.
Mr Smith, in his integrity, would have seen no
reason either for evasion or concealment. It might
have been a bad business.
Nothing of the kind, however, had happened, and
she thought no harm was done. She was bright and
confident, and ^spruced herself up gaily for the old
gentleman's luncheon next day.
Early in the morning she had reminded Carry of
Mr Smith's foreign residence, and suggested the
propriety of a few made-up dishes. Papa was told
to stay at home and make himself fit for company ;
230 MR SMITH:
and punctually at half-past one o'clock the company
Mr Smith had talked of an old friend, and the
sisters had concluded he meant one of his own con-
temporaries. They were rather taken aback, in
consequence, when a slender elegantly-formed young
man, whose age certainly could not exceed thirty-five,
followed him into the room, and was named as Sii'
■ Miss Tolleton had nothing to regret. She knew
Sir George by name, and knew that there was a
Lady Lorrimer. She was proud of Mr Smith's
acquaintance, and pleased that he should wish to
make his, theirs. She was seen to the best advan-
tage. Beautiful, graceful, hospitable, unembarrassed,
her manners just what they ought to be. Sir George
was caught, " By Jove ! "
When first told that he was going to a Mr ToUe-
ton's, a neighbour's, to luncheon, he had wished Mr
Tolleton at the bottom of the sea. A country lout
who would drag him out to inspect his farming, his
pigs, and his poultry. Mr Smith's remarking that the
young ladies were reputed beauties mended the case
a little ; but it was not until he had seen the eldest
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 23 1
daughter, that he gave over considering the engage-
ment an unmitigated bore. »
The other sisters were not worth looking at.
Poor Carry ! poor Lily ! The truth was, they had
not changed their dresses. Mrs Hunt's eulogium on
their neatness might be just, but they looked dowdy
beside their brilliant sister. Lily had laughed at
Helen for taking so much trouble, but she now
earnestly wished she had done the same. And
Helen had urged her to do it, said it was very little
trouble, that a black silk never got harmed, and that
it looked odd for one to change and not the others.
For this the others had their answer. "Why then
did she do it? She had looked quite nice before,
and her beautiful lace square and sleeves would cer-
tainly not keep clean long if they were to be worn on
every such occasion. Mr Smith would have liked
her just as well as she was. There had been a little
tiff between the two parties, harmlessly ending in
each taking their own way.
Miss ToUeton had coiled her hair afresh, and put
on the new dress, and a band of scarlet velvet round
her throat. Lily contented herself with a clean
collar, and washing her hands. Carry, after the tiff
232 MR SMITH:
was over, forgot all about it, and the luncheon-party
besides ; and was caught in the drawing-room just as
The consciousness of this, joined to the usual
unavailing regrets, confused the two culprits, and
the evidence the new-comer was not slow to give
of his considering them inferior, altogether quelled
them. Sir George, in fact, imagined they were still
in the schoolroom. They had entirely the look of
two blooming awkward school-girls. They seated
themselves at table without a word, and even Lily
remained nearly mute the whole time of luncheon.
Helen came out all the better for the dull back-
ground. She and her father had plenty to say, and
she, at least, said it well. "With Mr Smith they
seemed on the easiest terms. Sir George observed
with a little surprise the animation with which his
fair neighbour addressed his friend. For him were
her sparkling sallies, her playful repartees. For
him several retrospective allusions which seemed
enigmas to the rest. Her opinion was sought in
return, and her wishes consulted.
It appeared as if they understood each other. He
looked at Miss Tolleton once or twice, and after con-
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 233
sidering that she was a lively girl as well as a pretty
one, it suddenly dawned upon him that she was a
clever one too.
This must be looked into. He delighted to un-
ravel a scheme, to pick out the kernel of a secret.
It was something worth coming for ; it gave an
interest to the day. Had they not been expected at
the Castle, he would have liked to remain a little
after luncheon ; to spend the afternoon, in fact. They
were expected, however, and had promised to call
early, not to keep any one at home.
