sat down by Miss Clay once."
Meantime, Helen had not forgotten her intention
of making Miss Clay's acquaintance. When the
magic-lantern display was over, the first tiling Lily
274 MR SMITH;
saw was her sister — emerged from her corner, no one
could tell how — in the act of bowing to Miss Clay —
Mr Smith having just introduced them.
Miss Clay was looking a little uncomfortable, and
assenting shyly to Miss Tolleton's graceful nothings.
Immediately after, Mr Smith was seized on by the
German, desirous of explaining some mistake in the
programme, and no one ever discovered that they
had not been together during the whole exhibition.
Everybody was now eager to get out of doors.
" Such a night for fireworks," Mr Tolleton obser^' ed
repeatedly, he did not remember to have seen since
the last night he had had the good fortune to see fire-
works. To this he received different replies. Some
had never seen really good fireworks in their lives.
Some had had fireworks themselves, now and then,
in a small way. Some had never seen fireworks
without rain ; and some never but in favourable
weather. Each had his own experience to give, and
no one listened to that of his neighbour.
Mrs Hunt hoped that Mr Smith was not thinking
of letting off any of the fireworks himself. She was
sure it was too cold a night for him to be walking
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 275
about on the wet grass. There were plenty of others
whom it wouhl do no harm to. He had much better
stay quietly \vith the ladies in the drawing-room.
For her part, she meant to get into the bow-window,
where she was sure she should see everything that
there was to be seen. She then summoned Maria ;
but to her amazement, to her almost unbelieving
satisfaction, Maria declined to come. She was going
out with Mr Smith to inspect some of the pieces.
Mr Smith had asked her ; the others were going, too,
and they had all got galoshes.
Mrs Hunt said not another word about the wet
The party set out. Helen and Miss Clay first ; the
younger Miss Tolletons, one on each side of the
resigned curate ; Clare Hunt, her father, and several
waifs and strays of young men, all in a bunch ; and
Mr Smith — oh happy moment ! — Mr Smith and
Maria last of all.
Mrs Hunt saw them file past — saw Helen leading
the way with the shy stranger girl, and her sisters
hemming in the curate, and felt a contemptuous pity
for their fate.
276 MR SMITH:
" They were obliged to take up with the Eodney
set, you know," said she, afterwards.
Her present observations, however, had to be for
Miss Bain — that Miss Bain whom Helen Tolleton
had selected as a suitable wife for Mr Smith, when
he first came amongst them.
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 2//
THE MISS BAINS.
The Miss Bains, for there were two of them, were
spinsters of a certain age, who, to use the hackneyed
phrase, had seen better days.
This, at least, they constantly affirmed themselves.
They lived in a small hothouse in Eastworld, whose
dingy rooms, with their low ceilings and unopened
windows, had a faint pervading smell as of gas
They kept a large, lean dog, without whose attend-
ance they seldom walked out, and who was supposed
to find his meals in this way. No one, at least,
had ever seen him fed otherwise. Their tables,
chairs, and mantelpieces were encumbered with
relics ; and heirlooms of strangely little value were
to be found in plenty. Their money appeared to be
scarce ; but they had all the remembrance of it.
2yS MR SMITH:
In their appearance the sisters harmonised equally
little with the usual ideas of clean, tidy, trim, old-
maidenhood. When caught in their morning attire,
they were slovens, whom one felt ought hardly to be
looked at. When dressed for company, they pre-
sented a fantastic mixture of grandeur and disease.
Everything they wore was magnificent, but smitten.
Their gowns were grease-stained and frayed ; their
silk stockings had holes ; their laces were crumpled ;
and their jewels chiefly consisted of settings without
They had come to the feast in all these decayed
splendours, and were now sitting in the bow- window,
listening while Mrs Hunt descanted on ^Ir Smith.
"Such a host as he makes, does he not. Miss
Lydia ? So thoughtful for everybody ! Such prepa-
rations ! Fires in all the rooms, and no stint of any-
thing ! Do you know, I really believe there is a
cold supper laid out in the library ! The man went
in with a trayful of glasses as we came past the
door ; and I just caught sight of it through tlie
opening — jellies, turkey, and all!"
