his hands. If that explains it, you must have
been sharper than I, for it never once occurred
" It's only a guess ; but they had just been there
together, and on one side, at least, there is no secret
made. Yes, hers of course. She seems rather to
enjoy having spectators, and Sir George is by no
means asleep, even when he closes his eyes."
" If that is the case," said Sauffrenden, with
honest heat, "he may just get some one else to
sound his alarm-bell. Asking me to keep watch,
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 25 1
indeed ! What business is it of his ? The poor girl
must marry some one, and I don't think she couhl
do better. As for him, though he is well enough,
he's not everybody's bargain, you know. For my
part, I don't see anything against the match; and
any way I'm not going to be the one to put my foot
" The thing is," said Philip, thoughtfully, " whether
he means anything or not ? "
" No, Smith. As yet I cannot see that he has
made any great advances, and he was certainly as
cool as a cucumber to-day."
" Why, you don't expect a man at his time of life
to turn red and white at every word. He may not
be exactly ardent, but I think he has made up liis
mind to it. You said yourself that Lorrimer had
fished it out."
" Yes, but " Philip hesitating. " I was
thinking of her purpose, not his."
"Oh, then, you think she proposes to ā to make
him propose, in short ? "
" I think she does. And then whether she accepts
him, or not, will be another thing."
252 MR SMITH:
'' Good gracious ! You don't mean to say he is to
be thrown overboard ? If I thought that "
" I never said so, Sauffrenden," laughing. " You
are in too great a hurry. I think the chances are
ten to one that she will accept him."
"Well, that's all I want/' replied his friend,
pacified. "If she does that, it's aU she can do.
And I won't have her interfered with. I shall speak
seriously to Milly; and as for Lorrimer, he must
be prevented putting his oar in. There's Hislop.
Don't forget to be at the cottage at half-past five,
and we can give you a lift. Ta, ta ! "
Lord Sauffrenden was highly delighted with his
new toy, and his new toy was the combination of
Mr Smith and the Tolletons.
It was necessary, however, to hide his delight,
and speak to Milly, as he said, seriously.
He began by telling her that he was very ill-
pleased, and that she had been very rude, and
pulled such a long face as she drove him home
in the pony-carriage, that, weary and unhappy as
she had been beforehand, she was soon utterly
He had met her a mile on the other side of the
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 253
cottage for the special purpose of administering this
conjugal lecture alone.
Whether anything came of it or not, he would not
have Mr Smith annoyed in his house. Mr Smith
had just taken Sir George Lorrimer to Freelands,
and then she must needs inform them both that the
Tolletons were not good enough for her ! He really
wondered how a woman who prided herself upon
her behaviour, could have been so ill bred and dis-
agreeable. Helen Tolleton had never done her
any harm, and he would not have it said all
over the country that his wife was jealous of her
Of course that was what they all thought. She
might have seen Sir George was only amusing him-
self at her expense.
In all his life Sauffrenden had never said so many
Milly could scarcely bear them. She was so
unaccustomed to rebuke ; so accustomed to love,
admiration, and a little subjection. She hardly
knew what to make of this. Tears of mortification
rose to her eyes as she made her defence.
How could Sir George think so ? How could any
254 MR SMITH:
of them ? Sauffrenden knew it was not true. And
it was he who had put it into their heads, saying
she and Miss ToUeton hated each other.
Sauffrenden retained the upper hand. He had
had to say something. He was so put out he hardly
knew what to say. It was the best face he could
put on the matter. He had often told her that that
little tongue of hers would get her into mischief,
and so it had. She must pay for it now.
Milly said petulantly that she had nothing to pay
He went on. " You ought to have let the sub-
ject drop "
*' So I did. It was he, Sir George, who would
go on with it. I let it drop every time. How can
you be so unjust, Sauffrenden ? "
" I was so vexed about Smith."
"What about Mr Smith? What has he to do
with the Tolletons ? I don't understand what it is
all about. Sir George was only laughing at him."
** Sir George might be laughing, but he was not.
It is as well you should know that he admires
"Oh, indeed he does not, Sauftrenden. He was
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 255
only carrying on the joke ; and I daresay he likes to
be laughed at in that way a little, because he is get-
" Nonsense ; it was nothing of the kind. If it
was, why could you not carry on the joke too ? "
" I thought those girls might be making a set at
him, and it would be a kindness to warn him."
