this tremendous blunder, at the time the autumn
manoeuvres were going on, and had stopped two de-
clarations, and spoilt a farewell ; at least it was in
consequence of the belief that he had, that he had
been admonished on the subject.
The girls always told their visitors that the tea
was just coming up, but it never appeared till they
rang for it. " Making it that wash," the indignant
butler declared, that he wondered " they could swally
it down their throats." He was not allowed, we must
explain, to pour the boiling water into the pot till the
summons came. Helen, in giving the order, had in-
formed him that they did not like their tea to stand,
but good care was taken nevertheless that it did
stand a very reasonable time in the drawing-room.
Afternoon-tea at Freelands was a great time.
When the autumn manoeuvres were going on it was
usually held out of doors, and every day there were
swarms in attendance. But after all, even with the
Il6 MR SMITH:
addition of peaches and nectarines, the cosy meal was
scarcely more pleasant out of doors than in the
house. There were plenty of little shady nooks in
the drawing-room, that did just as weU as the out-of-
the-way seats in the shrubbery ; and if there were
peaches in the autumn, and strawberries and cream
in the summer, there were muffins in the winter.
A few minutes after the bell rang, Corker might
be heard in the passage. A clink and jingle might
perhaps be heard likewise, giving rise to immediate
and premature hopes. Then the door would fly
open, and our friend appear, to the astonishment of
novices, empty-handed. Stepping up to a comer in
the wall, he would draw thence a curious combination
of legs, which was instantly and under your very
eyes transformed into a table — a low oblong table.
From the same recess another bundle of legs sprang
into another table. A third time the process was
gone through, and the three, forming a triangle,
stood waiting. A shining tea-service on a shining
tray was then deposited on one ; a mass of harlequin
cups and saucers of the most delicate and suggestive
colours on another; and cake, biscuits, bread and
butter, and muffins, on the last.
A PART OF HIS LIFE. II7
For about ten minutes no one would take any
notice, and the muffins would have been ruined had
they not had their own private application of hot
It depended then very much on who was of the
company, which sister took charge of the tea-table.
On the afternoon in question Helen rose, and
poured out a delicious cup, frothy with cream, for
Mr Smith. She next supplied him with a hot brown
muffin, crisp and tender, and guiltless of grease, and
finally drew a stand to his elbow to place the cup and
plate upon. He was not allowed to do anything
himself — " it was against the law of the house."
Her father had next to be attended to. Mr Tol-
leton's taking tea was according as his daughters gave
it him, or not. If there were many to be attended
to, he went without. On the present occasion, how-
ever, he was to be honoured, and, second to none but
the principal guest, obtained a cup which, if not
quite so superabundantly frothy, was still excellent,
and Helen quite the attentive daughter.
The next was for herself, but as she poured it out
she called to Lily to know why she did not come
and give Captain Wellwood his tea.
Il8 MR SMITH:
By this Lily knew the coast was clear, and Philip
got his tea — but alas ! there was no froth on his
Helen helped herself to a corner of muffin, and
carrying it off on the saucer of her cup, again took
her seat on the footstool.
She had forgiven her father for his untimely inter-
ruption, and joined in the conversation graciously.
After all, it was not probable that they would have
been long undisturbed, as Captain Wellwood did not
return to the window after getting his tea, but stood
upon the rug. He was quite capable, if he had
chosen to do so, of quitting the other sisters even
without any special excuse, not standing on much
ceremony either with Carry or Lily. Helen thought
he very likely would have come up at any rate.
Poor fellow ! He did not like her neglecting him, it
was evident. Therefore she threw the deserted one
a smile, and a word or two, every now and then over
her shoulder; so much, she felt, friendship required
of her. The rest of herself she might devote to Mr
Papa's conversation began to flag, and she was
afraid that Mr Smith would go. But ^Mr Smith,
A PART OF HIS LIFE. II9
feeling very happy where he was, and perceiving that
nobody wished him to go, stayed.
Then Mr Tolleton came out brilliantly. His con-
versation had only declined because he was revolving
in his mind the one subject on which he had entire
liberty to act for himself, and that was inviting
people to dinner. As a rule, his daughters liked
having people to dinner, and, from long experience,
he had grown so sharp about knowing what people
they would especially like, that they now allowed
him unrestrained powers of action. He knew they
would like Mr Smith ; and during the time he had
appeared inattentive, he had been reckoning the
weeks since his mother's death, to see if he could
with decency invite him.