" You don't say so, Mrs Hunt ? Well, that really
is too much. Dear me ! I thought we had done very
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 279
well, as it was. Maria gave me two cups of excellent
tea, and Mr Smith himself made me taste the pud-
ding. I can't say but what I was glad to get a bittie,
for you know we dine early. And then, as we
didn't know exactly what to expect, we just took a
snatch, instead of our regular meal, meaning to wait
and see. If there hadn't been anything else, you
know, we could have done uncommonly well ; but if
there had, it would have been a pity to spoil it. And
really when I got the pudding I needed nothing
extra. Dear me, a supper ! This is really treating
us like princes ! "
"Bachelors are always the best of entertainers,"
rejoined the doctor's wife. " If he goes on like this,
we shall all get so selfish we shan't want him ever to
change his state, I'm afraid."
" No, that we shan't ! " cried the other little old
lady, with some eagerness. (People should have no
handle for suspecting her and Lyddy of opposite
desires.) ''We shall not indeed. He is a deal
better as .he is. Dear me ! We shouldn't have been
half as comfortable here to-night if there had been a
" That depends, of course, on who the lady was,"
28o MR smith:
rejoined Mrs Hunt, a little shortly. " To be sure, if
Mr Smith ever does take it into his head to marry,
and he's just at the age when many a man does, he
would have every right to be particular."
" Oh, but I should say he was far too comfortable,"
put in Miss Lyddy. " Not but what I have heard a
lady spoken of." (Mrs Hunt's heart gave a great
throb.) " And one who would well become the posi-
tion too. A grand lady of the Hill she would make.
But dear ! I say, if there had been anything in it, for
certain she would have been here to-night. Is it
likely she would not have come, or that he would
have neglected to ask her ? No, no ; there's no truth
in that tale, we may depend upon it.'*
" You're mysterious. Miss Lydia," said the doctor's
wife, with a little quivering laugh. "Pray let us
first hear what the tale is. It has never reached my
ears, I can tell you. I thought we had ladies enough
here to-night. There is hardly one left in Eastworld,
with the exception of poor Mrs Eodney, who is
always out of luck when there's anything going on."
" Very true. Poor thing, so she is ! But as for
the other, she's not an Eastworld lady yet, Mrs
Hunt, though maybe we shall see her one some of
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 28 1
these days. It's best not to name names. Who's in
that window ? " in a loud voice. " Anybody there ? "
No voice responding, she resumed her confidential
" It's best to be cautious when one can't see round
the room. I got into such a pucker once through
neslectincf that, it has been a lesson to me ever since.
'Melia and I were staying with Jane Bond. Jane is
our father's cousin, you know, on the English side, so
of course we keep up the connection. Well, you
know Jane's house. It's all queer twists and corners
and holes in the wall. One never feels safe in it, at
least I'm sure I never do, now. This was the story.
One day when we had been there about a week, I
went into the parlour, and seeing, as I thought, only
'Melia sitting by the table ; ' 'Melia,' says I, * I do
think that beard of Jane's is growing. It's as big as
many a lad's that calls for shaving-water.' And
'Melia she gave such a cough, and look at me, and
there was Jane in the window ! W^ell, you know, I
might have said worse. And very thankful I felt I
hadn't gone on longer. But, for all that, I've never
been asked there since, although Jane made believe
she didn't mind, and we got over it as weU as we
282 MR SMITH:
could at the time. But it has just made me careful
ever since, how I name names in a room one can't see
all round at once. Who's there ? " diving her head
forward beyond the curtain, and listening.
As the silence was unbroken, the other sister took
up the narrative.
" Jane has never been quite the same to us since.
She thinks we don't observe, but for all she sends
us bits of letters, and a goose at Christmas, there's
a difference. It might have been fancy, but we
thought we had never eaten a goose as hard as we
got last year. Perhaps there won't be one at all
this. That would be a fine story. We have had our
regular goose every Christmas these ten years. But
no doubt it was a foolish thing of Lyddy to do, and
she's sensible of it. The last time we asked Jane
here, she took the invitation very high, and showed
she had no will to come."
"People often pay dear for mistakes, especially
from imprudence," said Mrs Hunt, sententiously.
" One can't be careful enougli. But there's nobody
here for certain to-night, Miss Lydia, and I think
you might just "
" Oh dear — dear — dear me ! That is masjnificent !
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 283
Where is it ? Where is it gone ? " cried Miss Lyddy,
straining her neck after the first rocket. " How it
made me jump ! So that was the beginning, I sup-
pose. But they'll surely not be all like that. No,
no ; the rest are further off, that's right. Well, I —
that was perfectly — oh, Mrs Hunt, don't lose the
sight ! There they are ! There they go ! See, see !