" I tell you, dear, I will not have you going about
warning people in this way. You forget you are only
a young pretty woman too, and take to yourself all
the scolding airs of an old dowager."
" I am sorry," said she, softened still more by the
little compliment than by the rebuke.
"Well, don't do it again, that's all I have to say.
And if there ever should be anything between Smith
and the ToUetons, don't you take any notice ; it's
not your place."
She longed to say it was her place ā longed to
repudiate the idea of there ever being anything be-
tween INIr Smith and the Tolletons ā but prudence
and love prevailed. Sauffrenden had been really
vexed ; therefore she said nothing.
" Now, mind ! "
" Yes, dear."
256 MR SMITH:
" Give me a kiss, then, and I'll forgive you. Woa !
look out for the powder-flask ; you ran it right into
me ! There's Phil ; I told him to be at the cottage.
All right Phi ā lip ! Hey ! come to the cor ā ner,
and we needn't go aU the way u ā up ! "
And so well had he done his work, and so timely
had been the chastisement, that he might have con-
versed on the forbidden subjects for fully a week
afterwards, and never once needed to call them
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 257
THE CHRISTMAS FEAST.
" I AM in a strait, and have come to see who will
help me out of it," said Mr Smith, entering the draw-
ing-room at Freelands one afternoon. " I wish to give
my work-people a Christmas treat, and have no idea
how. Most of them are married men with families ;
and I mean to have the wives, and children too.
We can find room for all, and, I hope, entertainment ;
if one only knew how to begin. You," turning to
^liss ToUeton, " can help me, I am sure.'*
" If I can, you may be certain I will," replied
Helen. "What is the first difficulty ā the invita-
tions ? "
" No, I think I can manage the invitations. I
have a list of names here, and will go round and ask
them myself. But the truth is, I am so lamentably
VOL. L R
2S8 MR SMITH:
ignorant, I really don't know what to ask them to.
Is it dinner, tea, or supper ? "
They all laughed.
" They wiU come to whatever it is, I fancy," said
Miss ToUeton, pleasantly. "It is a meal of some
sort. In their own minds they will call it dinner, tea,
or supper, according to the hour. What o'clock do
you think of asking them ? "
" That is one of the points I wish to consult upon.
The days are closing in so fast now, it would be use-
less to attempt anything out of doors. Perhaps if
we could arrange a magic-lantern, and some fire-
" ISTothing could be better. Then it will be in the
evening ; they are sure to like that."
" You think they will ? And if the meal ā the din-
ner, tea, or supper ā were about six o'clock, would
that do ? "
" Very well indeed, I should think. They ^vill have
got their work over for the day, and have time to get
tidy, and give themselves up to enjoyment," said ]\Iiss
ToUeton, by way of showing her insight into the lives
" Then we must fix on the day. ^Vhat day are.
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 259
you disengaged for ? I depend upon your all coming
to help, remember."
" Yes, of course ; we shall be delighted. But any
day will suit us. Had you not better refer it to some
of your other ' helps ' ? " adroitly.
" Miss Grey ! but she is not likely to do me much
good. I hardly could ask Miss Fulton to come so
far. Mr and Mrs Hardwicke will, however, I
Helen turned up her nose at Mr and Mrs Hard-
wicke. Village people ! She had hoped for the
" And let me see," pursued he, " there are the two
]\liss Bains. Mrs Eodney would have given us great
assistance ; but I fear she will hardly be well enough.
We must have Mr Eodney, however."
Mr Eodney, the curate, has been once or twice named
in these pages. He was a smooth-faced, long-necked
young man, with a bubble in his throat. Worse than
that could not be said against him. He was much
beloved in the parish, on account of his tender-heart-
edness. More than once in his bachelor days he had
been known to carry his own dinner to some poor
house, where it is certain he never ate it ; and he
260 MR SMITH:
was constantly seen in new clothes, for the simple
reason that he had given away his old ones.
When he married, this state of things could not, of
course, go on. His own dinner he must eat, and his
old clothes were well mended ; but the joy of gi\^ng
was not debarred him. He was still to be seen
carrying the well-known tin pot, and his hand went
to his pocket as readily as before.