When the invitation was given, Helen's face told
him he had come to a right conclusion.
But Mr Smith was very sorry, for Friday he was
engaged. One person, who knew as much before,
expected to hear him say where. People do, you
know. If they are only going to dine with Jones,
there may be no occasion to mention it ; but if they
are engaged to the Castle, or the Park, or the
Manor-House, it is more polite to say so.
120 MR SMITH:
Mr Smith, however, apparently thought otherwise.
The invitation was then renewed and altered.
There was to be no party, they could not have
parties just then, being in mourning ; he was at
liberty to fix his own day ; any day would suit, it
was all the same to them, as there would be nobody
there but himself, unless it were Captain Wellwood ;
if Captain Wellwood would kindly join them.
Here Helen's face did not show quite so plainly
as before that he was on the right tack, but she saw
it was inevitable. With Captain Wellwood standing
by, and unable to pretend he was not listening, since
there was no one for him to talk to, it was impos-
sible to avoid including him in the invitation.
Would Saturday suit Mr Smith? Mr Smith
would prefer Monday, if it really were quite the
same to Mr Tolleton. He seldom dined out on
Saturdays ; he liked his servants to have that even-
ing quiet. Monday would do just as well, and
Monday was the day.
Captain Wellwood accepted his invitation like-
wise. Friday excepted, he had no engagements
All was thus happily arranged, and, as it appeared,
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 121
just in time. Philip had barely made his bow, the
" Very happy" was absolutely on his lips, when the
door opened, and Corker, with an immovable coun-
tenance, announced Mrs Hunt and the Miss Hunts.
He then proceeded instantly in search of empty
cups ; but the new arrivals being only ladies, and, as
he contemptuously described them, "the doctor set,"
he contented himself with ostentatiously carrying
out the muffin-dish, and not bringing it in again.
In Mrs Hunt's face there was a look of demoniacal
glee. It was dreadful to find Mr Smith there, but
it was delightful to catch him in the act. In the
same moment that she noted Helen on the footstool,
she thanked her stars that she had made Maria close
up her jacket, and put on a clean necktie.
Helen rose from her low seat with neither hurry
nor confusion in her air. Her lithe figure was made
for these ascents and descents. Just touching the
arm of the easy-chair with the tips of her fingers, she
rose at once to her feet, erect and graceful, welcomed
her visitors with cordiality, and named Captain
Wellwood with politeness.
It was always said that this girl knew wonderfully
well how to behave when she chose.
122 MR SMITH:
Tor Mrs Hunt she provided the same sort of chair
from which Mr Smith had risen, and prevailed on
him to reseat himself. Placed the chair close beside
his, made Maria take up the position from which
Carry had been routed, and drew Clare into the
proximity of Captain Wellwood. There was nothing
any one of them could complain of
Then Corker brought in the teapot afresh, and
when Miss Tolleton saw no muffin-dish, she knew
what he meant.
The tea was still good, and though there was no
trace of froth on the cream, there was cream. Mrs
Hunt could have enjoyed it and her rich cake very
comfortably, if it had not been for one thing. Maria
was so placed that all the light there was, fell
through the window directly on her head. Now,
unfortunately, Maria had that day been endeavour-
ing, for some time unsuccessfully, and at length
with only very partial success, to twist her hair into
the new-fashioned coils which Helen Tolleton
assured her were just coming into vogue.
Helen's own sleek hair was twisted round and
round her head, and crept down the back of her
neck in these coils — soft, glossy, black coils — and
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 123
Mr Smith had admired them very much in the
But Maria's hair was neither black nor glossy,
nor was it sufficiently abundant for any but a very
experienced hand to have fashioned into coils at all.
The consequence was, that in most places the frizettes
beneath were altogether laid bare; and that where
this was not the case, they were only covered by
thin streaks of hair, few and far between, and that
hair being of a light sandy hue, very distinguishable
from the framework.
Sitting where she did, this was not only perceiv-
able to the mother's eye, but she saw that it was
obtruded on the notice of Mr Smith. Mr Smith
could not help seeing it ; and, in fact, he was at that
very moment contrasting it with the other head so
lately beside his chair.
