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Chapter IV

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« on: November 24, 2022, 10:48:53 am »


A FEW days after her arrival, Delia woke up in the early dawn in the large room that had been her grandmother's. She sat up in the broad white bed with its dimity curtains, her hands round her knees, peering into the half-darkened room, where, however, she had thrown the windows wide open, behind the curtains, before going to sleep. On the opposite wall she saw an indifferent picture of her father as a boy of twelve on his pony; beside it a faded photograph of her mother, her beautiful mother, in her wedding dress. There had never been any real sympathy between her mother and her grandmother. Old Lady Blanchflower had resented her son's marriage with a foreign woman, with a Greek in particular. The Greeks were not at that moment of much account in the political world, and Lady Blanchflower thought of them as a nation of shams, trading on a great past which did not belong to them. Her secret idea was that out of their own country they grew rich in disreputable ways, while at home, where only the stupid ones stayed, they were a shabby half-civilised people, mostly bankrupt. She could not imagine how a girl got any bringing up at Athens, and believed nothing that her son told her. So that when the young Mrs. Blanchflower arrived, there were jars in the household, and it was not long before the spoilt and handsome bride went to her husband in tears, and asked to be taken away. Delia was surprised and touched, therefore, to find her mother's portrait in her grandmother's room, where nothing clearly had been admitted that had not some connection with family affection or family pride. She wondered whether on her mother's death her grandmother had hung the picture there in dumb confession of, or penance for, her own unkindness.

The paper of the room was a dingy grey, and the furniture was heavily old-fashioned and in Delia's eyes inconvenient. "If I'm going to keep the room I shall make it all white," she thought, "with proper fitted wardrobes, and some low bookcases---a bath, too, of course, in the dressing-room. And they must put in electric light at once! How could they have done without it all this time! I believe, with all its faults, this house could be made quite pretty!"

And she fell into a reverie---eagerly constructive---wherein Maumsey became, at a stroke, a House Beautiful, at once modern and ęsthetically right, a dim harmony in lovely purples, blues and greens, with the few fine things it possessed properly spaced and grouped, the old gardens shewing through the latticed windows, and golden or silvery lights, like those in a Blanche interior, gleaming in its now dreary rooms.

Then at a bound she sprang out of bed, and stood upright in the autumn dawn. "I hate myself!" she said fiercely---as she ran her hands through the mass of her dark hair, and threw it back upon her shoulders. Hurrying across the room in her night-gown, she threw back the curtains. A light autumnal mist, through which the sun was smiling, lay on the garden. Stately trees rose above it, and masses of flowers shewed vaguely bright; while through the blue distances beyond, the New Forest stretched to the sea.

But Delia was looking at herself, in a long pier-glass that represented almost the only concession to the typical feminine needs in the room. She was not admiring her own seemliness; far from it; she was rating and despising herself for a feather-brained waverer, and good-for-nothing.

"Oh yes, you can talk!" she said, to the figure in the glass---"you are good enough at that! But what are you going to do!---spend your time at Maples and Waring's---matching chintzes and curtains?---when you've promised---you've promised! Gertrude's right. There are all sorts of disgusting cowardices and weaknesses in you! Oh yes, you'd like to go fiddling and fussing down here---playing the heiress---patronising the poor people---putting yourself into beautiful clothes---and getting heaps of money out of Mr. Winnington to spend. It's in you---it's just in you---to throw everything over---to forget everything you've felt, and everything you've vowed---and just wallow in luxury and selfishness and snobbery! Gertrude's absolutely right. But you shan't do it! You shan't put a hand to it! Why did that man take the guardianship? Now it's his business. He may see to it! But you---you have something else to do!"

And she stood erect, the angry impulse in her stiffening all her young body. And through her memory there ran, swift-footed, fragments from a rhetoric of which she was already fatally mistress, the formulę too of those sincere and goading beliefs on which her youth had been fed ever since her first acquaintance with Gertrude Marvell. The mind renewed them like vows; clung to them, embraced them.