One after another! 'Melia, look! My certy ! I'm
thankful I'm safe indoors ! What if any one should
be killed ! But the doctor's here, that's a comfort.
There he is, too ! There they all are, as plain as a
pikestaff ! Maria's white frock as blue as blue can
be in that queer light. Oh, Mrs Hunt, do you think
it's safe ? Do you not think the girls would be bet-
ter in the house, now that it's all begun ? We can
call to them, you know\ I declare I think we ought."
Mrs Hunt, however, arrested her hand.
" There's no fear, Miss Lydia ; their father is with
them. Make your mind easy, Mr Smith will take
good care that nothing happens. Now you must
really tell me what it was about Mr Smith and "
" Whew ! That was a dandy ! That was a — how
it made me jump ! Good gracious, 'Melia, I'm all in
a tremble ! What do they have them so near the
284 MR SMITH:
house for ? " cried the excitable creature, as a Roman
candle shot off within, as she averred, a yard of her
elbow. " If I had only brought my smelling-bottle ;
but the last time it was used we couldn't get the
cork out. "What a pity it should be left behind!
If any one did, you know This really is
Whew! There's another! I'm sure I don't know
whether Bless me ! "
" Don't be alarmed, Lyddy," said the calmer 'Melia,
whose voice was only a little tremulous ; " it's start-
ling, but not dangerous, I'm told. Look at those
faces under the tree. There's old Butts and his
Jemima, as pleased as possible. Poor Jemima was
sadly afraid she would have to give it up to-night,
her cough has been so troublesome. Such nights as
she has, poor soul ! But there she stands, and seems
to have forgotten all about it. I shall shake my
finger at her, though. She ought to come in."
No notice was taken of the finger, wliich was, in
fact, quite invisible to the threatened Jemima.
"Ah! she'll pay for it by-and-by," said 'Melia,
with a sense of justice. " Foolish thing * she's
coughing at this moment. Well, IVe done all I
could ; she must stand on her own feet ; the
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 285
blame's not mine. Bless me ! who is that wild-
looking — why, it's our Harry ! I do declare I might
have guessed till midsummer ! Who would have
thought of Harry ? "
" And there's Bullett, like a great cannibal king ! "
cried Lyddy, with rather a happy hit. " One would
hardly know Bullett without his blue apron, if it
weren't for Oh, look, he's holding up little
Tommy, poor little soul ! I didn't know Tommy was
here to-night. I must really find them out after-
wards. I suppose Bullett supplied the meat,
"And there's Mr Smith and Maria — and the
rest," added Mrs Hunt, whose eyes had all this time
been wandering among the different groups in search
of them. What was Jemima, or Bullett, or any one
else to her, compared with these two great orbs in
her heavens ? She had not listened to a word of
the old ladies' exclamations. " There they all are !
Close at hand, now. Miss Lydia, under the great
oak. There now, at your left — don't you see them,
the whole party ? "
" I see them ; I see them now, Mrs Hunt. Dear
me ! how strange they do look ! Maria quite pic-
286 MR SMITH:
turesque. Which are the rest ? Ah I there's Helen
ToUeton, graceful creature ! She's holding the stick.
What for, I wonder ? Did you ever she was as
close to it as I am to you ! "
Helen had held the rocket for Mr Smith to fire ;
and when the display was over, she walked with him
through the shrubber}^ back to the house. Thus
much she permitted him. By her contrivance Maria
had by far the greater share of his attentions. He
himself did not discover this. Lily did, and it
amused her. Of the others, those most interested
noted it with inward rapture, the rest were other-
Maria Hunt was not supposed to be a captivating
All suspicion, however, was diverted from the
ToUetons. Mrs Hunt took Helen under her wing,
and hoped she had not got her pretty dress spoilt ;
while the doctor said it was more important that
she had not got her pretty throat sore.
Tor his part he expected to call at every house
next day, after such a mad escapade. He was in
such good humour, that he absolutely talked
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 287
Mr Smith had been easily managed. He was
thinking chiefly of his guests and their enjoyment ;
a little of Miss Tolleton, and not at all of Miss
Hunt. How she was so often by his side, it had
not occurred to him to wonder. She was too in-
But he had wondered a little — he had felt a little
hurt with Helen. She appeared to be keeping out
of his way. Could he have offended her ? She had
never been more gracious, more winning, than when
they sat together in the dark corner, while the magic-
lantern was going on. He had reckoned on her
walking with him, and she had sped off with Miss
He had asked her to come and inspect some ar-
rangement, and she had come, but Miss Clay was
with her. Then, when he wanted some one to hold
his rocket, she had stepped forward, as the rest hung
back. He had thanked her gravely, and she had
walked home by his side. She kept him in a per-
The entertainment, however, was drawing to a
close. He must clear his mind from all personal
thoughts. !N'one must feel neglected or overlooked.
