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daioty slices and piled on the top of the CHAPTER VI.
butter as much jam as they could carry. THEN it was that Florence discovered “Oh," cried the children, with gleeful that Aunt Anne was really a charming surprise. person to have in the house, especially "Dear Aunt Anne,” exclaimed Florwith children. She was so bright, so ence, Inoking up when she heard it, “I clever with them, so full of litile sur- never give them quite so much butter with prises. In her pocket there always lin. quite so much jam! It is too rich for gered some unexpected little present, and them, and we don't cut off the crusts." at the tip of her tongue some quaint bit of “ The servants will eat them." old-world knowledge that was as interesi. “Indeed they will not,” laughed Floring to grown-up folk as to the children. ence, “ they don't like crusts." To see her prim figure about the place “ You are much too good to them, love, seemed to Florence like having lavender as you are 10 every one. They should do among her linen. She was useful too, as they are told, and be glad to take what ready with her fingers to darn some little they can get. I never have patience with place in a tablecloth that every one else the lower classes,” she added, in the genhad overlooked, to sew a button on Mon- tlest of voices. ty's little shoe, or to mend a tear in Catty's But the words gave Florence a sudden pinafore. Above all, she was so compli- insight into the reason of Aunt Anne's mentary, so full of admiration, and it was collapse at Mrs. North's, a catastrophe to quite evident that she meant with her which the old lady never referred. The whole heart all the pretty things she said. very mention of Mrs. North's name made She did too. Walter was the son of her her manner a little distant. favorite brother, and to Florence she had " And then, you know,” Florence said, really taken a fancy from the beginning. ever careful, and now especially anxious
“ I loved you from the first moment, my to make the very short allowance on which love," she said. “ I shall never forget the she had put herself in her husband's ab. look of happiness on your face that morn- sence hold out, " we must not let the chil. ing at Brighton I met you and your dear dren learn to be dainty, must we? So they Walter together. It endeared you to me. must try to eat up the crusts of their It was a happy day,” she added, with a bread, and we only give them a little butsigh.
ter when they have jam. I never had “Yes, a very happy day,” Florence butter and jam together at all at home,” answered affectionately, remembering how and she stroked Catty's fat little hand ungrateful both she and dear Walter had while she went on reading her letter. been at the time. This was at breakfast“ Grandma has written from France, my one morning, a week after Walter's de- babes," she said, looking up after a few parture. She was pouring out the coffee minutes ; "she sends you each a kiss and very quickly because she longed to open five shillings to spend." her letters, though she knew it was not " I shall buy a horse and be a soldier,” possible to get yet the one he had posted Monty declared. from Gibraltar.
“I shall buy a present for mummy and Aunt Anne meanwhile was undoing a a little one for Aunt Anoe,” said Catty. little packet that had come by post ad- “Bless you, my darling, for thinking of dressed to her. Catty and Monty having me !" the old lady said fervently, and sudfinished their porridge were intently watch- denly opening a tin of Devonshire cream, ing. She stopped when she noticed the she piled a mass of it on to the bread and gravity of their faces.
butter and jam already, before the aston“ My love,” she said, in the tone of one ished children. Aunt Anne's nature gloasking a great favor, " have I your permis. ried in profusion. sion to give these dear children some Why," said Florence, not noticing bread and jam?"
anything at table, “ here is a letter from “Oh yes, of course,” Florence answered, Madame Celestine – her name is on the not looking up from the long letter she seal at least. I don't owe her anything. was reading
Oh it isn't for me. Mrs. Baines, care Aunt Anne, quick to notice, saw that it of Mrs. Walter Hibbert. It is for you, had a foreign postmark and an enclosure Aunt Anne." that looked like a cheque. Then she cut " Thank you, my love." Mrs. Baines some bread and took off the crust before took it with an air of slight but dignified she spread a quantity of butter on the vexation. “It was remiss of your servant
not to put all my letters beside me. I am the trees and the ducks in the pond; go sorry you should be troubled with my cor- along, go along," and she ran playfully respondence.”