What was she before she knew Gertrude? She thought of that earlier Delia as of a creature almost too contemptible to blame. From the maturity of her twenty-one years she looked back upon herself at seventeen or eighteen with wonder. That Delia had read nothing---knew nothing---had neither thoughts nor principles. She was her father's spoilt child and darling; delighting in the luxury that surrounded his West Indian Governorship; courted and flattered by the few English of the colonial capital, and by the members of her father's staff; with servants for every possible need or whim; living her life mostly in the open air, riding at her father's side through the sub-tropical forests of the colony; teasing and tyrannising over the dear old German governess who had brought her up, and whose only contribution to her education---as Delia now counted education---had been the German tongue. Worth something!---but not all those years, "when I might have been learning so much else, things I shall never have time to learn now!---things that Gertrude has at her fingers' ends. Why wasn't I taught properly---decently---like any Board-school child! As Gertrude says, we women want everything we can get! We must know the things that men know---that we may beat them at their own game. Why should every Balliol boy---years younger than me---have been taught his classics and mathematics,---and have everything brought to him---made easy for him---history, political economy, logic, philosophy, laid at his lordship's feet, if he will just please to learn!---while I, who have just as good a brain as he, have had to pick up a few scraps by the way, just because nobody who had charge of me ever thought it worth while to teach a girl? But I have a mind!---an intelligence!---even if I am a woman; and there is all the world to know. Marriage? Yes!---but not at the sacrifice of everything else---of the rational, civilised self."

On the whole, though, her youth had been happy enough, with recurrent intervals of ennui and discontent; intervals too of poetic enthusiasm, or ascetic religion. At eighteen she had been practically a Catholic, influenced by the charming wife of one of her father's aides-de-camp. And then---a few stray books or magazine articles had made a Darwinian and an agnostic of her; the one phase as futile as the other.

"I knew nothing---I had no mind!"---she repeated with energy---"till Gertrude came."

And she thought with ardour of that intellectual awakening, under the strange influence of the apparently reserved and impassive woman, who had come to read history with her for six months, at the suggestion of a friend of her father's, a certain cultivated and clever Lady Tonbridge, "who saw how starved I was."

So, after enquiry, a lady who was a B.A. of a west-country university, where she had taken every possible high honour in history and economics---Delia's ambition would accept nothing less---had been found, who wanted for health's sake a winter in a warm climate, and was willing to read history with Governor Blanchflower's half-fledged daughter.

The friendship had begun, as often, with a little aversion. Delia was made to work, and having always resented being made to do anything, for about a month she disliked her tutor, and would have persuaded Sir Robert to send her away, had not England been so far off, and the agreement with Miss Marvell, whose terms were high, unusually stringent. But by the end of the month the girl of eighteen was conquered. She had recognised in Gertrude Marvell accomplishments that filled her with envy, together with an intensity of will, a bitter and fiery purpose, that astounded and subdued a young creature in whom inherited germs of Southern energy and passion were only waiting the touch that starts the ferment. Gertrude Marvell had read an amazing amount of history, and all from one point of view: that of the woman stirred to a kind of madness by what she held to be the wrongs of her sex. The age-long monopoly of all the higher forces of civilisation by men; the cruel and insulting insistence upon the sexual and maternal functions of women, as covering the whole of her destiny; the hideous depreciation of her as an inferior and unclean creature, to which Christianity, poisoned by the story of Eve, and a score of barbarous beliefs and superstitions more primitive still, had largely contributed, while hypocritically professing to enfranchise and exalt her; the unfailing doom to "obey," and to bring forth, that has crushed her; the labours and shames heaped upon her by men in the pursuit of their own selfish devices; and the denial to her, also by men, of all the higher and spiritual activities, except those allowed by a man-made religion:---this feminist gospel, in some respects so bitterly true, in others so vindictively false, was gradually and unsparingly pressed upon Delia's quick intelligence. She caught its fire; she rose to its call; and there came a day when Gertrude Marvell, breaking through the cold reserve she had hitherto interposed between herself and the pupil who had come to adore her, threw her arms round the girl, accepting from her what were practically the vows of a neophyte in a secret and revolutionary service.

Joyous, self-dedicating moment! But it had been followed by a tragedy: the tragedy of Delia's estrangement from her father. It was not long before Sir Robert Blanchflower, a proud self-indulgent man, with a keen critical sense, a wide acquaintance with men and affairs, and a number of miscellaneous acquirements of which he never made the smallest parade, had divined the spirit of irreconcilable revolt which animated the slight and generally taciturn woman, who had obtained such a hold upon his daughter. He, the god of his small world, was made to feel himself humiliated in her presence. She was, in fact, his intellectual superior, and the truth was conveyed to him in a score of subtle ways. She was in his house simply because she was poor, and wanted rest from excessive overwork, at someone else's expense. Otherwise her manner suggested---often quite unconsciously---that she would not have put up with his household and its regulations for a single day.