288 MR SMITH:
They were summoned to collect around the front
door. The ladies assembled inside the hall, and Mr
Rodney stepped forward to deliver the short address
which he had prepared. It was not much of an
address, but it did what was wanted. It sobered,
softened the exhilarated party; and even those in
whose hearts it found no ready echo, listened with
respectful toleration. " Rodney, he's a good chap,
and a pity he warn't rector." And then they cheered
loudly, and began to move slowly off in groups,
towards the village.
Little Tommy had fallen asleep, and Jemima's
cough made itself heard as they went by. The whole
air was impregnated with tobacco. The sides of the
walks were sadly injured.
Mr Smith, however, stood with uncovered head,
and serene brow, happy in the happiness he had
given ; nor would he allow the hall-door to be
closed until the last step retreated down the avenue.
The supper which ]\Irs Himt had so cleverly dis-
covered was then announced ; and the party, disen-
cumbered of their wraps, and with smoothed hair and
glowing cheeks, adjourned to the other room.
A PART OF Ills LIFE. 2S9
One other discovery Mrs Hunt had made. She
could not have slept in her bed that night otherwise.
She had forced from Miss Lyddy's lips the name of
the Lady who was spoken of as the possible mistress
of the Hill.
290 MR SMITH:
THE END OF THE FEAST.
"May I sit by you?" said Helen to Miss Clay,
as the party arranged themselves round the supper-
There had been no formal going in — every one went
as they chose. Miss Clay had taken a seat about the
middle of the table, exactly underneath the chande-
lier. A more brilliant-looking creature than Helen
ToUeton, as she emerged from the doorway, and took
the chair beside her in this centre of light and radi-
ance, could hardly have been imagined. Her pale
face was lit up by the excitement and the evening
air. She had come forth from her chrysalis state of
obscurity and retirement, and spread her wings —
the gay, triumphant butterfly.
Who but she could have taken the scarlet bouquet
from her place, and inserted it so suddenly, so
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 29I
coqnettislily, among her dark coils? Who but she
kept up that fire of fun and repartee with old Bartlett
the banker ; turned the wretched head of the red-
haired clerk ; and made even the gentle curate confide
afterwards in the safe, true, loving, wifely ear, which
received all his secrets, that he had admired, though
he could not approve ?
Mr Smith was even startled.
He broke off twice in the middle of his conversa-
tion with the banker's wife, and let a whole sentence
of Mrs Hunt's fall unheeded to the ground, while he
stared at Helen.
What was she doing down there ? How had she
the power, go as low as she would, to make that place
a centre ? Here again she had slid beyond his reach ;
and though no longer hid in a corner, though rather
the cynosure of all eyes, yet not shining for him.
It made him discontented. He could see the eyes
bent upon her, the listening heads, the stolen glances,
returning more and more frequently. He could hear
the loud applause of the older men, and note the
more meaning silence of the younger. He even fan-
cied, but this might have been merely a fancy, that a
cloud, a depression, a change of some sort, had come
292 MR SMITH:
over the faces of those who were not bowing to the
Some of his lady guests looked grave.
Mrs Hunt too had lost her animation. Although
Lyddy Bain, who was a stupid creature, and one that
never could see half a yard in front of her, might put
no faith in the story she was herself promulgating,
Mrs Hunt, who piqued herself on the accuracy of
her perceptions, and more especially on the length
of her vision, could not feel so easy on the sub-
She had been all her life gifted with powers of
discernment. She could always tell events that
were likely to take place long before any one else
had dreamt of them. She knew things before people
knew them themselves. In short, to listen to her,
she was a prophet arisen in the later days.
The name Lyddy had whispered was that of ]Miss
Fulton ; and so much had Lyddy heard of ]\Ir
Smith's being at the Hall, and of the Admiral's
attentions, and Miss Fulton's suitability, that it was
poor consolation to Mrs Hunt to find that her only
grounds for disbelief consisted in the lady's absence
from the feast.
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 293
" If she had been here, you know, it would have
been as clear as day," said she.
