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A Poached Peerage   By:

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[Frontispiece: "'I have a prior and a stronger claim on Mr. Gage,' said Lalage, with calm determination." (Page 171.)]

A POACHED PEERAGE

BY

SIR WILLIAM MAGNAY, BART.

AUTHOR OF "FAUCONBERG," "THE RED CHANCELLOR," "A PRINCE OF LOVERS," ETC.

"There is a third party to all our bargains"

ILLUSTRATED

LONDON

WARD, LOCK & CO., LIMITED

1909

CONTENTS

CHAPTER I CHAPTER II CHAPTER III CHAPTER IV CHAPTER V CHAPTER VI CHAPTER VII CHAPTER VIII CHAPTER IX CHAPTER X CHAPTER XI CHAPTER XII CHAPTER XIII CHAPTER XIV CHAPTER XV CHAPTER XVI CHAPTER XVII CHAPTER XVIII CHAPTER XIX CHAPTER XX CHAPTER XXI CHAPTER XXII CHAPTER XXIII CHAPTER XXIV CHAPTER XXV CHAPTER XXVI CHAPTER XXVII CHAPTER XXVIII CHAPTER XXIX CHAPTER XXX CHAPTER XXXI CHAPTER XXXII CHAPTER XXXIII CHAPTER XXXIV CHAPTER XXXV CHAPTER XXXVI CHAPTER XXXVII CHAPTER XXXVIII CHAPTER XXXIX CHAPTER XL CHAPTER XLI CHAPTER XLII

CHAPTER I

A pretty girl looked out of the low silled coffee room window of the Quorn Arms at Great Bunbury, and threw a glance of roguish invitation at a watchful young man who was pretending to be busy in the courtyard. Then she disappeared. The young man lost no time in throwing down his broom, and, with a manifestly assumed air of indifference, approached the window. He looked in warily, then glanced round behind him, and next moment had thrown his leg over the sill and was in the room. The girl, with her back to the window, was polishing a brass candlestick with a vigour which suggested that the occupation left no room for less material thoughts. Also that she was, for a smart young woman, strangely unobservant of the fact that a man had entered by the window, until an arm round her waist brought the fact to her notice. Even then she did not start or cry out, merely disengaging herself from the expected caress by a self possessed and apparently well practised twist.

"I can't stop a moment, Tom," she remarked coolly; "only I saw you outside. Father's in the bar."

"And I've been hanging about a good half hour to see you, Mercy," her swain declared impressively. "I say, as time's short, don't let's waste it. Give us a kiss."

For answer Miss Mercy Popkiss turned her head aside at a right angle as though suddenly attracted by something in the street. An attitude of preoccupation does not, however, necessarily imply refusal; under certain circumstances it even stands for an invitation. As such Mr. Thomas Sparrow unhesitatingly regarded it.

"One more," he pleaded coaxingly, as Miss Popkiss bent away from his somewhat ravenous embrace.

"Wait a bit," she said. "I've something to tell you. I'm going to leave here."

"What, leave the Quorn Arms ?" exclaimed Mr. Sparrow blankly.

"Yes, truly. I'm going to be still room maid at the Towers. You see," she went on to explain cheerfully, "father doesn't like my being here, having to wait on the riff raff as well as the gentry. He says it is not the best training for a young lady; and when father says a thing, that thing's settled. They are all swells at the Towers; lords and ladies and toffs from London. It will be fine."

But Mr. Sparrow was far from sharing her jubilation. "The Towers!" he exclaimed disconsolately. "Why, they be four mile off, or more. You'll forget me, Mercy, among all them fine folk; lords, flunkeys and valets and butlers and swells like that, with their dashin' London ways."

"Oh, don't you look so silly," the girl remonstrated archly. "Noblemen and butlers and all that sort aren't anything particular to me. If you'd smarten yourself up a bit instead of looking like a ploughman, you might get a place there too. Especially now the new Lord Quorn is coming home and Colonel Hemyock will have to turn out."

Mr. Sparrow perked up a little. "Ah," he observed with an air of indifferentism to the warmer subject, "Lord Quorn; he that has been found in Australy. I suppose when her ladyship turns out you'll be off to London with her... Continue reading book >>




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