Then, suddenly, he perceived that he had lost his daughter, and the reason of it. The last year of his official life was thenceforward darkened by an ugly and undignified struggle with the woman who had stolen Delia from him. In the end he dismissed Gertrude Marvell. Delia shewed a passionate resentment, told him frankly that as soon as she was twenty-one she should take up "the Woman's movement" as her sole occupation, and should offer herself wherever Gertrude Marvell, and Gertrude's leaders, thought she could be useful. "The vote must be got!"---she said, standing white and trembling, but resolute, before her father---"If not peaceably, then by violence. And when we get it, father, you men will be astonished to see what we shall do with it!"

Her twenty-first birthday was at hand, and would probably have seen Delia's flight from her father's house, but for Sir Robert's breakdown in health. He gave up his post, and it was evident he had not more than a year or two to live. Delia softened and submitted. She went abroad with him, and for a time he seemed to throw off the disease which had attacked him. It was during a brighter interval that, touched by her apparent concessions, he had consented to her giving the lecture in the Tyrolese hotel the fame of which had spread abroad, and had even taken a certain pleasure in her oratorical success.

But during the following winter---Sir Robert's last---which they spent at Meran, things had gone from bad to worse. For months Delia never mentioned Gertrude Marvell to her father. He flattered himself that the friendship was at an end. Then some accident revealed to him that it was as close as, or closer than, ever; that they were in daily correspondence; that they had actually met, unknown to him, in the neighbourhood of Meran; and that Delia was sending all the money she could possibly spare from her very ample allowance to "The Daughters of Revolt," the far-spreading society in which Gertrude Marvell was now one of the leading officials.

Some of these dismal memories of Meran descended like birds of night upon Delia, as she stood with her arms above her head, in her long night-gown, looking intently but quite unconsciously into the depths of an old rosewood cheval glass. She felt that sultry night about her once more, when, after signing his will, her father opened his eyes upon her, coming back with an effort from the bound of death, and had said quite clearly though faintly in the silence---"Give up that woman, Delia!---promise me to give her up." And Delia had cried bitterly on her knees beside him---without a word---caressing his hand. And the cold fingers had been feebly withdrawn from hers as the eyes closed.

"Oh, papa---papa!" The low murmur came from her, as she pressed her hands upon her eyes. If the Christian guesses were but true, and in some quiet Elysian state he might now understand, and cease to be angry with her! Was there ever a great cause won without setting kin against kin? "A man's foes shall be they of his own household." "It wasn't my fault---it wasn't my fault!"

No!---and moreover it was her duty not to waste her strength in vain emotion and regret. Her task was doing, not dreaming. She turned away, banished her thoughts and set steadily about the task of dressing.

------

"Please, Miss Blanchflower, there are two or three people waiting to see you in the servants' hall."

So said the tall and gentle-voiced housekeeper, Mrs. Bird, whose emotions had been, in Miss Marvell's view, so unnecessarily exercised on the evening of Delia's home-coming. Being a sensitive person, Mrs. Bird had already learnt her lesson, and her manner had now become as mildly distant as could be desired, especially in the case of Miss Blanchflower's lady companion.

"People? What people?" asked Delia looking round with a furrowed brow. She and Gertrude were sitting together on the sofa when the housekeeper entered, eagerly reading a large batch of letters which the London post had just brought, and discussing their contents in subdued tones.

"It's the cottages, Miss. Her ladyship used always to decide who should have those as were vacant about this time of year, and two or three of these persons have been up several times to know when you'd be home."

"But I don't know anything about it"--said Delia, rising reluctantly. "Why doesn't the agent--why doesn't Mr. Frost do it?"

"I suppose---they thought---you'd perhaps speak a word to Mr. Frost, Miss," suggested Mrs. Bird. "But I can send them away, of course, if you wish."

"Oh no, I'll come"---said Delia. "But it's rather tiresome---just as----" She looked at Gertrude.

"Don't be long," said Miss Marvell, sharply; "I'll wait for you here." And she plunged back into the letters, her delicate face all alive, her eyes sparkling. Delia departed---evidently on a distasteful errand.

But twenty minutes later she returned, flushed and animated. "I am glad I went! Such tyranny---such monstrous tyranny!" She stood in front of Gertrude, breathing fast, her hands on her hips.

"What's the matter?"