Mrs Rodney was all that was good, kind, and
worthy of her husband. The only thing against her
was that she was always having babies. At present
she was recovering from her fourth confinement, hav-
ing been married just four years and three months.
Her sister, Miss Clay, was staying with her.
Helen reminded Mr Smith of Miss Clay. She had
seen her in church, and thought her privately a
dull-looking girl ā a poor edition of her sister. She
would do for this occasion admirably.
Mr Smith was glad to hear of the addition, and
promised to call on Mr Rodney, and engage his and
Miss Clay's attendance witl^ut delay. ^
" Then there are the Miss Hunts," said he ; " per-
haps Mrs Hunt? Do you think "
"Oh yes, with the greatest pleasure; she would
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 26 1
be quite hurt if you left her out. Dr Hunt, too,
would come, if you asked him, I daresay. Why, Mr
Smith, you don't know how much we shall all enjoy
it. And now, is there anything we can do ? Are
there any preparations to be made ? "
No, it appeared the preparations could be made
by others. The fireworks could be ordered by one
friend, and the magic- lantern given in charge to
another. His old housekeeper was equal to under-
taking the provision department. The help he really
wanted was on the day. He wished to be certain of
This was assured him. They were as anxious to
come as he could be to have them. As to fixing
the day, they would not hear of it ; they might be
depended on for any day. Some one else must do
that ā Mr Eodney, for instance. He had engage-
ments ; they had none.
Helen was inflexible on this point. She felt that
the presence of the mild curate would impart a
dignity to the scene which it might otherwise lack.
It would be right and proper, and well for aU parties,
that he should be there.
In this way they could also become acquainted
262 MR SMITH:
with Miss Clay. Since Mrs Eodney had had her
sister with her, the Miss ToUetons had called more
than once, but Miss Clay had not chosen to take
their cards as left on her. She had never come to
Freelands, and had once or twice turned into a shop
if she saw any of the party coming. It did not look
as if she wished for their acquaintance.
The curate and his wife were themselves politely
civil to the Tolletons. It is true they managed with
wonderful dexterity to evade their numerous invita-
tions, and that Mrs Eodney blushed uncomfortably
if accosted by them in public. But neither she nor
her husband failed in maintaining relations of quiet
distant courtesy ; and they walked steadily into the
Freelands avenue, even if they did glance down the
road before doing so.
'' They cannot harm us," Mrs Eodney said, " but
Sarah had better not go."
And so the Miss Tolletons had not been introduced
to Miss Clay. This was the reason why Helen was
anxious she should be asked to the Hill. To such a
gathering they could hardly help taking her. If jNIr
Smith would allow them to fix the day, they were
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 263
Mr Smith being equally desirous of their company,
this was soon arranged, and he promised as soon as
possible to let the ladies know the result of his
Would Mr Tolleton come? was the next sug-
gestion. He had not liked to make it before ā had
not felt sure that he would care to leave his comfort-
able fireside ; but if he would . They were sure
he would ā he would be quite melancholy if left
behind. He might be depended on.
" I hope the Miss Hunts will be able to come too,"
Mr Smith reverted to them, good-naturedly. He
hoped every one would be able to come. He felt a
glow of spirits and happy anticipations that must
have vent. He was ready for anything.
" They are at home to-day, I know ; at least Mrs
Hunt is," said Helen, softly.
" Perhaps I might look in on them after calling on
the Rodneys," replied he, quick to catch the hint.
"That is, if I may depend on its being all one to
" Don't think of us at all ; count upon us. We
are not going out at all, you know, and are per-
fectly free. We would not miss this for the world.
264 MR smith:
When you have arranged it with the others, you will
come and let us know, will you not ? "
But why had he not asked the Sauffrendens ? It
would have been such a chance, such an opportunity.
Even if she could not have been compassed. Lord
Sauffrenden must have fallen a prey. Helen would
have been so quiet, so demure, so sweetly, gravely
beautiful, that she would have taken them by storm.
For the first time she felt a little cross with Mr
Mr Eodney fixed the following Thursday. There
was service on Wednesday evenings, and he had a
meeting on Friday ; but his own little reading on
Thursday he could easily put ofi". He would be
glad, really glad to do it. It was so seldom that
husbands and wives were permitted to share in the
same treat, that he was doubly pleased that it was
to be so in the present instance.
