Chapter 9

Meanwhile, Lord Lindeth, driving Miss Chartley home at an easy pace, naturally told her that the waltz would be danced at the Colby Place ball. She was quite as much surprised as Tiffany had been, but she received the news very differently, saying wistfully: “I have never learnt to waltz, but I shall enjoy watching it.”

“You could learn the steps in a trice,” he assured her. “I know how well you dance, Miss Chartley! Any caper-merchant could teach you in one lesson! Why, I could do it myself—though I’m no dab at it! Do let me!”

She smiled gratefully at him, but said simply: “I don’t think Mama would permit it.”

“Wouldn’t she? Not even when she knows Mrs Mickleby sanctions it?”

She shook her head, but closed her lips on speech. A lady of true quality, said Mama, did not puff off her consequence: anything of that nature belonged to the mushroom class! Mama never mentioned the matter, but she was far better bred than the Squire’s wife, and well did Patience know that she would be considerably affronted by any suggestion that she should accept Mrs Mickleby as a model.

“Does she believe it to be an improper dance?” asked Lindeth. “So too did my own mother, until she saw that it was no such thing. I shall see if I can’t persuade Mrs Chartley to relent! It would be too bad if you were obliged merely to watch it!”

“I’m afraid you wouldn’t succeed,” she said, thinking there was no real intention behind his words.

She was mistaken. When they reached the Rectory Lindeth entered it with her, and was soon engaged in coaxing Mrs Chartley, recovering from her indisposition on the sofa in her drawing-room, to revise her opinion of the fast German dance which had become the rage in London.

She was by no means impervious to his charm, but her sense of propriety was strict, and it is doubtful whether he would have prevailed upon her to relax it had he not received support from an unexpected quarter. The Rector, coming into the room and learning what was the subject under discussion, said that since the world began each generation had condemned the manners and customs of the next. For himself, he would not judge a dance he had never seen performed. Smiling kindly upon Julian, he invited him to show them the steps.

“Mr Chartley!” protested his wife, in half-laughing reproach.

“I was very fond of dancing when I was young,” said the Rector reminiscently. “Dear me, what dashers we were! Always up to the knocker, as you young people would say!”

That made them all laugh; and when he told his wife that while he hoped no child of his would ever pass the line he found he could not wish his daughter to be a dowdy, Mrs Chartley flung up her hands in mock dismay, and consented to postpone judgment. The end of it was that Julian was persuaded to give Patience her first lesson, ably assisted by Miss Jane Chartley, who not only bullied her shrinking elder sister into standing up with him, but volunteered to play the music. This she did with great aplomb, strongly marking the time, in a manner which made her startled mama wonder who had taught her to play waltzes. It was certainly not her rather prim governess.

Patience (like her father) was very fond of dancing, and as soon as she had overcome her nervousness she showed herself to be an apt pupil, a trifle stiff when she found Lindeth’s arm round her for the first time, but quickly mastering the steps and the rhythm of the dance.

“Bravo!” applauded the Rector, gently clapping his hands. “Very pretty! Very pretty indeed!”

“Oh, do you think so, Papa?” Patience said eagerly. “I was dreadfully awkward, and kept missing my step! But, if you don’t think it indecorous, I-I should like to learn to do it correctly. It is so exhilarating!”

It was this impulsive utterance which made Mrs Chartley say, later: “My dear John, I marvel at your countenancing this most improper dance! When they went down the room together, with his left hand holding her right one above their heads, his right hand was clasping her waist!

“For guidance, my love!” said the Rector. “Lindeth had no amorous intention! I saw nothing improper. Indeed, I should have wished to see Patience a trifle less unyielding—but I daresay she was awkward from ignorance!”

“It’s my belief,” said Mrs Chartley severely, “that you would like to dance the waltz yourself!”

“No, no, not at my age!” he said guiltily. A smile crept into his eyes. “But if it had been in fashion when I was a young man, and not, of course, in orders, I should have danced it—and with you, my love! Would you have disliked it?”

A dimple quivered in her cheek, but she said: “My mother would never have permitted such a thing. Do you, in all sincerity, expect me to permit Patience to—to twirl round a ball-room in a male embrace—for I can call it nothing less than that!”

“You are the best judge of what she should do, my dear, and I must leave it to you to decide. I must own, however, that I should not wish to see Patience sitting against the wall while her friends are, as you phrase it, twirling round the room.”

“No,” agreed Mrs Chartley, forcibly struck by this aspect. “No, indeed!”

“Far be it from me to desire her to outshine her friends,” said the Rector unconvincingly, “but I have sometimes thought that although she cannot rival little Tiffany’s beauty she is by far the more graceful dancer.”