"My grandmother had a rule---can you imagine anything so cruel!---that no girl---who had gone wrong---was to be allowed in our cottages. If she couldn't be provided for in some Home or other, or if her family refused to give her up, then the family must go. An old man has been up to see me---a widower with two daughters---one in service. The one in service has come to grief---the son of the house!---the usual story!"---the speaker's face had turned fiercely pale---"and now our agent refuses to let the girl and her baby come home. And the old father says---'What am I to do, Miss? I can't turn her out---she's my own flesh and blood. I've got to stick to her---else there'll be worse happening. It's not justice, Miss---and it's not Gospel.' Well!"---Delia seated herself with energy,---"I've told him to have her home at once---and I'll see to it."

Gertrude lifted her eyebrows, a gesture habitual with her, whenever Delia wore---as now---her young prophetess look. Why feel these things so much? Human nerves have only a certain limited stock of reactions. Avenge---and alter them!

But she merely said---"And the others?"

"Oh, a poor mother with eight children, pleading for a cottage with three bedrooms instead of two! I told her she should have it if I had to build it!---And an old woman who has lived fifty-two years in her cottage, and lost all her belongings, begging that she mightn't be turned out---for a family---now that it's too big for her. She shan't be turned out! Of course, I suppose it would be common sense"---the tension of the speaker's face broke up in laughter---"to put the old woman into the cottage of the eight children---and put the eight children into the old woman's. But human beings are not cattle! Sentiment's something! Why shouldn't a woman be allowed to die in her old home,---so long as she pays the rent? I hate all this interference with people's lives! And it's always the women who come worst off. 'Oh! Mr. Frost---he never pays no attention to us women. He claps 'is 'ands to his ears when he sees one of us, and jest runs for it.' Well, I'll make Mr. Frost listen to a woman!"

"I'm afraid Mr. Winnington is his master," said Gertrude quietly. Delia, crimson again, shrugged her shoulders. "We shall see!"

Gertrude Marvell looked up. "Look here, Delia, if you are going to play the part of earthly Providence to this village and your property in general---as I've said to you before---you may as well tell the 'Daughters' you can't do anything for them. That's a profession in itself; and would take you all your time."

"Then, of course, I shan't do it," said Delia, with decision. "But I only want to put in an appearance---to make friends with the people---just for a time, Gertrude! It doesn't do to be too unpopular. We're not exactly in good odour just now, are we?" And sitting down on a stool beside the elder woman, Delia leant her head against her friend's knee caressingly.

Gertrude gave an absent touch to the girl's beautiful hair, and then said---"So you will take these four meetings?"

"Certainly!" Delia sprang up. "What are they? One at Latchford, one at Brownmouth---Wanchester---and Frimpton. All right. I shall be pelted at Brownmouth. But rotten eggs don't matter so much when you're looking out for them---except on your face---Ugh!"

"And the meeting here?"

"Of course. Can't I do what I like with my own house? We'll have the notices out next week."

Gertrude looked up---"When did you say that man---Mr. Winnington--was coming?"

"His note this morning said 4.30."

"You'd better see him alone---for the first half-hour anyway."

Delia made a face. "I wish I knew what line to take up. You've been no use at all, Gertrude!"

Gertrude smiled. "Wait till you see him," she said coolly. "Mother-wit will help you out."

"I wish I had anything to bargain with."

"So you have."

"Pray, what?"

"The meeting here. You could give that up. And he needn't know anything of the others yet awhile."

"What a charming opinion he will have of us both, by and bye," laughed Delia, quietly. "And by all accounts he himself is a simple paragon.---Heavens, how tiresome!"

Gertrude Marvell turned back to her letters. "What does anyone know about a man?" she said, with slow deliberation.

The mid-day post at Maumsey brought letters just after luncheon. Delia turning hers over was astonished to see two or three with the local postmark. "What can people from here be writing to me about?"

Gertrude absorbed in the new weekly number of the Tocsin took no notice, till she was touched on the shoulder by Delia. "Yes?"

"Gertrude!--it's too amazing!" The girl's tone was full of a joyous wonder. "You know they told us at head-quarters that this was one of the deadest places in England---a nest of Antis---nothing doing here at all. Well, what do you think?---here are three letters by one post, from the village---all greeting us---all knowing perfectly who you are---that you have been in prison, etcetera---all readers of the Tocsin, and burning to be doing something----"

"Burning something?" interposed the other in her most ordinary voice.

Delia laughed, again with the note of constraint. "Well, anyway, they want to come and see us."

"Who are they?"