He always felt a man wasn't half a man without
his wife; and here he coloured, and looked as if it
had suddenly dawned upon him, that this was not
exactly the remark he ought to have made, to one
who could not be expected to sympathise in the
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 265
Mr Smith, however, with the most happy uncon-
sciousness, concurred heartily, and all was right.
Mr Eodney being thus secured, and Miss Clay
likewise, he bent his steps to the doctor's house.
It was the same story here. Of course they would
come. Mrs Hunt would quite have scolded him if
they had not been asked ; she really thought she
should have invited herself. For the doctor she
could not so readily promise, but she thought he
might be looked for at any rate some time in the
course of the evening. The dear girls would be only
too happy to assist. Maria was the very person for
anything of this kind. So fond of the poor, and
always fussing about them. How delighted she
would be, to be sure !
Was there anything special required of her ? She
could answer for its being done, and well done;
although perhaps, as her mother, she had no business
to say so.
Mr Smith confessed that there was nothing in
particular required at Miss Hunt's hands. He would
count, however, on her kindness when the day came.
The young ladies would all be needed to take charge
of the tea department, and perhaps Miss Hunt would
266 MR SMITH:
kindly preside at one of the tables. He proposed to
place a lady at the head of each tea-table, Miss Clay
taking Mrs Kodney's place at the principal one.
Miss Clay ? That was all very well ; very proper
and suitable. A silent girl with a mole on her left
cheek. She would make tea admirably, and never
speak to Mr Smith.
Had he engaged any other assistants? He had
not fixed the day before speaking to Mr Eodney.
This evasion he allowed himself. It was not her
business what assistants he had engaged.
She, however, saw not the evasion. She was all
" Girls, girls, who do you think has been here ?
Mr Smith. What a pity you were out ! But what
do you think he came for ? You'll never guess, I can
tell you. A grand ploy up at the Hill, and we are all
to go and help. What do you think of that ? Ah !
the ToUetons thought they would get him to give
a ball, did they ? I should like to see them do it.
They will be glad enough to get their noses in along
with other people now. Ma^ is to make tea at one
of the tables, and INIiss Clay at the other. Very nice
and right to ask Miss Clay. She goes instead of Mrs
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 26/
Eodney, you know. Poor Mrs Koduey never comes
in for anything nice. Now I suppose you'll want
something new to wear. We must do what we can
There was no repressing her elation. She would
not even animadvert on the dirty marks left by their
boots on the carpet.
" Will he be there, do you think ? " said Maria to
her sister, as soon as they were up-stairs.
" I daresay."
" I almost wish he were not."
" Because mamma will make me stick to Mr Smith
Captain Wellwood, however, was not there, it
never havino- entered Mr Smith's head to ask him.
Every one who had been invited came. The
evening was all that could be desired, even for fire-
w^orks. Miss Clay was installed at the head of one
table, and Miss Hunt led to another. Would Miss
Tolleton take the third ? Miss Carry ToUeton did.
Helen had waived the position to her sister when
Mr Smith came to make the final arrangements.
She now took a seat quite in the background, busy-
268 MR SMITH:
ing herself among empty cups and saucers, and
apparently desirous of nothing but being useful.
" Do you see how quiet Helen is ? " whispered Mrs
Hunt to Clare. " She is quite neglected, poor thing.
Now Mr Smith, do sit down here, and rest yourself
for a minute. You have been on your feet all even-
ing. Let Maria give you a good cup of tea to
Mr Smith, with a vivid recollection of Maria's tea,
hastily declined the second proposal, though he so
far acceded to the first as to occupy the vacant seat
beside her for a few minutes. Mrs Hunt's indicat-
ing finger came back to her bread-and-butter, and she
looked serenely satisfied.
Not so her victim. He was restless. He
did not wish to get stuck there. He ought to look
after his other guests. He wondered what Miss
Tolleton was doing behind the door.
Why was she, so eminently fitted to grace the
front, hid in the background ? He longed to go and
see, but it was some time before he could. He was
wanted here, he was wanted there. Was there to
be more ale drawn ? Was the great set piece to be
in front of the drawing-room or the dining-room
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 269
window? Mr Bowling liad not left out a certain
key. Mr Smith had to see to many things in Bow-
ling's department. His old butler had been ill, and
was getting a holiday.
