The Small House at Allington, by Anthony Trollope

Chapter XL

Preparations for the Wedding

The fourteenth of February was finally settled as the day on which Mr Crosbie was to be made the happiest of men. A later day had been at first named, the twenty-seventh or twenty-eighth having been suggested as an improvement, over the first week in March; but Lady Amelia had been frightened by Crosbie’s behaviour on that Sunday evening, and had made the countess understand that there should be no unnecessary delay.

“He doesn’t scruple at that kind of thing,” Lady Amelia had said in one of her letters, showing perhaps less trust in the potency of her own rank than might have been expected from her. The countess, however, had agreed with her, and when Crosbie received from his mother-in-law a very affectionate epistle, setting forth all the reasons which would make the fourteenth so much more convenient a day than the twenty-eighth, he was unable to invent an excuse for not being made happy a fortnight earlier than the time named in the bargain. His first impulse had been against yielding, arising from some feeling which made him think that more than the bargain ought not to be exacted. But what was the use to him of quarrelling? What the use, at least, of quarrelling just then? He believed that he could more easily enfranchise himself from the De Courcy tyranny when he should be once married than he could do now. When Lady Alexandrina should be his own he would let her know that he intended to be her master. If in doing so it would be necessary that he should divide himself altogether from the De Courcys, such division should be made. At the present moment he would yield to them, at any rate in this matter. And so the fourteenth of February was fixed for the marriage.

In the second week in January Alexandrina came up to look after her things; or, in more noble language, to fit herself with becoming bridal appanages. As she could not properly do all this work alone, or even under the surveillance and with the assistance of a sister, Lady de Courcy was to come up also. But Alexandrina came first, remaining with her sister in St. John’s Wood till the countess should arrive. The countess had never yet condescended to accept of her son-in-law’s hospitality, but always went to the cold, comfortless house in Portman Square — the house which had been the De Courcy town family mansion for many years, and which the countess would long since have willingly exchanged for some abode on the other side of Oxford Street; but the earl had been obdurate; his clubs and certain lodgings which he had occasionally been wont to occupy, were on the right side of Oxford Street; why should he change his old family residence? So the countess was coming up to Portman Square, not having been even asked on this occasion to St. John’s Wood.

“Don’t you think we’d better,” Mr Gazebee had said to his wife, almost trembling at the renewal of his own proposition.

“I think not, my dear,” Lady Amelia had answered.

“Mamma is not very particular; but there are little things, you know —”

“Oh, yes, of course,” said Mr Gazebee; and then the conversation had been dropped. He would most willingly have entertained his august mother-in-law during her visit to the metropolis, and yet her presence in his house would have made him miserable as long as she remained there.

But for a week Alexandrina sojourned under Mr Gazebee’s roof, during which time Crosbie was made happy with all the delights of an expectant bridegroom. Of course he was given to understand that he was to dine at the Gazebees’ every day, and spend all his evenings there; and, under the circumstances, he had no excuse for not doing so. Indeed, at the present moment, his hours would otherwise have hung heavily enough upon his hands. In spite of his bold resolution with reference to his eye, and his intention not to be debarred from the pleasures of society by the marks of the late combat, he had not, since that occurrence, frequented his club very closely; and though London was now again becoming fairly full, he did not find himself going out so much as had been his wont. The brilliance of his coming marriage did not seem to have added much to his popularity; in fact, the world — his world — was beginning to look coldly at him. Therefore that daily attendance at St. John’s Wood was not felt to be so irksome as might have been expected.

A residence had been taken for the couple in a very fashionable row of buildings abutting upon the Bayswater Road, called Princess Royal Crescent. The house was quite new, and the street being unfinished had about it strong smell of mortar, and a general aspect of builders’ poles and brickbats; but nevertheless, it was acknowledged to be a quite correct locality. From one end of the crescent a corner of Hyde Park could be seen, and the other abutted on a very handsome terrace indeed, in which lived an ambassador — from South America — a few bankers’ senior clerks, and a peer of the realm. We know how vile is the sound of Baker Street, and how absolutely foul to the polite ear is the name of Fitzroy Square. The houses, however, in those purlieus are substantial, warm, and of good size. The house in Princess Royal Crescent was certainly not substantial, for in these days substantially-built houses do not pay. It could hardly have been warm, for, to speak the truth, it was even yet not finished throughout; and as for the size, though the drawing-room was a noble apartment, consisting of a section of the whole house, with a corner cut out for the staircase, It was very much cramped in its other parts, and was made like a cherub, in this respect, that it had no rear belonging to it.

“But if you have no private fortune of your own, you cannot have everything,” as the countess observed when Crosbie objected to the house because a closet under the kitchen-stairs was to be assigned to him as his own dressing-room.

When the question of the house was first debated, Lady Amelia had been anxious that St. John’s Wood should be selected as the site, but to this Crosbie had positively objected.

“I think you don’t like St. John’s Wood,” Lady Amelia had said to him somewhat sternly, thinking to awe him into a declaration that he entertained no general enmity to the neighbourhood. But Crosbie was not weak enough for this.

No; I do not,” he said.

“I have always disliked it. It amounts to a prejudice, I dare say. But if I were made to live here I am convinced I should cut my throat in the first six months.”

Lady Amelia had then drawn herself up, declaring her sorrow that her house should be so hateful to him.

“Oh, dear, no,” said he.

“I like it very much for you, and enjoy coming here of all things. I speak only of the effect which living here myself would have upon me.”