"An assistant mistress at the little grammar-school---that's No. 1. No. 2---a farmer's daughter, who says she took part in one of the raids last summer, but nobody knows down here. Her father paid her fine. And No. 3, a consumptive dressmaker, who declares she hasn't much life left anyway, and she is quite willing to give it to the 'cause'! Isn't it wonderful how it spreads---it spreads!"

"H'm"---said Miss Marvell. "Well, we may as well inspect them. Tell them to come up some time next week after dusk."

As she spoke, the temporary parlour-maid threw open the door of the room which Delia had that morning chosen as her own sitting-room.

"Are you at home, Miss? Mrs. France would like to see you."

"Mrs. France?---Mrs. France? Oh, I know---the doctor's wife---Mrs. Bird was talking of him this morning. Well, I suppose I must go." Delia moved unwillingly. "I'm coming, Mary."

"Of course you must go," said Gertrude, a little peremptorily. "As we are here we may as well reconnoitre the ground---find out everything we can."

------

In the drawing-room, to which some flowers, and a litter of new books and magazines had already restored its inhabited look, Delia found a woman awaiting her, in whom the girl's first glance discerned a personality. She was dressed with an entire disregard of the fashion, in plain, serviceable clothes. A small black bonnet tied under the chin framed a face whose only beauty lay in the expression of the clear kind eyes, and quiet mouth. The eyes were a little prominent; the brow above them unusually smooth and untroubled, answering to the bands of brown hair touched with grey which defined it. But the rest of the face was marked by many deep lines---of experience, or suffering?---which shewed clearly that its owner had long left physical youth behind. And yet perhaps youth---in some spiritual poetic sense---was what Mrs. France's aspect most sharply conveyed.

She rose as Delia entered, and greeted her warmly.

"It is nice to see you settled here! Dr. France and I were great friends of your old grandmother. He and she were regular cronies. We were very sorry to see the news of your poor father's death."

The voice was clear and soft, and absolutely sincere. Delia felt drawn to her. But it had become habitual to her to hold herself on the defensive with strangers, to suspect hostility and disapproval everywhere. So that her manner in reply, though polite enough, was rather chilly.

But---the girl's beauty! The fame of it had indeed reached Maumsey in advance of the heiress. Mrs. France, however, in its actual presence was inclined to say "I had not heard the half!" She remembered Delia's mother, and in the face before her she recognised again the Greek type, the old pure type, reappearing, as it constantly does, in the mixed modern race. But the daughter surpassed her mother. Delia's eyes, of a lovely grey blue, ridded, and fringed, and arched with an exquisite perfection; the curve of the slightly bronzed cheek, suggesting through all its delicacy the fulness of young, sensuous life; the mouth, perhaps a trifle too large, and the chin, perhaps a trifle too firm; the abundance of the glossy black hair, curling wherever it was allowed to curl, or wherever it could escape the tight coils in which it was bound---at the temples, and over the brow; the beauty of the uncovered neck, and of the amply rounded form which revealed itself through the thin black stuff of the mourning dress:---none of these "items" in Delia's good looks escaped her admiring visitor.

"It's to be hoped Mr. Mark realises his responsibilities," she thought, with amusement. Aloud, she said---"I remember you as quite a little thing staying with your grandmother---but you wouldn't remember me. Dr. France was grieved not to come, but it's his hospital day."

Delia thanked her, without effusion. Mrs. France presently began to feel conversation an effort, and to realise that the girl's wonderful eyes were very observant and very critical. Yet she chose the very obvious and appropriate topic of Lady Blanchflower, her strong character, her doings in the village, her relation to the labourers and their wives.

"When she died, they really missed her. They miss her still."

"Is it good for a village to depend so much on one person?" said Delia, in a detached voice.

Mrs. France looked at her curiously. Jealousy of one's grandmother is not a common trait in the young. It struck her that Miss Blanchflower was already defending herself against examples and ideals she did not mean to follow. And again amusement---and concern!---on Mark Winnington's account made themselves felt. Mrs. France was quite aware of Delia's "militant" antecedents, and of the history of the lady she had brought down to live with her. But the confidence of the doctor's wife in Winnington's powers and charm was boundless. "He'll be a match for them!" she thought gaily.

Meanwhile, in reply, she smilingly defended her old friend Lady Blanchflower from the implied charge of pauperising the village.

"Not at all! She never gave money recklessly---and the do-nothings kept clear of her. But she was the people's friend---and they knew it. They're very excited about your coming!"