" Nice chatty little woman. Lady Sauffrenden,"
said Sir George.
" We don't know her," replied Helen, calmly.
So much Mr Smith had by this time become
aware of. No one had assigned any reason, or
indeed had openly stated the fact ; but he had dis-
covered the fact, and longed to know the reason.
If Miss Tolleton had appeared confused, had tried
to slur it over, had offered any excuse, all would
have been plain ; but her quiet " We don't know
lier," made all the " don't knowing " appear to be on
their side. It had now the aspect of a good, honest,
234 MR SMITH:
When Helen asked Captain Wellwood after Lady
SaufiPrenden's health in that thoughtful manner be-
fore mentioned, it was merely for the sake of re-
lieving an awkwardness. She had no thought of
blinding him. She had no intention of deceiving
Mr Smith. Philip, she knew, was already aware
how it was, and Mr Smith soon would be. The
affectionate inquiry had answered its end, but now
the subject must be treated differently.
Sir George, as well as Mr Smith, took it as she
"A peppery little person, you know," said the
former, confidentially, afterwards. '' She always did
like to have the high hand, and I daresay gets
Sauffrenden into hot water sometimes. What a
good fellow he is! I never knew a better fellow
in my life."
" I always thought there was something," said Mr
Smith, reverting to the ToUetons. *' It was never
said, but I felt sure there was. I have heard Miss
Tolleton ask most kindly after Lady Saufirenden, but
I could not gather from that, whether they were
acquainted or not."
'' That was very plainly said to-day, however.
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 235
Perhaps the little woman objects to having such
attractions too frequently at the Castle. No, not on
any particular account, of course ; but you know it
is a fact that the pretty creatures positively can't
like each other, however much they try."
" That is one of your abominable notions, which
you try to pawn off on other people. It is not a fact
to me. You must find some other reason."
"Ton my word, I can't. Sauffrenden's no
dangler, or T should say he had been "
" No, no, Lorrimer, that won't pass either."
" Then, depend upon it, Mr ToUeton's cat has been
hunting the woods and got trapped."
" That is far more likely."
" Or his dog killed a pheasant."
" More likely still."
" Or he hands the plate too regularly at church ;
or he objects to smoking in the railway carriage ;
or — or — his daughter is too pretty by half."
This Mr Smith vehemently denied.
Carry and Lily revenged themselves for their
enforced retirement into the shade as soon as Free-
lands was itself again. " Helen, you told us he said
an old friend."
236 MR SMITH:
" So he did ; those were his words. How could
I tell any more than you that the old friend would
prove a young man ? You'll wish now you had done
as I asked you about your black silks."
" But who would ever have guessed," said Lily, in
an injured voice, "that an old fusty Mr Smith — I
beg your pardon, Nelly, but it is the truth — that he
should have had a friend like that ?"
" And a baronet to boot ! "
" I rather wondered you did not waver in your
allegiance, my dear. I gave you great credit for not
transferring your petits soins at once to the new
" Aspirant ! Nonsense ! "
" You chose to consider him such, whether he was
or not — I knew by your way."
" If you knew so well," said her sister, nettled, " it
is a pity you did not know a little better. There is a
" How did you find that out ? I don't believe it."
" Believe it or not, as you like. You might have
heard Mr Smith talk of her if you had kept your
" Open they must have been indeed, for I never
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 237
come within a hundred yards when you are talking,
on purpose to be out of the way."
" Well, there is, then ; she was one of the Albuts."
" Is he come to stay ? "
" That I don't know. I tell you I did not know
he was coming. I had no idea it was to be he. The
only thing I do know is that he has a wife."
" I don't think it was fair in Mr Smith to bring a
man of that stamp to any one's house without warn-
ing. Of course we are not like great folks. Did
you see the shudder he gave at the singed pudding ? "
''Oh, Carry, that reminds me. You must speak
to the cook about that pudding. It was horrible,
and Mr Smith would eat it."
" Why did you not stop him ? "
"He had got it on his plate before it was dis-
covered, and then he persisted in finishing it."