after the children. “But it doesn't matter,” Florence an- May I go and buy my horse ? " asked swered. “I hope you have not found her Monty; "and I think I shall buy a sword very expensive; she can be so some too. I want to kill a man." times?" and through Florence's mind “He is just like his father !” exclaimed there went a remembrance of the dress Aunt Ande. “What is Catty going to do in which Aunt Anne had appeared on the with her money ?" she asked. night of the dinner-party. A little flush “Give it to mummy,” the child answered or something like one went across the old softly. lady's withered cheek.
“ And she is just like you, dear Flor“My love,” she said, almost haughtily, ence,” said the old lady, in a choking “I have not yet given her charges my voice. consideration. I have been too much She is just like herself, and therefore engaged with more important matters." like a dickie-bird, and a white rabbit, and
“I only hope she does not owe for that a tortoiseshell kitten, and many other dress," Florence thought, but she did not things too numerous to mention," Flordare ask any questions. “ Madame Celes.ence laughed, overtaking Catty and kisstine is not a comfortable creditor, nor ing her little round face ; " but go, my usually a small one."
babes, go - go and get ready, your beThen she understood Catty's and Mon- loved mummy wants to turn you out of ty's extreme silence for the past few min- doors ; "and shouting with joy the children utes. It had suddenly dawned upon her scampered off. how unusual it was.
Florence took up the Times. “Why, my beloved babes,” she ex- “Won't you have the paper, Aunt Anne, claimed, “what are you eating ?” and she and a quiet quarter of an hour?" looked across laughingly at Aunt Anne. “ Thank you, no, my love ; I rarely care “Where did those snowy mountains of to peruse it until a more leisure time of cream come from?"
With your permission I will “They came by post, just now, my leave you now, I have an hour or two's love,” Mrs. Baines said firmly.
business out of doors ; are there any com. Oh, you are much too kind, Aunt missions I could execute for
?" Anne ! but you will spoil the children, you “No, thank you." will indeed, as well as their digestions. Aunt Anne was always thoughtful, You are much too good to them; but we Florence said to herself. Every morning shall have to send them away if you cor. since she came this question had been rupt them in this delicious manner.” asked and answered in almost the same
" It is most nutritious, I assure you," words. Aunt Anne answered, with great gravity, “ By the way, Aunt Anne, Mr. Wimple while with dogged and desperate haste she called yesterday.. I am sorry, I was not at piled more and more cream on to Monty's home,' - and this she felt to be a fib. plate. “I thought you would like it, Flor. “ He told me that he iotended to do so ence. I have ordered three pounds to be before he left town." sent in one-pound tins at intervals of three There was a strange light on Aunt days. I hoped that you would think it Anne's face when she spoke of him; her good for the dear children, that they would niece saw it with wonder. have your approbation in eating it." “I dare say she takes a sort of motherly
“Of course, of course, and I shall eat interest in him," she said to herself. “He some too,” Floreoce answered, trying to is delicate and she has no belongings ; chase away Aunt Anne's earnestness ; poor old lady, how sad it must be to have "only you are much too good to them.” no belongings, no husband, no children,
The old lady looked up with a tender no mother, no anything! I don't wonder smile on her face.
her sympathies go out even to Mr. Wim. “ It is not possible to be good enough ple.” Then aloud she asked, “ Is he go. to your children, my darling — yours and ing away for long ?” Walter's.”
“He is going to some friends near “ Dear Walter," said Florence, as she Portsmouth by the twelve o'clock train to. rose from the table, “I shall be glad to day,” and Mrs. Baines glanced at the get his letter. Now, my monkeys, my clock; “from Waterloo,” she added. vagabonds, my darlings, go up-stairs and “ Are you going to see him off, Aunt tell ourse to take you out at once to see | Anne?”