Mrs Hunt coughed, fidgeted, and thought what she
could do to displace her daughter. The fire was too
hot for her ? But there was the glass screen. She
was crumbling her cake ? But the last morsel was
being swallowed. Maria was as impenetrable as
Cany had been immovable. Her mother saw there
was nothing for it but to let her alone.
124 ^^R SMITH:
Maria was in great force. Perfectly unconscious
of anything objectionable, she drank her tea, sim-
pered small observations to Mr Smith, and had in
truth no eyes for any one in the room but Captain
What a magnificent man ! What a lover, what a
^r^ husband! She and Clare had seen him in church,
and met him out of doors ; and envied the Tolletons,
who spoke to him and danced with him.
But the Tolletons knew that Captain Wellwood
did not reciprocate their gently-hinted aspirations,
and had therefore taken no notice of them. Now,
the introduction had been unavoidable, and Maria
- '"-was in a fever of delight.
^if"*'' She was rewarded now for her pains and trouble,
and the aching arms her long business of the toilet
had cost her ; and was only a little jealous of Clare,
who was taking her teacup out of Captain Well-
wood's own hand. Captain Wellwood, when sum-
moned, had unwillingly been obliged to convey one
cup, but he had not gone back for another. He
yawned, and looked rude and bored, and allowed
Lily to give Maria hers.
But what did Maria see of that ? Would he speak
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 12$
to her ? Would he notice her ? Did he, or did he
not, admire Helen 1
Helen had disposed of the last question before,
with word sto this effect : " My dear child, he is as
poor as a church mouse. He never thinks of me, nor
I of him." But Maria could not so easily dismiss it ;
it was too much to her now.
Meantime there was something in her mother's
mind which she earnestly desired to accomplish,
but yet had hardly courage for. There was nothing
in the thing itself to take away her courage, but
there was much in the fact that she wanted so very
much to do it.
If Maria would only keep her head out of the
light, and if the others would only talk a little more
among themselves, she thought, however, she cordd
screw up her courage. Then the light did fall away
from Maria's head, and the others did begin to talk
a little more generally, and Mrs Hunt summoned
aU her wits, and bolted out with — an invitation to
dinner, and Friday was again the day.
At the very worst moment, just when the little
speech was far enough advanced to admit of no with-
drawal, the other tongues ceased, and the end of it
126 MR SMITH:
was distinctly heard by all. She knew it, and knew
that her voice faltered as she named the day ; but the
thing was done, come what might, and if the invita-
tion were accepted, she cared not who heard it given,
Mr Smith was again very sorry, but (as the others
already knew) he was engaged beforehand.
Mrs Hunt's face fell, and her colour rose.
She had not the slightest doubt that his engage-
ment was to the house he was now in. It was all as
she had prophesied. It was already a gone case.
There was a general hush. Captain Wellwood
expected that now Mr Smith would surely tell where
he was going, and the ToUetons listened anxiously in
case he did so.
The hush, however, remained unbroken, and in
spite of himself Philip recognised a certain nobility
in the trifling fact. If no one would tell, he would.
He wanted to ^ee what Mr Smith would say. " I
shall meet you at Saufifrenden, I believe ? " said he.
Then Mr Smith owned such to be the case ; and
what a commotion the intelligence wrought among
all that planetary circle which had chosen him for
their sun ! It was as if a brilliant destructive comet
had rushed into their midst.
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 1 27
No one had thought of Sauffrenden. Helen,
although she knew that he had been there, had
not thought of it. She wondered at herself, but
she was pleased nevertheless. If — if anything did
come of it, this would certainly rank as an advan-
tage. However little the Sauffrendens might care to
visit Mr Tolleton's daughter, they would be on terms
with Mr Smith's wife. Mrs Hunt, too, was tolerably
well pleased. Going to Sauffrenden was infinitely
better than going to Freelands ; and if Maria would
only keep that frightful head turned the other way
— she was gathering up her courage afresh, but the
absolute silence among the other planets awed her.
Captain Well wood, having dragged the subject, as
it were, neck and heels into the conversation, sud-
denly left it to shift for itself. He had seen how Mr
Smith received it, and that was all he wanted. Mr
Smith had behaved like a gentleman. He was a
jolly old boy, and he began to see why Lady Sauf-
frenden liked him.