" I can't think what made her do it, I am sure,"
said Carry. "Stupid woman 1 The rest was all
so nice. If only Mr Smith had had the sense not
to break it, the singed smell never would have
come out. It was close to me all the time, and
I had a suspicion there was something nasty. It
was very faint, and no one else would have known.
238 MR SMITH:
What made him take pudding at all ? He should
have taken jelly, if he took anything. Very few
men touch sweet things at luncheon."
"Oh, well, it doesn't matter; everything else was
good. Nothing could have passed off better. And
now I. wonder what he will go and say of us at the
" I don't believe he will mention us."
'' And I believe he will, the first thing."
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 239
I THOUGHT IT WOULD NEVER END !
Helen was right. Sir George did mention them,
and very nearly, if not quite the first thing.
He declined luncheon on the ground of having had
luncheon. They had just come from having it with
some pretty neighbours of theirs ; and then, before he
could say the name, Lord Sauffrenden's face showed
that he at least had divined it.
There was silence directly it was spoken, and the
inevitable guilty Tolleton air stole over several of
the company. On Philip Wellwood, who was having
a day's shooting at the Castle, and on the host him-
self, it was most visible, but a shadow of it tainted
even Mr Smith. Sir George Lorrimer and Lady
Sauffrenden alone were unmoved.
Sir George went on with all the unreservedness
of a stranger. "What a handsome girl the eldest
240 MR SMITH:
is ! She is the eldest, is she not — or are there
others ? "
How busy Lord Sauffrenden was feeding Gyp, and
how suddenly Captain Wellwood became interested
in the belt of his powder-flask ! Mr Smith, to whom
the question had not been put, was obliged to take it
as if it had.
There were no signs of any sort of reply to be got
from the little autocrat who held them all in check,
and whose head merely reared in the faintest possible
manner backwards, to show that, had she done as
she liked, she would have tossed it. How should she
know if there were three 'Miss Tolletons, or three
hundred ? It was a subject to which she had never
given a thought. Thus much she would have said,
if she had said anything. As it was, she merely
looked the questioner full in the face, and then
turned her long neck slowly towards !Mr Smith.
The inquiry could not possibly have been meant
Mr Smith was thus obliged to receive it. His
answer was, " No, I never heard of any."
"I suppose you see a great deal of them?" Sir
George addressed her pointedly. " They must be
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 24I
your nearest neiglibotirs, uuless you are unusually
" Yes — no ; There are none nearer. But really
we are very independent of other people. We don't
see much of anybody. Sauffrenden and I are a very
" Yes, indeed," he corroborated, eagerly. " We are
often weeks without anything going on at all. You
must come down and wake us up, Lorrimer. Mr
Smith will think us a dreadfully slow set of folks."
They were now, he thought, off the ToUeton quick-
" I have not seen much slowness as yet," said Sir
George. " I should not say slowness prevailed in the
house we were at to-day, eh, Smith ? "
Mr Smith smiled his assent.
"The pretty one had plenty to say for herself,
hadn't she ? You and she were great friends."
Cruel man ! How thoroughly he enjoyed saying
"Which do- you call the pretty one ?" said Captain
Wellwood, carelessly. " They all set up to be that,
"No, do they? I hardly looked at the others.
VOL. I. Q
242 MR SMITH:
By-and-by, perhaps, they may be, but they are
barely fledged yet."
'' Oh, indeed they are. The second at least, was
out before I was married," said Sauffrenden, with a
look at his wife, meant to convey, " There, you see, I
don't stick up for them."
" You are not a very old married man yet, Sauffren-
den ; but to be out at all, they certainly are young
looking. Sweet seventeen, I should have guessed
them. You don't consider them beauties ? " to Lady
" I hardly know them by sight, only by passing
them sometimes when I am driving." " Haughty
little sinner!" thought Sir George. "As jealous
as she can be, and puts on these airs to hide it.
They become her, too. She never looked better."