These words afforded his wife food for considerable thought. She could not be perfectly reconciled, but her resolution wavered. The reference to Tiffany, little though the Rector knew it, had operated powerfully upon her. She was not, she hoped, a worldly woman, but neither was she so saintly (or so unnatural a parent) as to be unmoved by the spectacle of her daughter’s being cast into the shade by an odiously precocious little baggage who was wild to a fault, as vain as she was beautiful, and wholly wanting in character and disposition. Mrs Chartley, in fact, did not like Tiffany Wield; and she had been thinking for some time that it was sad to see such a delightful young man as Lindeth in her toils. Heaven knew she was no matchmaking mother! Unlike certain of her husband’s parishioners, she had made not the smallest attempt to throw her child in his lordship’s way; but when she had watched him dancing with Patience the thought had flashed across her mind that they were a remarkably well-suited couple. Lindeth was just the sort of young man she would have chosen for Patience. It was one thing to make no push to engage his interest in the child, but quite another to throw obstacles in the way of his becoming better acquainted with her.

She was still in a state of indecision when the matter was clinched by an invitation to Patience from Mrs Underhill, to attend one or two morning dances at Staples, to practise the waltz.

“Morning dances!” she exclaimed. “Good gracious, what next?”

Patience, her eyes shining, and her cheeks in a glow, said: “It was Tiffany’s suggestion, Mama, and Miss Trent says it is quite true that they have become the fashion in London. Just to enable people to practise waltzes and quadrilles, you know. And she has undertaken to play for us, and tell us all how to waltz in the correct manner. Mama, nearly all my friends are going! And even Courtenay Underhill, and the Banninghams, and Arthur Mickleby are determined to learn! And Lord Lindeth and Mr Ash have been so obliging as to promise to come too, to show us the way. And Mrs Underhill will be present, and—”

“My dear, how you do run on!”

“I beg your pardon, ma’am! Only, may I go? Not if you dislike it—but I should like to so very much!”

Mrs Chartley could not withstand such an appeal. “Well, my love, since your papa sees no harm in it, and the ball is to be a private one, not a public assembly—”

“Oh, thank you,Mama!” breathed Patience. “Now I can look forward to it, which I didn’t when I thought I should be obliged to sit down when the others were all dancing!”

“No, that would never do,” agreed Mrs Chartley, visualizing such a scene with profound disapprobation.

“It is going to be a beautiful party!” confided Patience. “There are to be coloured lamps in the garden, and—but this is a great secret, Mama, which Lizzie whispered to me!—a firework display at midnight!”

“It’s to be hoped, then, that it doesn’t rain,” said Mrs Chartley.

“Oh, don’t suggest such a thing!” begged Patience. “Mama, would you think it very extravagant if I were to purchase a new reticule for it? I’ve been to so many parties that mine is looking sadly shabby.”

“Not, not at all. You know, my dear, I have been thinking that if you were to bring back a length of satin from Leeds on Friday we could very easily make a fresh underdress for your gauze ball-dress. I never did like the green we chose. A soft shade of pink would become you. And if you can find some velvet ribbon to match it—How vexatious it is that I can’t go with you! But Dr Wibsey threatens me with all manner of evil consequences if I don’t continue to be invalidish until the end of the week at least, so if I am to take you to this ball next week I suppose I must do what he tells me. Well, you will have Miss Trent to advise you! Let yourself be guided by her: she has excellent taste!”

What with the dissipation of waltzing at Staples all one rainy morning, and the prospect of an orgy of spending in Leeds, attended by a nuncheon-party, it was in a festive mood that Patience awaited the arrival of the Staples carriage on Friday morning. She had arrayed herself for the occasion in her best walking-dress of figured muslin, with long sleeves, and a double flounce round the hem; on her head she wore a pretty straw bonnet, trimmed with flowers; on her feet sandals of tan kid; in one hand she held a small parasol; and in the other (very tightly) a stocking-purse containing the enormous largesse bestowed on her by her Mama. It seemed quite profligate to spend so much money on her adornment, for although the Rector had been born to an independence which enabled him to command the elegancies of life he had reared his children in habits of economy, and in the belief that it was wrong to set store by one’s appearance.

“Going to waste your money on more finery?” he had said, smiling, but disapproving too.

“My dear sir,” had said Mama, “you would not wish your daughter to be seen in worn-out slippers and soiled gloves, I hope!”

Afterwards she had explained the suppression of the pink satin and the velvet ribbon, saying in a confidential tone which made Patience feel suddenly very much more grownup that it was better not to talk to men about frills and furbelows, because they had no understanding of such things, and were merely bored by feminine chatter.

Miss Trent thought that she had seldom seen Patience in such good looks, and reflected that nothing became a girl so well as a glow of pleasurable excitement. She was inevitably dimmed by Tiffany, who was in great beauty, and wearing a dashing bonnet with a very high crown and a huge, upstanding poke framing her face, but there was something very taking about her countenance; and her eyes, though lacking the brilliance of Tiffany’s, held a particularly sweet expression.

