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they would surely have sacrificed her. The fury
of this elderly populace knew no bounds, and
they almost thirsted for her blood.

It was wonderful indeed. Alicia Mary had
been difficult to " placer ;" but her incomparable
mother had brought her in a winner, as the skilful
jockey does the indifferent horse, simply by
splendid riding. But what was difficult with
Alicia Mary seemed almost impossible with
Blanche, who was raw, helpless, and without
any fertility of resource. " Splendid riding" was
here profitless ; but Fortune took pity on this
gallant Lady Laura, and, by some combination
of accidents, fascinated the young Spendlesham
with the charms of Blanche. The "finest woman"
he had ever known was a fresh barmaid at
a fishing inn in the country, for whom he had
had an agonising attachment. But the barmaid
had long since married respectablyi.e. into an
opulent butcher interest. The features of Blanche
recalled the old romance, and the fresh barmaid
seemed to live again in the person of Blanche.

But young Spendlesham was not yet sui juris.
The law had furnished him with some odious
janissaries called guardians, who were wary and
watchful. One of these was happily an old admirer of
Lady Laura's, Sir John Westende, of Westende
House, who, as young Sir John, clapped and
applauded when she, as young Lady Laura, was
flying round in tulle and flowers on her bare-backed
steed. These were the delightful days when we
had " figure," and a " neck," and colour, and light
in our eyes, and all the ambrosial charms of youth.
Sir John, it was thought, was sure to "come
forward;" but he was irresolute, and went back
again timidly when he had advanced.

The young Sir John of those days had not the
Westende property, which came in late. He
had a modest but sufficient patrimony, and was
deeply in love with Lady Laura. The latter, if
ever she liked any man, might be said to have
liked Sir John, and told him so. But sentiment,
with her, could only be indulged in where it was
to be had gratis; any laying out of money on it
was out of the question. Young Sir John went
away happy to travel for two months, and when
he returned found that a personal friend had
been invited to take his place; a personal friend,
too, whose prospects were, if anything, only a
shade better than his own. The skilful who
managed her affairs thought they were bound to
give her the benefit of ever so trifling an
advantage; and, considering that the Westende
property had not then come in (it eventually "came
in" by an aunt), it was only natural that they
should act as they did. The balance, which took
the shape of sentiment, could not be reduced
into moneys numbered; and was, of course, left
out of the reckoning. Sir John was put back;
the friend, who was shy and retiring, received
notice that it was now his turn. This caused a
breach. Young Sir John, after some excited
expostulation, retired to Westende, while Lady
Laura married Mr. Fermor.

On this step he was furious, got a severe
illness, recovered, and went away to the Continent.
By-and-by the aunt died, and the Westende
property "came in" unexpectedly. The news
gave a dreadful pang to Lady Laura; and later
Sir John married handsomely. The lady he
married was the well-known Miss Chedder, of the
banker's family, with, as some of the elder
ladies put it, "sixty thousand pounds to her
back, my dear," but who had also sixty
thousand tongues. She was a stalwart lady, and
brought with her to the family the whole story of
the Fermor affair, which she kept alive and fresh
by constant daily allusion, rubbing salt into an
old sore. For sixteen years Sir John led a
miserable life, with the Lady Laura business flourished
in his face, hurled at his back as he left the room,
tumbled about his ears like broken crockery,
dashed on his cheeks like hot scalding teauntil
the famous Miss Chedder died, and left him a
widower, with two good-looking daughters.

Young Sir John by-and-by thus became a
fatherly Sir John, later on a middle-aged Sir
John, and was now a fresh and elderly Sir
John. But he had never forgiven the
Fermors. He had now grey whiskers and a round
clean face, with a light-blue tie and white waistcoat.
For him was the handsome carriage with,
the bays seen waiting at the foot of the steps as
the train halted at Westende; and to him porters
and station-master at Westende obsequiously
touched their caps. Then as the train passed over
the viaduct, its passengers saw the bright
carriage and brighter horses below, rolling along
the winding road, dipping into the clumps of
trees, and reappearing proudly in the sun, making
the mile and a half or so of journey which lay
between Westende House and the station.

Sir John's sister had married a brother of the
late Lord Spendlesham, so that it was quite
fitting that he should be appointed one of the
guardians. Sir John himself having the two
good-looking daughters, it was natural that he
should begin to associate his ward and his
daughters together, in a tranquil and prospective
manner. He always indeed said that his
ward was not worth his salt, and had no wit, and
never would have any, and the sooner he made a
fool of himself the better.

This at least was his tone until suddenly one
day a co-guardian came down to the station
and took the pleasant road that led to the park,
specially to communicate the news that young
Spendlesham had announced that he was going
to marry on the very day he came of age. Sir
John, who was in his garden with his blue tie on
and a grey " wide-awake" hat, took this news
savagelyhis face grew pink with rage and
excitement, and he threw down his stick upon the
gravel walk. " It shan't be ! By- it shan't
be," he said; "curse their impudence." (Sir
John swore on great occasions.) " What do they
mean ? They have done this on purpose. That
woman has laid it all out ; I know it."

For an hour he was in a fury, then ordered his
carriage and drove into the country town six

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