"I dare say I shall change some things," said Delia decidedly. "I don't approve of all Mr. Frost has been doing."

"Well, you'll have your guardian to help you," said Mrs. France quietly.

Delia flushed, straightened her shoulders, and said nothing.

This time Mrs. France was fairly taken by surprise. She knew nothing more of Sir Robert Blanchflower's will than that he had made Mark Winnington his daughter's guardian, till she reached the age of twenty-five. But that any young woman---any motherless and fatherless girl---should not think herself the most lucky of mortals to have obtained Mark Winnington as guide and defender, with first claim on his time, his brains, his kindness, seemed incredible to Mark's old friend and neighbour, accustomed to the daily signs of his immense and deserved popularity. Then it flashed upon her---"Has she ever seen him?"

The doubt led to an immediate communication of the news that Winnington had arrived from town that morning. Dr. France had seen him in the village. "You know him, of course, already?"

"Not at all," said Delia indifferently. "He and I are perfect strangers."

Mrs. France laughed. "I rather envy you the pleasure of making friends with him! We are all devoted to him down here."

Delia lifted her eyebrows. "What are his particular virtues? It's monotonous to possess them all." The slight note of insolence was hardly disguised.

"No two friends of his would give you the same answer. I should give you a different catalogue, for instance, from Lady Tonbridge----"

"Lady Tonbridge!" cried Delia, waking up at last. "You don't mean that Lady Tonbridge lives in this neighbourhood?"

"Certainly. You know her?"

"She came once to stay with us in the West Indies. My father knew her very well before she married. And I owe her---a great debt"---the last words were spoken with emphasis.

Mrs. France looked enquiring.

"---she recommended to us the lady who is now living with me here---my chaperon---Miss Marvell."

There was silence for a moment. Then Mrs. France said, not without embarrassment---"Your father desired she should live with you?"

Delia flushed again. "No. My father did not understand her."

"He did not agree with her views?"

"Nor with mine. It was horrid---but even relations must agree to differ. Why is Lady Tonbridge here? And where is Sir Alfred? Papa had not heard of them for a long time."

"They separated last year"---said Mrs. France gravely. "But Mr. Winnington will tell you. He's a great friend of hers. She does a lot of work for him."

"Work?"

"Social work!" smiled Mrs. France---"poor-law---schools---that kind of thing. He ropes us all in."

"Oh!" said Delia, with her head in air.

Mrs. France laughed outright. "That seems to you so unimportant---compared with the vote."

"It is unimportant!" said Delia impetuously. "Nothing really matters but the vote. Aren't you a Suffragist, Mrs. France?"

Mrs. France smilingly shook her head.

"I don't want to meddle with the men's business. And we're a long way yet from catching up with our own. Oh, my husband has a lot of scientific objections. But that's mine." Then her face grew serious---"Anyway, we can all agree, I hope, in hating violence. That can never settle it."

She looked a little sternly at her young companion.

"That depends!" said Delia. "But we mustn't argue, Mrs. France. I should only make you angry. Ah!" She sprang up and went to the window, just as steps could be heard on the gravel outside.

"Here's someone coming." She turned to Mrs. France. "Is it Mr. Winnington?"

"It is!" said her visitor, after putting on her glasses.

Delia surveyed him, standing behind the lace curtain, and Mrs. France was relieved to see that a young person of such very decided opinions could be still girlishly curious. She herself rose to go.

"Good-bye. I won't interrupt your talk with him."

"Good-looking?" said Delia, with mischief in her eyes, and a slight gesture towards the approaching visitor.

"Don't you know what an athlete he is---or was?"

"Another perfection? Heavens!---How does he endure it?" said the girl, laughing.

Mrs. France took her leave. She was a very motherly tender-hearted woman, and she would like to have taken her old friend's grandchild in her arms and kissed her. But she wisely refrained; and indeed the instinct to shake her was perhaps equally strong.

"How long will she stand gossiping on the door-mat with the paragon," said Delia savagely to herself, when she was left alone. "Oh, how I hate a 'charming man'!" She moved stormily to and fro, listening to the distant sounds of talk in the hall, and resenting them. Then suddenly she paused opposite one of the large mirrors in the room. A coil of hair had loosened itself; she put it right; and still stood motionless, interrogating herself in a proud concentration.

"Well?---I am quite ready for him."

But her heart beat uncomfortably fast as the door opened, and Mark Winnington entered.

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