“My love, I have an engagement in the The old lady was almost confused, like City at one o'clock. I am going out now, a person who is found out in some roguish but I cannot say whai my movements will mischief of which she is half, but only half be between this and then.”
ashamed. In a moment Aunt Anne's voice was a " My love, I only go to your parties,” shade distant. Florence had only asked she said; "there are no others in the world the question as a little joke, and with no that would tempt me." notion that Aunt Anne would take it seri. “Can you come to me for five minutes ously.
start? I won't keep you “ I didn't mean to be curious,” she said, longer. and stroked the old lady's shoulder. "Yes, with pleasure," Aunt Anne an
“I know you did not, my darling. You swered, “but it must only be for five minare the last person in the world to commit utes, if you will excuse me for saying so, a solecism,” — and again there came a for I have an appointment that I should smile to Aunt Anne's face. It made deeply regret not being able to keep.” Florence stoop and kiss her.
Florence led the old lady to an easy" And you did tell me of your expedition chair and shut the door. Then she knelt to the Albert Memorial, remember,” she down by her side, saying humbly but with went on wickedly; "and I know that you a voice full of joy, for she was delighted and Mr. Wimple are very sympathetic to at what she was going to do, if Aunt Anne each other."
would only let her do it:“ You are right, Florence. We have “I want to tell you that – that I had a many tastes and sympathies in unison. letter from my mother this morning." We find it pleasant to discuss them to. “ I know, my love. I hope she is well, gether. Good-bye, my love; do not wait and that you have no anxiety about her.” luncheon for me. I shall probably partake
“Oh no." of it with a friend " -- and she left the "She must long to see you, Florence room. Florence took up the Times again, dear." but she could not read for thinking un- “She does, she is such a dear mother easily of the bill which she felt convinced and she is coming to England in two or Madame Celestine had just sent to 'Aunt three weeks' time.” Anne.
“Her society will be a great solace to "I wish I could pay it,” she thought; you.”. “but I can't, in spite of mamma's present Yes; but what I wanted to tell you is this morning. It is probably at least fif that she has sent me a present.” teen pounds. Besides, Aunt Anne is such “I hope it is a substantial one," Aunt a peculiar old lady that the chances are Anne said courteously. she would be offended if I did.”
"Indeed it is." She put down the paper and sat think- " It rejoices me greatly to bear it, my ing for a few minutes. Then she went to love." the writing-table in the corner by the fire. " It is money -- a cheque. My mother
“ place, unlocked the corner drawer and says she sends it to cheer me up after took out a little china bowl in which she losing Walter.” was in the habit of keeping the money she “She knew how your tender heart would had in the house. Four pounds in gold miss him, my darling;" but she was watchand a five-pound note. She took out the ing Florence intently with a hungry look note, put in a cheque, locked the drawer that a second self seemed trying to control. and waited.
" And as I have had a present of filthy When she heard the soft footsteps of lucre, Aunt Anne, and am delighted and Aunt Anne descending the stairs she went not too proud to take it, so I want you to to the door nervously, uncertain how what have a present of filthy lucre and not to be she was going to do would be received. too proud to take it; but just to have this Mrs. Baines was dressed ready to go out. little five-pound note because you love me She was a little smarter than usual. Round and for any little odd and end on which her throat there was some soft white mus you may find it convenient to spend it. It lin tied in a large bow that fell to her chest would be so sweet of you to let me share and relieved the sombreness of her attire. my present as my children shared the The heavy crape veil she usually wore cream with you." was replaced by a thinner one that had Florence bent her head and kissed the little spots of jet upon it.
old lady's hands as she pushed the bit of " Aunt Anne, you look as if you were crisp paper into them.' Aunt Anne was going to a party.”