" Well, but Miss Tolleton ? You must have met
Miss Tolleton? Won't you allow her something,
Lady Sauffrenden ? I assure you I was quite subju-
gated, and as for Smith, there was no spirit left in
Every one looked at !Mr Smith now. Sauffrenden
and Philip were unable to keep their eyes off him,
and even the lady stole a glance of inquiry.
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 243
Unconscious of all, he answered laughing, " Really,
Lorrimer, if that is to be the way, I must be careful
how I take you there again. I had no idea you were
made of such inflammable matter.''
" Inflammable ? To be sure I am. So inflammable,
that at one-and-twenty I was set on fire and devas-
tated like the prairies, to make me safe ever after-
wards. I'm perfectly harmless now. But you, you
would burn like a tinder-box."
" I have been a long time about it, then."
" Getting drier and drier, just like the prairies.
How the fire will rage when once the match is
struck ! What do you think, Lady Sauffrenden ?
Is it not rather dangerous for this good friend of
mine to have planted his wigwam so near, so very
near, to a certain pair of bright eyes ? "
" That, I think, may be left to himself," replied she,
trying to speak with moderation. " At least," she
added, turning to him with a sweet, sudden smile,
" lue shall be at no pains to send him further away."
" That was well done, and she is good to him at all
events," thought Sir George. " But I must make one
Aloud : " Well, tJien, I suppose he is to be left to
244 MR SMITH:
his fate, for better for worse ! But," to his hostess
again, "the fair Helen appears to be no friend of
yours ? "
" I should be sorry to say she was."
" Indeed ? Now I should have thought you were
cut out for each other. Two such charming people
ought to be seen together, if only for the benefit of
" But I am not charming, Sir George, and I know
nothing of Miss Tolletou's charms. Pray let us be
content to keep apart."
The little lady snapped the thread in her netting-
needle as she spoke. Her husband hastened to
" Seriously, Milly, this is nothing to laugh about.
We shall begin to suspect Sir George's devastation, if
he goes on at this rate. I shall send Lady Lorrimer
a telegram in private. Helen is a dangerous giii."
" She is, indeed," emphatically.
(" Oh, confound it ! What will Smith think ? ")
" It won't do, you see, Lorrimer. They hate each other
like poison, those two. They would never assimilate
if they lived a hundred years."
Lady Sauffrenden burnt with indignation. Hate
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 245
each other ! Such a way of putting it ! Each other !
As if they were exactly equal. What a shame it was
of Sauffrenden ! How could he say such a thing,
knowing all the time, as well as possible, how it
was ? She lost her head and her temper now, and
" I really don't know what you can possibly mean,
Sauffrenden. As to hating — I have never spoken to
Miss ToUeton in my life ; I never wish to speak to
her. I do not like what I hear of them, and I don't
choose to know them, and that is all." Hating ! It
was too ridiculous ; letting her down before these
men like that. She could have boxed her husband's
" Heyday ! Milly ! Ton my word, you take
high ground, my little woman. But I daresay Miss
ToUeton feels the same. Eh, Philip ? Confess now,
you know them — isn't it so ? "
(" Smith will be furious if she goes on like this.
It is enough to make him cut us dead.")
Philip would not allow he had ever heard Miss
ToUeton speak of Lady Sauffrenden at all. Except
— yes, once lately to ask after her health. " Have
you been ill ? " inquired Sir George.
246 MR SMITH:
"No, thank you, I have been quite welL I am
very much obliged to Miss ToUeton."
" There he goes 1 " groaned her husband inwardly,
as the merciless baronet still pursued the subject.
" Why can't he take the hint ? Thick-headed idiot ! "
" Then, my dear Lady Sauffrenden, you are the very
person to keep watch over my friend here. He is
not to be trusted ; indeed he is not, I assure you.
You and Sauffrenden "
" No, no, not I, Sir George," interposed he, with a
quick short laugh ; " I will have nothing to do wnth
it. For my part, I am a great admirer of the fair
Helen. I beg to decline the office."
Lady Sauffrenden lifted her eyes in astonishment.