The drive into Leeds, once Patience had won a spirited argument with Miss Trent on which of them really preferred to sit with her back to the horses, was accomplished in perfect amity. Tiffany took no part in a dispute which she felt to be no concern of hers, but she was very ready to discuss with her companions the various purchases she meant to make in the town, and to show a civil, if fleeting, interest in Patience’s more modest requirements. Being a considerable heiress she had a great deal of pin-money allowed her; and as, unlike Patience, she had not the smallest notion of economy, it was enough for her to see something that took her fancy to make her buy it immediately. Her drawers were crammed with the expensive spoils of her visits to Leeds or Harrogate, most of which she had decided did not become her, or which were not as pretty as she had at first thought them. They ranged from innumerable pairs of rosettes for slippers to a Spartan diadem which (mercifully) was found to make her look positively haggish; and included such diverse items as an Angola shawl suitable for a dowager, a pair of Spanish slippers of sea-green kid, three muffs of spotted ermine, chinchilla, and swansdown, a tangle of spangled ribbon, and a set of head ornaments of silver filigree. She was obliged, at present, to apply to Mrs Underhill whenever she wanted to draw on her allowance. What would happen when she came into full possession of her fortune was a question which conjured up nightmarish visions in the mind of a conscientious governess, and Miss Trent had made persistent and extremely exhausting efforts to instil into her head some glimmerings of the value of money. She had failed, and as she was not one to fling her cap after the impossible there was nothing left for her to do but to check Tiffany’s extravagance by whatever means her ingenuity might suggest to her; and to excuse her failure by the reflection that the control of that volatile damsel’s inheritance would pass into the hands of her unknown but inevitable husband.

When they reached Leeds they alighted from the carriage at the King’s Arms, and set forth on foot down the main shopping street. Leeds was a thriving and rapidly expanding town, numbering amongst its public edifices two Cloth Halls (one of which was of impressive dimensions, and was divided into six covered streets) ; five Churches; a Moot Hall; the Exchange (a handsome building of octangular design); an Infirmary; a House of Recovery for persons afflicted with infectious diseases; a Charity school, clothing and educating upwards of a hundred children, and over which (had they but known it) Sir Waldo Hawkridge was, at the time of their arrival in the town, being escorted by several of the Governors; a number of cloth and carpet manufactories; several cotton mills, and foundries; inns innumerable; and half-a-dozen excellent posting-houses. The buildings were for the most part of red brick, beginning to be blackened by the smoke of industry; and while none could be thought magnificent there were several Squares and Parades which contained private residences of considerable elegance. There was some very good shops and silk warehouses; and it was not long before Miss Trent’s ingenuity was put to the test, Tiffany falling in love first with a pair of gold French shoe-buckles ornamented with paste; and next with a Surprise fan of crape, lavishly embellished with purple and gold devices. Miss Trent had never seen anything so exquisite as the buckles, and bemoaned the change in fashion which had made it impossible for anyone to wear them now without appearing perfectly Gothic. As for the fan, she agreed that it was a most amusing trifle: just what she would wish to buy for herself, if it had not been so excessively ugly!

These hazards successfully skirted, she steered her charges into a large and entrancing establishment, where both young ladies bought some gloves and some ribbons, and Tiffany several pairs of silk stockings, which aroused such envy in Miss Chartley’s gentle bosom that she determined to save twelve shillings from the sum reposing in her purse so that she could buy just one pair to wear at the Colebatches’ ball.

After this they visited the silk warehouse which enjoyed Mrs Chartley’s patronage; and while Tiffany, who soon lost interest in the choice of a satin to furnish a new underdress for Patience’s gauze ball-gown, wandered about, inspecting silks and velvets, with a dazed and slavishly admiring young shopman in attendance, Miss Trent placed her taste and experience at her young friend’s disposal. A very reasonably priced satin of a charming shade of pink having been discovered, there was only enough time left before the ladies’ assignation with Lord Lindeth for the purchase of Patience’s new dancing-sandals. This was soon accomplished, and although it took several minutes to dissuade Tiffany from investing in a pair of pale blue silk sandals, they returned to the King’s Arms before their host had begun to entertain any very serious fear that some accident must have overtaken them.

He was awaiting them in a private parlour, and it was evident from the array of cold meats, fruit, jellies, and creams on the table that he had taken great pains over their entertainment. Only one thing, in Miss Trent’s view, was wanting. For no persuasion would she have betrayed the smallest interest in the whereabouts of the Nonesuch; but when Tiffany, who had few reserves, demanded to know why he was not present, she felt, for once, no desire to censure this unbecoming pertness.