Now there were twenty reasons why Miss Fulton
should not be there. For one thing, the Fultons gave
themselves airs. For the sake of ten thousand a-
year, and a husband of her own age, jNIiss Fulton
might consent to be Mr Smith's wife, but she had
never yet mixed with the Eastworld people. The
Tolletons alone, of all present, had her acquaintance.
Mrs Hunt did not know how fast that acquaintance
was being withered up, under the blight of Lady
Sauffrenden's frown. It w^as possible — more than
possible — that if Miss Fulton had been invited, she
had excused herself.
She was not a rival to be despised. She was only
too formidable. As she looked at Maria, Maria now
faded into insignificance, dull and overlooked by
every one, the old feeling of dissatisfaction arose
It was this, and not Helen Tolleton's shining sun-
light, which caused her to look thoughtful.
Still she made a good supper. She was deter-
mined to have nothing to regret, in looking back
upon that well-filled board.
294 MR SMITH:
She took lobster, knowing that the doctor would
have frowned upon her; and turned her head the
other way while her second glass of champagne was
being poured out.
She would just get one word with Lyddy before
they went away.
Lyddy, however, had more important things on
"Just see, Mrs Hunt, was there ever anything
more tiresome ? I had pinned the napkin all round,
and thought it was as safe as could be. My best
dress ! The Macbain tartan ! It's always the way
whenever we put them on. If there's a spot of oil,
or wine, or tea, or anything that won't come out, it
always happens that it's on the Macbain tartans. I
declare, I think we must just lock them by, or they'll
be spoilt altogether. Eh ? What did you say ? "
For Mrs Hunt had at length contrived to edge in
her remark about Miss Fulton.
"Miss Fulton? Oh, Mrs Bartlett tells me I'm
quite mistaken, and, to her certain knowledge, !Mis3
Fulton would never look at him. There's somebody
else Yes, indeed, Miss Clay. I do think every-
body has. It would be a shame, I'm sure, if they
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 295
hadn't. It's many a day since I have been at any-
thing so grand, at any rate. 'Melia, do look here.
Shall I put on cold water at once ? I dabbed my
handkerchief in at table, but I have not put it on
yet. What do you think ? "
" You had better leave it till you get home, and
try benzine," recommended Mrs Hunt. " Who was
the somebody else. Miss Lydia ? "
" Benzine ? " said Lyddy, looking round as if ex-
pecting to see it. " But I doubt that we haven't
any. Besides, do you think it would be safe ? "
"Perfectly safe on a good silk like that." Mrs
Hunt was bent on propitiating. " But I'll tell you
what I'll do : I'll bring in my bottle to-morrow
morning early, and rub it in myself. If benzine
won't take it out, nothing will"
It was no use trying to get anything further out of
Lyddy that night ; she must take her quietly next
By twelve o'clock supper was over, and the great
business of cloaking, bonneting, hatting, going on.
Helen, the vivid rose-colour still in her cheek,
came up with her sisters to make their adieux. They
were the first to depart. Their host was surrounded
296 MR SMITH:
on every side. The few frank words of thanks for
their pleasant evening, were spoken in the hearing of
all who chose to listen.
Miss Bain's gratitude was much more humble,
Mrs Hunt's infinitely more complimentary.
Mr Eodney spoke warmly on behalf of the parish ;
and Mr Bartlett, who had been listening to him, did
his best to continue in the same strain.
All agreed that the evening had passed off to ad-
miration. Even Bullett, the grumbling butcher, as
he made out his bill for the rounds and sirloins, was
won over so far as to modify his complaint into the
generous desire that so deserving a gentleman should
have been blest with a family.
After the feast there was a period of stagnation in
Christmas was coming, and every one was saving
up for Christmas. The Sauffrendens, it is true,
dined once at Fulton Hall, — Mr Smith having been
asked to meet them. But Mr Smith was not there ;
and the Admiral, with his usual adjui'ation, declared
he was the slipperiest eel to basket he had ever met
with. Cornelia had no notion of lauding him herself,
and he couldn't work with another person's tackle.
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 297
The plague of it was, that all the time, he had to
be so mincingly particular in what he said ; for if
Corny once took it into that fly-away head of hers
that there was anything in the wind, she would be
off like a shot.
No glimmer of his common-sense was therefore to
reach her foolish mind. He must keep it close, close.
To the Sauffrendens he merely observed that their
new neighbour appeared to shut himself up pretty