She had seldom seen her husband so angry in her
life. What could so suddenly have roused him ?
" Oh, you are, are you ? " said Sir George. " Then
here is Captain Wellwood."
" Most happy," said Philip, indifferently ; " any-
thing to please. Mr Smith, suppose we go there to-
morrow ? "
So they were all against her — even Philip now.
Her husband defiant, Sir George contemptuous, Philip
setting her at nought, and Mr Smith gxavely dis-
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 247
pleased. Her heart swelled at the thought. Had
she not had cause to be indignant? Was not she
the one aggrieved ? Everybody, by turns, had tried
to vex her, and then, when she was stung into saying
more than perhaps she should, they took advantage
of it. To think she was jealous ! Jealous of that
girl! Had she ever denied her beauty? She had
never once given any one the slightest grounds for
supposing she denied it. She was pretty, of course
— she was exceedingly pretty; it would be absurd
to call her anything else. But that did not make
her nice ; and certainly it did not make her a fit
companion for her.
And then for Sauffrenden to go and say he was a
great admirer, just as if he went and flirted with her
— ^he who had never spoken to any one of them in his
life. He must have been reckless when he said it.
It was such a story too. But then she remembered
his angry laugh, and wondered what had caused it.
If she could only see him alone.
But for this she had to wait. They went out and
she was left by herself. Wearily the afternoon
passed, and the tea-tray waited till the tea was cold,
ere they came in.
248 • MR SMITH:
"I have ordered the pony-carriage, Milly/' said
her husband ; " and, if you like, I thought you might
drive Mr Smith and Sir George back. Phil and I
are just going out for another hour, so I won't wait."
She looked at him yearningly. He came up and
kissed her, and put his hand on her shoulder. They
aU seemed in better spirits. She alone had had
nothing to cheer hers.
" Go and put on your things, dear."
" Can I pick you up an3n;vhere, Sauffrenden ? "
"No, no, never mind us. At least you might
come to the Hislops' cottage about half -past five — but
it will be too late for you to be out then, I daresay.
However, come if you like, but don't wait for us."
"Wait she would, however, if it were an hour.
The two sportsmen hurried out. The light was
too precious to be wasted, and they were not allowed
to be ceremonious.
" Well, Philip ? Eh ? Well ? " cried Sauflfrenden,
as soon they were alone. " What did you think of
that for a scene ? Ha ! ha ! ha ! I can laugh at
it now, but it was dreadful, wasn't it ? I could have
sunk into the very earth for shame ! That fool
Lorrimer! And my wife making it worse every
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 249
time she opened her lips ! I thought it would never
end ! I thought we should never get off without a
regular blow-up ! I did not know which way to
" Or whether to laugh or to cry."
" No, hang it ! I never felt less like laughing in
" And then you appealed to me."
" My dear fellow, I would have appealed to — well,
we won't say who, himself ! I never was in such a
strait ! There was Milly, on the one hand, with her
solemn face, and Lorrimer thinking it was all a joke,
and Smith looking from one to the other ; but he is
enlightened as to one thing now, at all events. He
is no longer in ignorance of Lady Sauffrenden's feel-
ings on the subject. I mean to speak to Milly. I
was disgusted at that part of it. It's enough to put
" He must not be much worth, if it is."
" Oh, I don't know." Lord Sauflfrenden naturally
regarded his wife's favour as of great importance.
"Nobody could like it. And Lorrimer all un-
" Do you think he was so unsuspecting ? "
250 MR SMITH:
" If lie was not, it was a shabby thing to do. But
no, Smith is his friend, and he would not wish to
hurt him. Smith is a fellow nobody would wish to
annoy. He could hardly have guessed anything."
" It struck me he kept to the subject rather
" Oh, he wanted to find out. I daresay he had
heard we weren't on intimate terms."
" But it was not you, it was Smith he stuck to."
"Do you think it was? If that were the way —
I really should not wonder if it were. He thinks
it a bad look-out for his friend, and wanted us to
put him off. If that was it, Milly was playing into i