“He’ll be here presently,” Lindeth answered. “We won’t wait for him, however: he warned me not to—said I was to make his apologies, if he was detained. I daresay he is still interviewing bailiffs! From what I saw, that lawyer—what’s his name?—Smeeth!—had a score of ’em drawn up in line for his inspection!”

“Oh!” Tiffany said, pouting. “Dull work!”

“Well—” He hesitated, and then said: “Yes, of course it is—dull work for a lady, I mean.”

“I should suppose it must be very difficult,” said Patience thoughtfully. “In particular, if you mean to leave the bailiff in sole charge. One hears of such shocking instances of tyranny, and neglect—though my father says the fault too often lies at the landlord’s door.”

“Yes, very true,” he agreed. “Screws like old Joseph Calver, wringing every groat it will yield out of his land, and leasing his farms on short terms to thriftless get-pennies, because—” He stopped, seeing the frown that creased Tiffany’s brow. “But I don’t know why we should be talking about such things, and boring Miss Wield!”

“No, nor do I!” she said, all demure mischief. “Tell me why?”

He laughed. “Not for the world! I’ll invite you to the table instead! I hope you are very hungry! Miss Trent, will you sit here, and may I carve you some chicken?”

“Misuse of language, Lindeth: hack is the word!” said Sir Waldo, entering the parlour at that moment. “How do you do, ma’am? Miss Chartley, your very obedient! Miss Wield, yours! I beg all your pardons: I’m late!”

“Now, that puts me in mind of a remark someone once made to me,” said Miss Trent, apparently chasing an elusive recollection. “Something about becoming inured to unpunctuality … Who can have said that, I wonder? I have the wretchedest memory!”

“Then you should not attempt quotation, ma’am!” retorted Sir Waldo, a laugh in his eye. “‘To the unpunctuality of your sex’ was what I said.”

“Oh, no, did he, ma’am?” exclaimed Lindeth. “That’s famous. Hoist with his own petard!

“What does that mean, pray?” asked Tiffany.

“You must not ask me,” responded Sir Waldo, with a reproving look. “Lindeth shouldn’t say such things in the presence of ladies.”

“Oh, is it improper?” she said innocently.

“Most improper!” he replied, his gravity unimpaired.

She saw that the others were laughing, and put up her chin, flushing slightly. But as Sir Waldo, taking his seat beside her at the table, asked her to tell him all about the morning’s shopping expedition, showing a gratifying interest in her purchases, she very soon mended her temper, and prattled to him throughout the meal in the greatest good humour.

A new reticule for Patience, and velvet ribbon to match the pink satin had still to be found. When they rose from the table, Sir Waldo excused himself, and went away to resume his inspection of bailiffs; but Lindeth, declaring that he had a very good eye for colour, begged to be allowed to escort the ladies. Since the Nonesuch had devoted himself to Tiffany’s entertainment at the table, Julian, wondering at this most unusual want of conduct in his cousin, had done his best to keep both his other guests amused; and he had succeeded very well. But Miss Trent, ably seconding his efforts, was assailed by apprehension. The faint suspicion, which had crossed her mind once or twice before, that Miss Chartley was more powerfully attracted to Lindeth than she would have wished anyone to guess was strengthened. The Rector’s well-brought up daughter was behaving just as she ought, but the light in her soft eyes when she raised them to his lordship’s face was, thought Miss Trent, unmistakeably tender. Like Mrs Chartley she could not help feeling that they would be very well-suited to one another; but while she knew, on the authority of chroniclers and poets, that it was by no means unusual for a gentleman to transfer his affections almost in the twinkling of an eye (witness the extraordinary revulsion of feeling experienced by young Mr Montague when he first clapped eyes on Miss Capulet!), she did not know whether the Nonesuch would look upon Patience with approbation. Miss Trent could not doubt that if he did not he would contrive to thrust a spoke into the wheel of a possible courtship. That realization, she thought, should have been enough to warn her that he was probably an unscrupulous man of whom she would do well to beware. The mischief was that while she was just able to admit this possibility in his absence she had only to meet his eyes across a room to become instantly convinced of his integrity.

He found an opportunity to exchange a few words with her before he left the King’s Arms, asking abruptly: “Shall I see you at the Colebatches’ ball?”

“Yes. I have been invited to go, and my kind mistress says I may—or, rather, insists that I must!”

En chaperon?”

“No, she goes herself, so I am to enjoy a holiday.”

“Then I shan’t cry off from it.”

He did not wait for an answer, but with a smile, and a brief handshake, took his departure.