not one whit offended, it seemed for a mo
ment as if she were going to break down | felt it almost an obligation to give a good and cry; but she controlled herself. deal of time to the consideration of the
“ Bless you, my darling, bless you in private affairs of his staff. He liked the deed! I take it in the spirit you offer it Hibberts too, and was really anxious to be me, I know the pleasure it is to your gen- good and useful to them. He had come erous heart to give, and it is equally one to the conclusion that it was a pity that to me to receive. I could not refuse any Florence and her children should stay in gift from you, Florence,” she said, kissing London while Walter was away. Mrs. Hibbert, and when she departed, it would be much better in the country," he was with an air of having done a gracious thought; "the children could run about; and tender deed. But besides this, her besides, what is the good of keeping that footstep had grown lighter, there was a cottage near Witley empty?" and then he joyfuloess in her voice and a flickering remembered his own mother, who was smile on her face that showed how much seventy years old and lived far off in the pleasure and relief the money had given wilds of Northumberland. Her sole ber,
amusement appeared to be writing her "I am so glad,” Florence thought, as son letters, lamenting that he never went she noticed it; “poor old dear! I wonder to stay with her, and that since he lived if it will go to Madame Celestine, or what in small and inconvenient bachelor chamshe will do with it. And I wonder where bers, she could not go and stay with him. she is gone."
" It would not be a bad idea if I had the
old lady up for a couple of months, and CHAPTER VII.
took the Hibberts' house,” he said to him. FLORENCE's speculations concerning self. The idea grew upon him. He imAunt Anne were brought to an end by the agined the dinners he could give to his arrival of Mr. Fisher. She was surprised staff and their wives — not to the outside at his paying her so early a visit, and for world, for it bothered him. “We might a moment feared lest it should mean bad ask Ethel Dunlop occasionally," he news from Walter. But his benevolent thought; "she is a nice young puss, aod expression reassured her.
would brighten up the old lady. Young “I hope you will forgive my intruding puss” he considered a befitting epithet on you at this hour, Mrs. Hibbert,” he for a girl in her twenties. He remembered said. “My visit is almost a business one, the twenties with regret, and wished they if I may venture to call it so, and I hope were thirties; then he would not have felt its result may be pleasant to us both." so keenly the difference in years between His manner was a faint echo of Aunt them. But he reflected that after all he Anne's. “I would have written to ask was still in the prime of life, as a man is, you to see me, but the idea that brings me if he chooses, till he is fifty; and he only occurred to me an hour or two ago.” struggled to feel youthful; but struggle
“ But of course I would see you,” she as he would, youthful feelings held aloof. answered brightly. “And I think the They were coy after forty, he supposed, morning is a delicious time of day to and looking back he consoled himself by which we devote far too much idleness."
thinking that they had been rather foolish. “ I thoroughly agree with you," he said, Then he thought of Ethel's cousin; conand looked at her approvingly. In spite found her cousin ! she seemed to like of his bachelorhood he was quite alive to going about with him. Perhaps he made the duties of domesticity. He had noticed love to her; yet he was too much of a quickly that all signs of breakfast had hobble-de-hoy for that, surely – two-andvanished, he divined that the children twenty at most - a very objectionable were out of doors, and that she herself, time of life in the masculine sex, a time of with her slate and account-books, was dash and impudence and doing of things deep in household matters. It was thus from sheer 'bravado at which wisdom, he thought that a woman should chiefly knowledge, and middle age hesitated. concern herself. Her husband, children, Ethel was probably only amusing herself and home were her business in life. The with him. To fall in love with a cousin rest could be left to the discretion and would show a lack of originality of which management of men. He felt that it was he was slow to suspect her. He wonalmost a duty on his part, in the absence dered what the cousin did, and if he of her husband, to discreetly manage wanted a post of any sort; if he had a Florence. Moreover, in the intervals of turn for writing and adventure. Perhaps editing his paper, he had a turn for ar. he could be sent as special correspondent ranging the lives of other people, and he to the Gold Coast, where the climate
would probably sufficiently engross him.. You can go by Saturday, I suppose? I Ethel at any rate might be invited to see think that would be the best day for my his mother, it would cheer the old lady up mother to arrive." to have a girl about her. Yes, he had “Oh yes. There are things to get ready quite made up his mind. Mrs. Hibbert and to put away, of course." should go to her country cottage with her “ They won't take you long," he antwo children; he would take the house swered shortly. near Portland Road for a couple of months, “I suppose it will do the children and the rest would arrange itself.
