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Ought we to Visit Her ?




SITTING-ROOM in one of the best hotels in Spa; the hour,

four in the afternoon; husband and wife alone together. “Forty and eighty are certainly one hundred and twenty,” says Mr. Theobald, resting his forehead on his hand, and applying himself resolutely to the sheet of paper covered with figures that lies before him. “From this subtract fifty; add ten; divide by six. Jenny, my dear,” after a minute or more of intense mental difficulty, “I don't know where the balance can be, but on paper, and according to all the four rules of arithmetic, we are exactly fifty pounds better off than I thought.”

Then you have forgotten to put down something," answers Jane. “The only kind of arithmetic I believe in is counting one's cash. How much money have you got in your pocket ?”

Jane's husband takes out a penknife, a book of cigarette-paper, and four napoleons. He is an exceedingly near-sighted man, and has to put up his eyeglass in order to survey his property as he spreads it, in a neat row, upon the table. “Ridiculous to think”-the eyeglass falls with a clink against his watch-chain-" ridiculous to think, in the face of all these rows of figures, that we are reduced to four napoleons, Jane!"

“I remember the days when I thought four napoleons riches. Why, only last Christmas I made a winter-dress for myself

, and a whole suit for Blossy, with less than four napoleons. Oh, Theobald,” looking suddenly up from her work, a diaphonous little blue cloud



that shall presently be a bonnet, “What a queer sensation it is to think we are rich people at last! that it doesn't matter really whether we happen to have four napoleons or forty in our pockets !"

“I don't think any sensation on the subject of money ought to be queer to us,” says Mr. Theobald; “and as to feeling rich—why, I never felt in my life before that I was a pauper till now.

As long as we lived-well, on nothing particular, Jenny; the dregs of capital, ill-luck of friends, and other eccentricities of fortune-poverty was too undefined to weigh upon me.

To-morrow was a scoundrel with whom we had no personal acquaintance, To-day a jovial good fellow with whom we were glad to share our bottle of champagne while it lasted. Now“Now

your cousin is dead, bless him! and we shall live in a home of our own in our own dear country,” interrupts Jane, with visible pride.

“I hope we shall like our own dear country when we get there,” remarks Mr. Theobald. “Our home, too. We have done very well without a home hitherto; I mean we have carried it about the continent very conveniently—a meerschaum-pipe, a work-box, and Blossy's doll! How could we be more at home than we are at this minute here, and how, my dear Jenny, how, in the name of fortune, do you suppose we are going to keep up a place like Theobalds on our pittance of an income?”

“Pittance! You call six hundred a-year (and we shall have every farthing of that, the lawyer's letter says so)—you call six hundred 8-year a pittance !"

“Six hundred a-year is enough for any man when it is not an income,” replies Mr. Theobald. “Given, no capital, no position, the habits of vagrants, and the principles of-well, well, Jenny, let bygones be bygones. But, given certain conditions, and six hundred a-year, got no one knows how, and spent after the same fashion in the course of a year, is sufficient for any man, particularly if he has a wife who can make her bonnets and dresses, and sufficient sense in his own head to keep clear of England.”

“ The dream of my life is England,” says Jane, with a certain wistfulness of tone. "Not London-I know London too well to dream about that but the country, a jolly homelike old country-place such as Theobalds must be

“And with the society of English people, all better off than ourselves, both as regards this world and the next, for excitement ? Ah, I hope the reality will come within a hundred miles of the dream. We have been very contented as Pariahs, my dear Jenny; I hope we shall be equally so when we set up as Brahmins.”

And Mr. Theobald, again having recourse to his eyeglass, takes a meerschaum from his pocket, fills it, strikes a vesuvian, and composedly begins to smoke.

“A whole batch of our nearest Chalkshire neighbours are now in Spa, Jane," he resumes after a time, "arrived here from Germany last night. The Crosbies, père et mère; the young hopeful, Rawdon; and the red-haired heiress, Miss Marsland, whom Rawdon's mamma destines him to marry. I ran against them all this morning, thought I remembered old Crosbie's face, and, assisted by the visitor's book, found out who they were. Jenny, my dear, what will life be like when you begin your little battle for social existence with women like Mrs. Crosbie? She is clothed in an olive-green silk of the same awful and uncompromising texture that I remember about my own sisters years ago. Virtue sits throned upon her forehead, exclusiveness in her eye

“And what does all this matter to as? and why should there be a battle between me and anybody?” interrupts Jane. "I want these Chalkshire people to like me-well, to tolerate me, because I'm your wife, and for Blossy to grow up

"Into a Miss Marsland ?" finishes Theobald, as his wife hesitates. “Quite impossible, Jane. Blossy is your daughter.”