When at length he did find himself behind the
pantiy door, a passing word was all that he could
" I am quite happy here, thank you. There is so
much to be done, and it is delightful to be really of
use. You have plenty of assistants in the room, and
some one is needed here."
" But why should it be you ? " There was a flat-
tering emphasis on the words.
" Because I like it," with cheerful decision. " How
well everything is going off ! So many happy faces !
Oh do go away now, you are so dreadfully in the
way here ! "
So laughing, she drove him off; but it was enough,
his reluctance was evident.
Lily, however, was still less pleased with her
sister's obscurity. "You have hardly even shown
yourself in the room, and Mrs Hunt thinks she is
carrying all before her."
" That is just what she ought to think, my dear."
270 MR SMITH:
"But you have never had a word from Mr
" Indeed I have ; he has just been here, and I sent
" What did you do that for ? "
" Because I didn't want him ā just now."
" And how does he like your shutting yourself up
"ISTot at all. I never supposed he would. I
rather intended him not to like it. You have no
idea how much good this will do him."
*' Well, but do you mean it to go on all evening ? "
" That depends. All tea-time certainly. By-and-
by, perhaps, I may better myself, as the servants
say. Do you know who is going to show off the
magic-lantern ? "
"Yes; a Mr Bohns, a German. He has come
down on purpose. I have just been talking to him,
ā that man with the beard. Why do you want to
know ? "
" I did not wish it to be Mr Smith, thaTwas all.'*
Lily was swept away. More empty cups and
saucers had to be deposited, and she could no longe
fill up the narrow doorway.
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 2/1
When the time for exhibiting the magic-lantern
arrived, however, she remembered what Helen had
said, and looked round for her. Some project she
had in her mind certainly.
But Helen was nowhere to be seen. Was it pos-
sible that she had stayed behind with those stupid
cups and saucers, and never even come into the
room where the show was ? So it appeared. But the
room was nearly dark, and she could not be certain.
Her height alone must mark her coming in with the
others, and there was a good deal of confusion ere all
Suddenly the light was altogether obscured, and
she heard a low voice close behind her say, ā " Xo,
thank you; this will do perfectly." How in the
world had she got there ? She must have been one
of the first to enter. But, then, how had she been
unobserved ? And where was the end of this retire-
ment any more than the other ? It was carrying it
too far ā unless, indeed in the first flash of light
Avhich followed, she, looking round, dimly discerned
her sister, and, beside her, Mr Smith.
The light was so confined to the further end of the
room, that only to one already half prepared, could
272 MR SMITH:
they have been distinguishable. Helen had shown
herself all Helen again.
Great and enduring was her sister's satisfaction.
There they were ā the embryo lovers ā safely enscon-
ced behind all the faces, half concealed by the heavy
curtain ā she, barely visible, he, still deeper in the
shade. When there was light in the room, every eye
was on the white sheet, with its startling, curious, and
comic apparitions. In the dark intervals, all was
buzz and bustle ; every tongue wagging, and no ear
intent on what might be going on so close at hand,
that it must be innocent.
That the rest of the company believed their host
to be engaged among the exhibitors, was evident.
Mrs Hunt still retained her illuminated face ;
and Mr Eodney made complimentary remarks, loud
enough for those on the other side of the screen to
Long and loud was the applause which greeted
each succeeding scene. The rustics, well plied with
good cheer ā ale and porter ā (tea had been only for
their wives) elbowed each other for the front. Joan
forgot her awe of Madam, and laid a hand upon her
knee. Miss Clay allowed herself to be leant upon,
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 2/3
knelt upon, kneaded into shape, pressed and dirtied
by a crew of confiding little ones. Dr Hunt, attempt-
ing to make his way through the throng at the door,
was fairly told he must remain where he was.
He had the sense to take the prohibition in good
part. The men knew him, and he them. To-morrow
they would recognise all his title to observance ; but
this was their night ā this was their entertainment ā
they were equal to anything and anybody. He un-
derstood the case, and gave in with good-humour. A
sight of his wife's face, and a reassuring nod from her,
further helped his patience.
She was seated in the front row, Maria by her
side ; and the nod was intended to let him know that
all was right in that quarter. It was not till after-
wards, however, that she could whisper, ā
" Oh, my dear, I wish you had been here ! The
tea was really magnificent, and Maria quite ā Mr
Smith was at her table constantly. I don't think he