good,” she said reluctantly. “I don't know whether Walter would “Of course it will." like it,” Florence said, when Mr. Fisher “I might ask Aunt Anne to take the had explained his errand.
children to-morrow - I am sure she would “I'll answer for Walter," Mr. Fisher — then I could soon get the place ready." said concisely. Of course he, a man, “ Mrs. Baines? Yes, it would be an knew better than she did what Walter, excellent plan to send her on first." also a man, would like ; that was plainly “It is very kind of you; don't you think conveyed in his manner. “It will be bet- that you are really paying too much rent, ter for you and the children," he went on, Mr. Fisher?” with gracious benevolence, for as he “Not at all, not at all; it is a fair one, looked at Florence he thought how girlish and I shall be very glad to have the she was. He felt quite strongly that in house." her husband's absence it was his duty to She was really a nice little woman, he look after her, and to teach her pleasantly, thought, docile, and far from stupid, she the way in which she should go. “I will only wanted a little managing. He had a send you plenty of novels to read, and if suspicion that Walter was too easy-going, you would allow me to introduce you to and if so, this little experience would be her,” he added, with a shade of pompos excellent for her, it would teach her that ity in his voice, " there is a friend of mine after all men were the governing race. at Witley – Mrs. Burnett. You would “ Very well, then, Saturday. Good-bye. be company for each other, I should say, Oh, by the way, I should like to ask Miss for her husband comes up to town every Dunlop to come and see my mother ; do morning, and
you think she would mind cheering her up “ I know her a little.” Florence said, “a sometimes ? tall, slight woman with sweet grey eyes.'
She is a nice girl too." “I never looked at her eyes, Mr. “We might make a party to the theatre Fisher said quickly, and Florence felt re- one night perhaps. By the way, Mrs. proved for having mentioned them. Of Hibbert,” he exclaimed, a sudden thought course he would not look at the eyes of a striking him, “I shall write to Walter as married woman. Mr. Fisher had clear soon as I get to the office and tell him of and distinct views about the proprieties, this arrangement. I might as well inclose which he thought were invented especially a note from you. The mail goes out tofor married and marriageable women. day from Southampton, so that it would " Perhaps Miss Dunlop would pay you a be too late to post, but I am sending spevisit,” he suggested.
cially by rail. I will wait while you write “She has her father to take care of. a note, and enclose it in mine." Besides, Mrs. Baines is staying with me.” “I wrote by this mail last night," she
" I saw Mrs. Baines with Wimple the answered. But I should like to tell other day. Has she adopted him?" him about the house — he might be an.
“With Mr. Wimple," Florence said, gry.” She laughed at the last words. bewildered at the sudden mention of the She only said them to keep up Walter's name again; and then remembering Wal- dignity. ter, she added loyally, “she likes him “Oh no, he won't be angry,” Mr. Fisher because he is Walter's friend."
laughed back, and Florence thought be " He writes well,” Mr. Fisher answered, was quite good-looking when he was not as if he were making a remark that sur. too grave. He did not look more than prised himself. “ He has done some work forty either, perhaps Ethel might be happy for us, and done it very well too.”
with him. Then, when she had written a Then he unfolded the details in regard few lines, he departed, satisfied with the to the taking of the house.
result of his visit. Florence found to her surprise that he An odd thing happened about that note. had arranged them all carefully.
He went straight to the office and found a "Let me see,” he said, "this is Monday. I dozen matters of business awaiting his
" Oh no.