The next hour was spent very agreeably by the rest of the party in various shops, where not only was a reticule found, and the satin exactly matched, but where Tiffany bought a pair of filigree earrings, and Miss Trent a spray of artificial flowers to wear with her only ball-dress. Lindeth’s presence added a good deal of gaiety to the expedition. He took a keen interest in the various purchases, but as he knew very little about feminine fashions he made some wonderful blunders, which rapidly induced a mood of hilarity in his companions. He also discovered a pastrycook’s shop advertising ice-creams; and as the ladies were all feeling hot, and a trifle weary, he experienced no difficulty in persuading them to enter it. Tiffany, puffing off her knowledge, said that it was just like Gunter’s: an inaccurate statement, but one which showed her to be in her best humour. Miss Trent thought that she had seldom spent a more pleasant day in her company.

After disposing of several lemon-flavoured ices, they left the pastrycook’s, and began to retrace their steps to the King’s Arms. The street was a busy one, and there was no room to walk four abreast, so the two girls went ahead, amicably discussing the latest modes, and Lindeth civilly offered his arm to Miss Trent. A picture hanging in the window of a print-shop caught his eye; he recognized the subject, which was the Dripping Well, and at once drew Miss Trent’s attention to it. It was while they were studying it that the harmony of the day was suddenly and rudely shattered. Some kind of a stir was taking place further up the street; there were shouts of: “Stop thief!” and as they looked quickly round a ragged urchin came into view, darting towards them with an apple clutched in his hand, and an expression of hunted terror in his starting eyes. He was dodging between the passers-by, and had almost reached Patience and Tiffany when a middle-aged citizen thrust his walking-cane between his legs to arrest his progress. A crashing fall was the inevitable result: the child, swerving to avoid the over-zealous citizen, pitched forward, not on the flagway but on to the cobbled street. A cry of protest had burst from Patience; parcels, parasol, and purse were flung away; and under Miss Trent’s horrified eyes she sprang into the road, snatching the urchin almost from under the hooves of a high-stepping chestnut harnessed to a tilbury, which was being driven at a spanking pace along the street. For a dreadful moment it seemed as if she must be trampled upon; then the chestnut reared up, snorting, and was miraculously swung to one side; and the driver of the tilbury, a natty young gentleman clad in raiment which, almost as clearly as his handling of the reins, proclaimed him to be a top-sawyer, added his voice to the general hubbub in a furious expletive. The next instant Lindeth had brushed past Miss Trent, racing forward to the rescue, and unceremoniously pushing Tiffany out of the way as he bent over Patience.

“Good God, Miss Chartley—! Are you hurt?”

She had dragged rather than lifted the urchin out of danger, and was on her knees, supporting him in her arms, and gazing down in horror at his face, down which blood was streaming from a gash on the forehead, but she glanced up, saying: “Oh, no, no! But this poor little boy—! Something to stop the bleeding—a handkerchief—anything!— Oh, pray, one of you—!”

“Here, take mine!” Lindeth said, thrusting it into her hand. “Poor little devil! Knocked himself out!” He looked up at the driver of the tilbury, and said curtly: “I’m sorry, sir, and must thank you for acting so promptly. I trust your horse has suffered no injury.”

By this time the natty gentleman had realized that the female kneeling beside the gutter was a young and very pretty girl of obviously gentle birth. Blushing hotly, he stammered: “No, no, not the least in the world! Beg you’ll accept my apologies, ma’am! Agitation of the moment—forgot myself! By Jove, though! You might have been killed! Bravest thing I ever saw in my life! By Jove, it was!”

She looked up briefly, to say: “Oh, no! I am so much obliged to you! I don’t wonder you were angry—but, you see, I had to do it!”

Miss Trent, who had succeeded in pushing her way through the fast-gathering crowd, bent over her, asking anxiously: “How badly is he hurt, my dear?”

“I don’t know. His head struck the cobbles. I must take him to the hospital.”

“Yes, for I fear this cut must be stitched,” said Miss Trent, folding her own handkerchief into a neat pad, and pressing it over the wound. “Do you hold his head so that I can tie Lord Lindeth’s handkerchief round it!”

At this point, a fresh voice intruded upon them. The owner of the stolen apple, a stout and breathless shopkeeper, had arrived on the scene, and was loudly announcing his intention of summoning a constable to take the young varmint in charge. He was in a blustering rage, and somewhat roughly told Patience that the gaol was the place for hedge-birds, not the hospital. She said imploringly: “Pray don’t give him up to the constable! It was very wrong of him to steal from you, but you see what a little boy he is, and how wretched! And he’s badly hurt, too.”

“Not he!” retorted the shopkeeper. “Serve him right if he’d broke his neck! It’s a shame and a scandal the way him and his like hang about waiting for the chance to prig something! I’ll have this young thief made an example of, by God I will!”