But Mr Smith was not so well pleased with
Philip. He did not see why the subject should have
been brought in, and was annoyed that one which he
already had begun to suspect was not agreeable to
128 MR SMITH:
his entertainers should have been forced upon them.
He was therefore silent, like the rest.
Helen was the first to recover herself. " How is
Lady Sauffrenden ? " said she, turning to Philip with
an air of concern for her health.
"She's all right. Has there been anything the
matter with her ? "
"Only she is not at all strong, and tries her
strength far too much. But they have been living
very quietly lately — no one has been there at all —
so I hope she has been taking care of herself"
" No doubt, and got quite well again ; for " (a
little maliciously) " they expect lots of people next
Lots of people ! Lots of dear, delightful, smart
people ! Eotund dowagers, made-up peers, harum-
scarum second sons, and girls not a tenth part as
good-looking as herself! Oh, how Helen would
have delighted in Sauffrenden, if only Sauffrenden
would have delighted in her !
Then she looked at Mr Smith. He was stout, it
was true, and turning grey ; but she felt she should
not be ashamed of him. She felt he would not
do the things her father did, nor say the things he
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 1 29
said. She absolutely wondered whether he would
be ashamed of her.
Helen was not the hoyden Lily was ; nor so stu-
pidly unconscious of her own defects as Carry. She
felt dimly now and then that she and her sisters
were wild and lawless, and was bitterly indignant if
it crossed her mind that they were looked askance
upon ; but the temptation came, and, in the heyday
of her youth and beauty, she stifled resolutions and
One of these evanescent resolutions came into her
mind now, as she looked at Mr Smith ; but Mrs
Hunt opened her lips, and it was gone.
Mrs Hunt had rallied her forces, and was bent on
another venture. If Mr Smith was engaged on
Friday, would he make it Monday ? on Monday
they were going to have a few friends likewise.
Alas ! her grasp wanted the breadth of the Tolle-
tons. It was quite as tenacious, as unyie]ding ; but
it was timid, as was natural, seeing that there were no
coadjutors, and a great forest of enemies' eyes and
ears in ambush on every side. If she could have al-
lowed Mr Smith to name his own day, as the ToUe-
tons did — with none hearing the flattering words but
VOL. I. I
130 MR SMITH:
Philip Wellwood, who was in a manner bound over
to keep the peace, Mr Smith would have done so, and
her point would have been gained.
But she was afraid. She wished it to appear that
he had only been asked, on the spur of the moment,
to make a twelfth at one of Dr Hunt's little dinner-
parties; and, foiled in Friday, took refuge in Mon-
Monday would really have suited her arrange-
ments better, as she did intend to have some other
guests ; and two additional days in which to collect
them would have been just as well.
But when Mr Smith was again obliged to decline,
Mrs Hunt knew what compelled him.
She rose to go, almost immediately.
Mr Smith rose too, and glanced at his companion.
Philip's glance in return was significant. He was
not going, and he did not mean to stay behind alone.
A slight imperious gesture detained the other gentle-
man. As the door shut he spoke.
" If you can wait a few minutes, sir, I will show
you the short cut through the plantation ; it leads
into your own."
" Oh, certainly ! " Mr ToUeton was obsequiously
A PART OF HIS LIFE. I3I
endorsing the suggestion, the plantation being his
own ; but Captain Wellwood proceeded, without hav-
ing the grace to stop —
" Just wait till that good woman and her daughters
are safe out of sight."
Accordingly, they remained another five minutes,
and then took their leave.
Before parting in the short cut, Mr Smith had
asked Captain Wellwood to favour him with his
company on his lonely drive to Sauffrenden, and
Philip had been graciously pleased to accept the
" If she marries him, it will be the best day's work
she ever did in her life," concluded he ; " but it is
rather too good a joke, the way she makes love to
132 MR SMITH :
Good as the joke was, Mrs Hunt did not see it.
Poor Maria had a sad walk home. With her head
full of Captain Wellwood, of his necktie, his ring,
and his bow — the said head was cruelly used by her
mother. She wondered Maria could go out such a
figure. She had told her and Clare both, a dozen of
times, to come to her glass, if that in their room
wasn't hung so that they could see properly. Clare
might have seen that her sister was decent when she
went to make calls ; but it was always the way — she
was always to be made ashamed of them some way or
other. For her part, she wondered what Mr Smith
could have thought of it.