" Blossy hasn't got red bair," cries Jane, warming. “ Blossy mayn't be a lady any more than me, but she will be a pretty woman some day, whether your fine county people notice her mother or not. And a pretty woman

But the sentence remains for ever incomplete. Jane gives a significant nod at the reflection of her own bright face in an opposite looking-glass, then bends it down again over her work, and at the end of another five minutes the bonnet is finished.

Minute classifications of the human race are, as a rule, failures when you try to reduce them to practice. But it may be said broadly, perhaps, that women can be divided into two sections--those who know how to make a bonnet, and those who do not. Jane knows how to make a bonnet right well, and never has she felt the consciousness of triumphant art stronger in her soul than at this minute.

“I don't say anything about black lace,” she bursts forth energetically, and apropos of nothing, as is her habit; Mr. Theobald, his feet perched on the window-sill at a higher elevation than his head, a cloud of tobacco smoke floating upward from his lips, turns his head a good half-ineb to listen ; "any one not absolutely a fool can make a bonnet out of black lace. But gauze! blue gauze! I should like to know whether there's a lady-yes, and what's more, a milliner-in Chalkshire that could make a bonnet like this?”

“Not one of them could look as you will look in it, my dear. Jenny,” says Theobald, in his pleasant lazy voice.

Jane turns away with just visible impatience from the compliment, and, walking across to one of the many mirrors with which the room is lined, begins the process (a process beset with misgivings even to the fairest and youngest woman living) of “ trying on” her bonnet. To

say that it is not absolute perfection, needing no after-touch, no subtle inspiration of mature genius, would be only to say that the artist is mortal

. It must be pinched back off the temples; must be raised the third of an inch in diadem; the effect must be hazarded of knotting the gauzy strings around the throat, then of letting them stream unbound upon the shoulders; finally, one must see oneself— aided by an opposite mirror - in different angles : profile; threequarters; in perspective !

“It is perfect,” cries Jane, at last. “I never looked better in a bonnet in my life! And saying this she advances and stands before her husband. Stands before him, no longer with an air of questioning or doubt, but rather with the calm consciousness of assured artistic success written on her face.

What a fresh face it is! Mrs. Theobald has been married close upon four years, but her cheeks are just as blooming, her blue eyes as limpid, her smile as delightfully frank, as on the day when Theobald, after a fortnight's acquaintance, made her, an unfledged ballet-girl of sixteen, his wife.

She is, but scarcely looks, above the middle height of English women, has large well balanced shoulders, an exquisite waist-if judged by a sculptor's, not a corset-maker's standard—and decidedly more of undulating, flowing ease in her movements than women of the world are prone to display.

“Till I was sixteen-till the time you raised me above my station, sir—I was trained to move my limbs well,” says Jane, when Theobald occasionally hints to her how vividly some trick of gait or manner brings old theatrical associations before his mind. “And although I am in the position of a lady now, I can't remember always to be awkward.”

Whalebone and steel have as little share in her lithe symmetry as have Kalydor or pearl-powders with the honest carnation and white of her complexion. Everything about Jane is real ; terribly real, impostors of all classes are made to feel when they come too nigh her. She is somewhat untidy at times; being her own milliner, a dress or bonnet, wanted for such an hour, has occasionally to be finished imperfectly as regards the length of stitches; but clean-clean, her husband affirms with gravity, to a vice. The smell of primroses, the sweetness of April fields, all things wholesome, out-of-door, vernal, are irresistibly summoned before your vision when you look at Jane. Her face is the delight of artists, the despair of photographers. It has not a perfect feature, and yet, with its changeful expressions and brilliant colouring, and absolute naturalness, it is so perfect! “The good looks of youth and robust health,” say her detractors, who are, without exception, of

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