“Here, you rascal, that’s no way to speak to a lady!” exclaimed the gentleman in the tilbury indignantly. “What’s more I’ll go bail the brat ain’t half as big a thief as you are! I know you shopkeepers! All the same: selling farthing-dips for a bull’s eye apiece!”

Not unnaturally, the effect of this intervention was far from happy. The injured tradesman appealed to the onlookers for support, and although one or two persons recommended him to pardon the thief, several others ranged themselves on his side. The air was rent with argument; but Lindeth, who had never before found himself in the centre of so embarrassing a scene, collected his wits and his dignity, and in a voice which held a remarkable degree of calm authority bade the shopkeeper declare the worth of the stolen fruit.

The man seemed at first to be determined on revenge, but after some more argument, in which some six or seven members of the crowd took part, he consented to accept the coin held out to him, and withdrew, accompanied by several of his supporters. The crowd now began to disperse; the small thief, coming round from his swoon, started to cry for his home and his Mammy; and while Patience soothed him, assuring him that she would take him to his home directly, and that no one should lock him up in prison, or give him up to the beadle (an official of whom he seemed to stand in terror), Miss Trent, Lord Lindeth, and the gentleman in sporting toggery, who had descended from the tilbury to join in the discussion, held a hurried council.

Throughout this animated scene Tiffany had been standing neglected and alone, rigid with mortification, jostled by such low-bred, persons in the crowd as wished to obtain a closer view of the group in the gutter; pushed out of the way by Lord Lindeth; sharply adjured by Miss Trent not to stand like a stock, but to pick up Patience’s belongings; and left without chaperonage or male protection by those who should have made her comfort and safety their first concern. Even the sporting gentleman in the tilbury had paid her no heed! Patience—Patience—!—kneeling in the road, with her dress stained with blood, and a ragged and disgusting urchin in her arms, was the heroine of this most revolting piece, while she, the Beautiful Miss Wield, was left to hold as best she might two parasols, two purses, and a load of parcels.

She listened in seething fury to the plans that were being formulated. The sporting gentleman—he said that his name was Baldock, and that he begged to be allowed to place himself at their disposal—was offering to drive Patience and the dirty little boy to the infirmary; Lindeth was assuring her that he would himself convey the pair of them to the boy’s home (no doubt a hovel in the back-slums of the town!), and Miss Trent was promising to proceed on foot to the infirmary immediately, there to render Patience all the aid and protection of which she was capable. Not one of them had a thought to spare for her!She was tired; she wanted to go home; out of sheer kindness of heart she had agreed to allow Patience (whom she had never liked) to accompany her to Leeds; she had submitted, without a word of protest, to being dragged all over the town in search of some stupid pink satin; her own companion—hired to take care of her!—instead of escorting her away from this degrading scene was merely concerned with Patience’s welfare; and now she and Lindeth, without the slightest reference to her, were talking of driving that nasty child to his home in her carriage.

“I think I am going to faint!” she announced, in a penetrating voice which lent no colour to this statement.

Lindeth, who was lifting the boy out of Patience’s arms, paid no heed; Miss Trent, assisting Patience to her feet, just glanced at her, and said: “I can’t attend to you now, Tiffany!” and Mr Baldock, with no more than a cursory look at her, said: “Don’t see why you should faint, ma’am! Shouldn’t have wondered at it if this lady had, but not she! Didn’t quite catch your name, ma’am, but shall take leave to say you’re a regular trump! No—shouldn’t have said that! Not the thing to say to a female! Beg your pardon: never been much of a lady’s man! What I meant was, you’re a—you’re a—”

“Heroine!” supplied Lindeth, laughing,

“Ay, so she is! A dashed heroine!”

“Oh, pray—!” Patience protested. “I’m very much obliged to you, but indeed I’m nothing of the sort! If you will be so very good as to drive me to the infirmary, let us go immediately, if you please! He is still bleeding, and I’m afraid he may have injured his leg as well. You can see how it is swelling, and he cries if you touch it!” She looked round. “I don’t know what became of my parcels, and my—Oh, Tiffany, you have them all! Thank you! I am so sorry—so disagreeable for you!”

“Oh, pray don’t mention it!” said Tiffany, quivering with fury. “I like picking up parcels and parasols for other people! I like being jostled by vulgar persons! Pray don’t consider me at all! Or ask my leave to use my carriage for that odious, wicked boy!”

“Well, of all the shrews!” gasped Mr Baldock.

Lindeth, who had been staring at Tiffany, a queer look in his eyes, and his lips rather tightly compressed, turned from her, and said quietly: “Hand Miss Chartley into your tilbury, will you? I’ll give the boy to her then, and we can be off.”

“Yes, but it will be the deuce of a squeeze,” responded Mr Baldock doubtfully.

“No, it won’t: I’m going to get up behind.” He waited until Patience had climbed into the carriage, and then deposited the whimpering child in her lap, saying gently: “Don’t be distressed! There’s no need, I promise you.”

