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“ I like him," said Linda.
"I don't,” said Susy ; “and if I were Bell, I would'nt dance with him so often; he's a regular flirt.”
“So he is,” said Bell, crimsoning ; "I don't care for him ; he's Emily Clayton's friend, not mine.”
"O Bell!” cried three of her sisters, “Emily Clayton is old enough to be his mother—now don't pretend !” And here Mrs. Shrugg's voice rang up to them, calling
"I knew it was you. There now-oh! be quick back and tell us all about it.” With which explanations, Susy was hustled out of the room, while the others remained almost breathless, awaiting her return.
MR. POLKELY SETON. But it wasn't Susy.
As Mr. Shrugg walked towards Hyde Park Gardens, he felt very nervous; it was evening, and the streets were comparatively quiet, so he could think without having his thoughts interrupted; and as he walked and thought, the errand on which he was bound began to assume formidable proportions.
Suppose Mr. Seton had a dinner-party, and the servant took him for one of the expected guests, how awkward it would be; he must reconnoitre the aspect of the house first before he rang, to avoid such a disagreeable
Or suppose Mr. Seton were out, the explanation would be postponed, and the dilemma heightened, for he could'nt call again next day; and what could he write? Mr. Shrugg smelt neither the sweet fragrance of the balcony flowers above him, nor saw the beauty of the setting sun streaming over the trees of Kensington Gardens, as he turned round from Westbourne Street into the Bayswater Road. He had taken the longest way round, to give himself more time for consideration, but the longest way was very short; and as he reached his destination, he felt as he had never felt since the day when he called upon his father-in-law elect to ask for a wife.
Every one knows Hyde Park Gardens—how bright the one side, how gloomy the other; surely no dun would ever summon up resolution to pull the bell under those huge closed porticos, nor speak insolently on those majestic thresholds; but then, of course, people who can afford to live in such fine houses never require dunning, the very supposition is insulting. If Mr. Shrugg could have approached Mr. Seton's house from the other
side, through the gardens which bloomed up to the very windows, and at that hour and season were sweet and fair, with evening fragrance and summer luxuriance, he would have gone in with recovered spirits ; but as he was obliged to follow the pavement, and No. 101 was nearly at the end of the sombre row, the matter on which he went grew quite serious before he arrived there. No other. person was in sight; cats sat here and there, solemnly sleeping within the gigantic area railings, but there was no other living thing; the very kitchens, down in the profound depths, seemed untenanted ; and his footsteps reverberated with hollow precision; the light was as that in a dim great wood. The moment's waiting at the huge black door, the entry into the dark, carpeted hall, the mysterious whisper of the gentlemanly black-coated butler who preceded him into the vast dining-room, still further depressed him; and at the first glance he had of the tall, thin, elderly man who rose
from his chair at the further end of a long table spread with dessert to greet him, he felt more than ever convinced he had come on a fool's errand. If he had not been so nervous himself, he might have seen the nervousness of his host; indeed, both gentlemen showed embarrassment, and the first few sentences exchanged between them were prim, polite, commonplaces.
Nevertheless, distant though they were, they mentally took each other's measurement. And great contrast they presented. Mr. Shrugg was ruddy, hazel-eyed, brown-haired, with that comfortable look that always characterizes a happy family man. His troubles had not perceptibly aged him yet; and though he did grieve over them at first, he was already almost reconciled to this great change of position, for he had still all he prized mostwife and children. He was a handsome man, without a shade of affectation about him, with an honest, kindly face, sobered by middle age,