Maria cared not a jot what Mr Smith thought
of it ; all her anxiety was to know what Captain
Wellwood thought of it. She appealed to Clare for
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 1 33
a statement of the truth ; and Clare owned she could
not think where all the hair had slipped away to.
Still Maria obtained some comfort from the reflec-
tion that, considering where she sat, at least he
could not have seen the whole ; and Clare further
soothed her with the assurance that one side was a
very great deal better than the other.
" It was the worst side that was next Mr Smith,"
pursued her mother; ^' right under his very nose.
And as if you must needs make it even more observ-
able, you kept turning and twisting your head the
other way, as if on purpose to show it to him,
whether he would or no. I daresay he thought it
was all false together — what there was of it, at any
rate ; for it seemed to me nothing but a mass of
" Oh, mamma, don't say any more about it," inter-
posed Clare, good-naturedly. " It was not so bad as
all that, Maria. And it was a good thing the worst
side was next Mr Smith, and not Captain Wellwood."
" Captain Wellwood ! And pray, what did it mat-
ter to Captain Wellwood ? What is Captain Well-
wood to us ? " cried her mother. " A man who has
always been as rude and nasty to your father and
134 MR SMITH:
me as he could he. A man I have a perfect dislike
to, and never wanted to make acquaintance with at
all. Oh, he was too fine a gentleman even to shake
hands with me to-day, but must needs bow, as if he
had been a royal duke, when I passed by. If it
hadn't been for him and his airs, I am sure Mr
Smith would have walked home with us to-day.
I could see he was looking for his hat and gloves
when I rose, and then my gentleman went up and
spoke to him, and got him to stay, because he wanted
to have his flirt out with Helen."
Maria and Clare protested with equal vehemence
against this rendering of the scene.
It was far more likely to have been IVIr Smith who
kept Captain Wellwood. They were convinced Mr
Smith wished to stay. Captain WeUwood had
shown far stronger symptoms of going than ever
Mr Smith had, for he went to the door and opened
it. If he did speak to the other, it was to ask him
to go too.
In fact, it suited them that INIr Smith should be
the culprit, and it suited their mother that it should
be Captain Wellwood.
N"ow that Maria and Clare had seen their hero face
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 135
to face, had spoken to him, bowed to him, taken their
tea (at least Clare had) from his own fingers, they felt
by no means so certain that he must admire Helen.
Clare thought he did not take any special notice of
Helen, and Maria affirmed he was quite as attentive
to Clare herself She, in return, disclaimed with
delight, and assured her sister, as a reward, that
nobody but that old fright Mr Smith could have
seen the unfortunate hair ; and who cared what he
This was for their own room ; a difi"erent state of
things prevailed in the parlour.
There Mrs Hunt was giving a detailed account of
lier visit to her husband, who, luckily for her, was not
one to be either uninterested or unsympathetic. In
fact, the doctor was as great a manoeuvrer as his wife ;
and when his dignity was not compromised — and
it was a small and easily satisfied dignity — could
listen to her with a very good will.
Maria's hair received its due meed of censure, and
she knew that such had been the case the moment
she entered the room. She knew it by the glance of
her father's eye towards her head as she entered, and
the evident check received there, for she had lost no
136 MR SMITH:
time, after returning home, in disburdening herself of
the obnoxious mass.
"Well, Fm glad to see you have made yourself
more respectable," said her mother ; " and I do hope
it will be a warning to you, Maria. For I will say
that of the Tolleton girls, whatever be their faults —
and Fm sure Fd be puzzled to name another good
thing about them — they always contrive to have their
hairs nice. Go when you will, early or late, you never
catch them with great frizettes sticking out, and hair-
pins showing in every direction. What they use I can't
say, but Helen's head was like satin this afternoon."
*'They don't use anything," said Maria, unable
from habit to resist defending her friends, though at
the moment she did feel rather sore on the subject of
Helen's satin head. " It's just the same when they
brush it out, and it is no great merit their keeping it
nice, they have such quantities."
" Well, I'm sure it isn't often you hear me say a
good word for them," truly rejoined Mrs Hunt ; " but
I do like to see tidy hair, and that's what I never do
see in my own house. I never ask you to go out but
there's such a fuss to get the hair done ; and nothing
to show for it, when it is. Clare's not quite so
A PART OF HIS LIFE. 137
bad as you, but I have to speak to her too, most