She was feeling ready to sink, and whispered: “I never thought—I didn’t know—Lord Lindeth, stay with her! I shall do very well by myself. Perhaps you could hire a carriage for me? Oh, yes! of course that’s what I ought to do! If you would direct the coachman to drive to the infirmary—”

“Stop fretting!” he commanded, smiling up at her. “We’ll discuss what’s best to be done presently. Meanwhile, Miss Trent will look after Miss Wield: I am coming with you!” He turned, as Miss Trent came up to give Patience her purse, and told her briefly what he meant to do, adding, in an under-voice: “Will you be able to come to the infirmary, ma’am? I think you should, don’t you?”

“Of course I shall come,” she replied. “Just as soon as I have taken Miss Wield back to the King’s Arms!”

He looked relieved. “Yes, if you please. Then I’ll find Waldo. He’s the man we want in this situation!”

She had been thinking so herself, and although she was surprised that he should have said it she agreed cordially. It was then his lordship’s turn to be a little puzzled, for he had spoken more to himself than to her, and (since Waldo very much disliked having his peculiar philanthropy puffed-off) was already regretting it. Before it could be established that they were talking at cross-purposes, Tiffany, almost beside herself with rage at their continued neglect, stalked up to them to demand in a voice vibrant with passion how much longer Miss Trent meant to keep her waiting.

“Not an instant!” replied her preceptress cheerfully, removing from her grasp the parasol and the various packages with which she was still burdened. Over her shoulder, she smiled reassuringly at Patience. “I’ll join you at the infirmary directly, Miss Chartley. Now, Tiffany!”

“You will not join her at the infirmary!” said Tiffany. “I wish to go home, and it is your duty to stay with me, and if you don’t do what I want I’ll tell my aunt, and have you turned off!”

“Without a character!” nodded Miss Trent, tucking a hand in her arm, and firmly propelling her down the flagway. “And if I were to take you home, abandoning Miss Chartley, her mama would no doubt demand my instant dismissal too, so in either event I must be totally ruined. I am quite sick with apprehension! But if I were you, Tiffany, I would take care how I exposed myself!”

“How I exposed myself?” gasped Tiffany. “When it was that odious Patience Chartley, with her insinuating ways, behaving like a hoyden, just to make everyone think her a heroine—”

“Do, Tiffany, strive for a little conduct!” interrupted Miss Trent. “I am not going to bandy words with you in public, so you may as well keep your tongue.”

This, however, the outraged beauty was far too angry to do, delivering herself all the way to the King’s Arms of a tirade which was as comprehensive as it was absurd. Miss Trent refused to be goaded into retort, but she could willingly have slapped her spoilt charge. She did indeed point out to her that she was attracting the undesirable notice of such passers-by who were privileged to overhear scraps of her diatribe; but although Tiffany lowered her voice she continued to scold.

It might have been supposed that the violence of her emotions would have exhausted her by the time the King’s Arms was reached; but she was made of resilient fibre, and the recital of her wrongs and the condemnation of every one of her companions were merely the prelude to a storm which, as experience had taught Miss Trent, would involve her, when it broke, in embarrassment, startle everyone within earshot, and culminate in a fit of shattering hysterics. She knew it to be useless to reason with Tiffany; so when they reached the posting-house she almost dragged her into the parlour which Lindeth had hired for the day, and left her there, saying mendaciously that she was going to procure some hartshorn. Tiffany had already begun to cry in an ominously gusty way, but Miss Trent did not believe that she would work herself into hysterics if no one was present to be shocked or distressed by her passion. She was quite capable, of course, of doing something outrageous when she had lashed herself into one of these fits; but Miss Trent, after rapidly reviewing the circumstances, thought that the worst she could find to do in the middle of Leeds would be to order her aunt’s coachman to put the horses to, and to have herself driven back to Staples immediately. When John-Coachman refused to obey this order, as he certainly would, there would really be nothing left for her to do but to smash the china ornaments on the mantelpiece.

Miss Trent might regard the situation in this practical light; but she was much more worried than she had allowed Tiffany to suspect. Her first duty was undoubtedly to that intransigent damsel, and by no stretch of the imagination could this duty be thought to include taking her into the back-slums of the town; but when Mrs Chartley had permitted her daughter to join the expedition she had done so in the belief that she would be respectably chaperoned. Neither she nor Miss Trent, of course, could have foreseen the accident which had made this double chaperonage so difficult; but that she would think it extremely reprehensible of Miss Trent to leave Patience to the sole protection and escort of Lord Lindeth was beyond doubt, or (in Miss Trent’s own opinion) censure. Somehow the two conflicting duties must be reconciled. Try as she would, Miss Trent could hit upon no better solution to the problem than to enlist Sir Waldo’s support, just as Lindeth had suggested. If he could be induced to keep Tiffany amused until Patience’s prot?g? had been restored to his parents the unfortunate episode might yet end happily.

