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A Charming Fellow, Volume III   By: (1835-1913)

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Author of "Aunt Margaret's Trouble," "Mabel's Progress," etc. etc.

In Three Volumes.


London: Chapman and Hall, 193, Piccadilly. 1876.

Charles Dickens and Evans, Crystal Palace Press.



There was a "scene" that evening at Ivy Lodge not the less a "scene" in that it was conducted on genteel methods. Mrs. Algernon Errington inflicted on her husband during dinner a recapitulation of all her wrongs and injuries which could be covertly hinted at. She would not broadly speak out her meaning before "the servants." The phrase shaped itself thus in her mind from old habit. But in truth "the servants" were represented by one plump faced damsel in a yellow print gown, into which her person seemed to have been inserted in the same way that bran is inserted into the cover of a pincushion. She seemed to have been stuffed into it by means of considerable force, and with less reference to the natural shape of her body than to the arbitrary outlines of the case made for it by a Whitford dressmaker.

This girl ministered to her master and mistress during dinner, pouring water and wine, changing knives and plates, handing vegetables, and not unfrequently dropping a spoon or a sprinkling of hot gravy into the laps of her employers. She had succeeded to Slater, who resigned her post after a trial of some six weeks' duration. Castalia, in despair at this desertion, had written to Lady Seely to send her a maid from London forthwith. But to this application she received a reply to the effect that my lady could not undertake to find any one who would suit her niece, and that her ladyship thought Castalia had much better make up her mind to do without a regular lady's maid, and take some humbler attendant, who would make herself generally useful.

"I always knew Slater wouldn't stay with you," wrote Lady Seely; "and you won't get any woman of that kind to stay. You can't afford to keep one. Your uncle is fairly well; but poor Fido gives me a great deal of unhappiness. He eats nothing."

Not by any means from conviction or submission to the imperious advice of Lady Seely, but under the yoke of stern necessity, Castalia had consented to try a young woman of the neighbourhood, "highly recommended." And this abigail, in her tight yellow gown, was the cause of Mrs. Algernon's reticence during dinner. The poor lady might, however, have spared herself this restraint, if its object were to keep her servants in the dark as to domestic disagreements; for no sooner had Lydia (that was the abigail's name) reached the kitchen, than she and Polly, the cook, began a discussion of Mr. and Mrs. Algernon Errington's private affairs, which displayed a surprising knowledge of very minute details, and an almost equally surprising power of piecing evidence together.

When Lydia was gone, Algernon lit a cigar and drew up his chair to the fireside, where he sat silent, staring at his elegantly slippered feet on the fender. Castalia rose, fidgeted about the room, walked to the door, stopped, turned back, and, standing directly opposite to Algernon, said querulously, "Do you mean to remain here?"

"For the present, yes; out of consideration for you. You dislike me to smoke in the drawing room, do you not?"

"Why should you smoke at all?"

Algernon raised his eyebrows, shrugged his shoulders, crossed one leg over the other, and made no answer. His wife went away, and sitting down alone on a corner of the sofa in her little drawing room, cried bitterly for a long time.

She was made to raise her tear stained face by feeling a hand passed gently over her hair. She looked up, and found her husband standing beside her. "What's the matter, little woman?" he asked, in a half coaxing, half bantering tone, like one speaking to a naughty child, too young to be seriously reproved or argued with... Continue reading book >>

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