So it was not to procure hartshorn for Tiffany that Miss Trent hurriedly left the parlour, but to make all speed to the infirmary, whence she meant to send Lindeth off post-haste to find his cousin.

In the event. Sir Waldo entered the King’s Arms just as she was about to leave the house. Never had she been more thankful, nor more relieved! She exclaimed impulsively: “Oh, how glad I am to see you! Sir Waldo, you are the one person who may be able to help me in this fix, and I do beg that you will!”

“You may be sure that I will,” he replied, looking a little startled, but maintaining his calm. “What fix have you fallen into, and what must I do to extricate you from it?”

She gave a shaky laugh. “Oh, dear! I must seem to you to have flown into alt! I beg your pardon! It wasn’t precisely I who fell into a fix, but—”

“Just a moment!” he interrupted. “Do you know that there is blood on your dress?”

She cast a cursory glance down her own person. “Is there? Yes, I see—but it’s of no consequence!”

“Well, as you don’t appear to have sustained any injury, I’ll accept your word for that,” he said. “Whose blood is it?”

“I don’t know—I mean, I don’t know what his name is! A little boy—but I must tell you how it all happened!”

“Do!” he invited.

As concisely as she could, she put him in possession of the facts, making no attempt to conceal from him that it was not the accident which had thrown her into disorder, but Tiffany’s obstructive behaviour. “I know it must seem incredible that she should fly into one of her rages at such a moment,” she said earnestly, “but you know what she is!”

“Of course I do! It is exactly what I should have expected of her. How could it be otherwise when the role of heroine in this stirring drama was snatched from her, and she found herself a mere spectator? Where is she now?”

“Upstairs, in the parlour where we ate luncheon. That was the reason, of course, and I don’t know what enraged her the more: your cousin paying no heed to her, or that absurd Mr Baldock saying he didn’t see what cause she had to faint! Yes, it’s all very well for you to laugh, sir! I own, I should think it very funny myself if it didn’t concern me so nearly. Do you see now what a fix I’m in? I can neither leave Tiffany alone here for heaven only knows how long, nor can I abandon Miss Chartley! I never was more distracted! But your cousin said that you were the man to help us in this situation, and, although it surprised me a little that he should say so, I perceived immediately that he was perfectly right! Sir Waldo, will you be so very obliging as to stay with Tiffany—divert her, you know!—while I go with Patience to wherever the boy lives?”

“I don’t think that was quite what Lindeth meant,” he said dryly, “but certainly I’ll take charge of Tiffany. Shall I find her indulging in a fit of hysterics?”

“No, for I came away before she had time to throw herself into one. There’s no sense in having hysterics, you know, if one is quite by oneself.”

He smiled, but said: “It’s to be hoped that she doesn’t have them for my edification, for I should be quite at a loss to know what to do!”

“She won’t,” said Miss Trent confidently. “Just flatter her—as you very well do know how to do!”

“I think that the best service I can render you will be to drive her back to Staples,” he said. “You need not then be anxious on her account—I hope!”

The worried crease was smoothed from her brow. She said gratefully: “No, indeed! You know I shouldn’t be! And there can be no objection—in an open carriage, and with your groom behind!”

“Yes, those circumstances will compel me to restrain any inclination I may feel to make violent love to her, won’t they?” he agreed affably.

She laughed. “Yes—if that was what I had meant to say, which it was not! I know very well you don’t feel any such inclination!”

“I imagine you might! Now, I have just one thing to say before we part, ma’am! From what you have told me, this urchin hails from the slums: either in the eastern part of the town, where the dyeing-houses and most of the manufactories are situated, or on the south bank of the river.”

“I am afraid so. You are going to say that I shouldn’t permit Miss Chartley to go into such districts. I know it, but I don’t think I can prevent her.”

“No, I am not going to say that. But you must promise me you won’t leave the carriage, Miss Trent! So far as I am aware there is no epidemic disease rife there at the moment, but most of the dwellings are little better than hovels, and there is a degree of squalor which makes it excessively imprudent for you—or Miss Chartley, of course—to enter them.”

She looked wonderingly at him. “I have never been in the poorer part of the town. Have you, then?”

“Yes, I have, and you may believe that I know what I am saying. Have I your word?”

“Of course: I would not for the world expose Miss Chartley to the least risk!”

“Good girl!” he said, smiling at her. “Tell Julian I’ve left you in his charge—and that I’ve removed the worst of your embarrassments!”

He held out his hand, and, when she put hers into it, raised it to his lips, and lightly kissed her fingers.