Lady Amelia was quite clever enough to understand it all; but she had her sister’s interest at heart, and therefore persevered in her affectionate solicitude for her brother-in-law, giving up that point as to St. John’s Wood. Crosbie himself had wished to go to one of the new Pimlico squares down near Vauxhall Bridge and the river, actuated chiefly by consideration of the enormous distance lying between that locality and the northern region in which Lady Amelia lived; but to this Lady Alexandrina had objected strongly. If, indeed, they could have achieved Eaton Square, or a street leading out of Eaton Square — if they could have crept on to the hem of the skirt of Belgravia — the bride would have been delighted. And at first she was very nearly being taken in with the idea that such was the proposal made to her. Her geographical knowledge of Pimlico had not been perfect, and she had nearly fallen into a fatal error. But a friend had kindly intervened.

“For heaven’s sake, my dear, don’t let him take you anywhere beyond Eccleston Square!” had been exclaimed to her in dismay by a faithful married friend. Thus warned, Alexandrina had been firm, and now their tent was to be pitched in Princess Royal Crescent, from one end of which the Hyde Park may be seen.

The furniture had been ordered chiefly under the inspection, and by the experience, of the Lady Amelia. Crosbie had satisfied himself by declaring that she at any rate could get the things cheaper than he could buy them, and that he had no taste for such employment. Nevertheless, he had felt that he was being made subject to tyranny and brought under the thumb of subjection. He could not go cordially into this matter of beds and chairs, and, therefore, at last deputed the whole matter to the De Courcy faction. And for this there was another reason, not hitherto mentioned. Mr Mortimer Gazebee was finding the money with which all the furniture was being bought. He, with an honest but almost unintelligible zeal for the De Courcy family; had tied up every shilling on which he could lay his hand as belonging to Crosbie, in the interest of Lady Alexandrina. He had gone to work for her, scraping here and arranging there, strapping the new husband down upon the grindstone of his matrimonial settlement, as though the future bread of his, Gazebee’s, own children were dependent on the validity of his legal workmanship. And for this he was not to receive a penny, or gain any advantage, immediate or ulterior. It came from his zeal — his zeal for the coronet which Lord de Courcy wore. According to his mind an earl and an earl’s belongings were entitled to such zeal. It was the theory in which he had been educated, and amounted to a worship which, unconsciously, he practised. Personally, he disliked Lord de Courcy, who ill-treated him. He knew that the earl was a heartless, cruel, bad man. But as an earl he was entitled to an amount of service which no commoner could have commanded from Mr Gazebee. Mr Gazebee, having thus tied up all the available funds in favour of Lady Alexandrina’s seemingly expected widowhood, was himself providing the money with which the new house was to be furnished.

“You can pay me a hundred and fifty a year with four per cent, till it is liquidated,” he had said to Crosbie; and Crosbie had assented with a grunt. Hitherto, though he had lived in London expensively, and as a man of fashion, he had never owed any one anything. He was now to begin that career of owing. But when a clerk in a public office marries an earl’s daughter, he cannot expect to have everything his own way.

Lady Amelia had bought the ordinary furniture — the beds, the stair-carpets, the washing-stands, and the kitchen things. Gazebee had got a bargain of the dinner-table and sideboard. But Lady Alexandrina herself was to come up with reference to the appurtenances of the drawing-room. It was with reference to matters of costume that the countess intended to lend her assistance — matters of costume as to which the bill could not be sent in to Gazebee, and be paid for by him with five per cent, duly charged against the bridegroom. The bridal trousseau must be produced by De Courcy’s means, and, therefore, it was necessary that the countess herself should come upon the scene.

“I will have no bills, d’ye hear?” snarled the earl, gnashing and snapping upon his words with one specially ugly black tooth. “I won’t have any bills about this affair.” And yet he made no offer of ready money. It was very necessary under such circumstances that the countess herself should come upon the scene. An ambiguous hint had been conveyed to Mr Gazebee, during a visit of business which he had lately made to Courcy Castle, that the milliner’s bills might as well be pinned on to those of the furniture-makers, the crockerymongers, and the like. The countess, putting it in her own way, had gently suggested that the fashion of the thing had changed lately, and that such an arrangement was considered to be the proper thing among people who lived really in the world. But Gazebee was a clear-headed, honest man; and he knew the countess. He did not think that such an arrangement could be made on the present occasion. Whereupon the countess pushed her suggestion no further, but made up her mind that she must come up to London herself.

It was pleasant to see the Ladies Amelia and Alexandrina, as they sat within a vast emporium of carpets in Bond Street, asking questions of the four men who were waiting upon them, putting their heads together and whispering, calculating accurately as to extra twopences a yard, and occasioning as much trouble as it was possible for them to give. It was pleasant because they managed their large hoops cleverly among the huge rolls of carpets, because they were enjoying themselves thoroughly, and taking to themselves the homage of the men as clearly their due. But it was not so pleasant to look at Crosbie, who was fidgeting to get away to his office, to whom no power of choosing in the matter was really given, and whom the men regarded as being altogether supernumerary. The ladies had promised to be at the shop by half-past ten, so that Crosbie should reach his office at eleven — or a little after. But it was nearly eleven before they left the Gazebee residence, and it was very evident that half-an-hour among the carpets would be by no means sufficient. It seemed as though miles upon miles of gorgeous colouring were unrolled before them; and then when any pattern was regarded as at all practicable, it was unrolled backwards and forwards till a room was nearly covered by it. Crosbie felt for the men who were hauling about the huge heaps of material; but Lady Amelia sat as composed as though it were her duty to inspect every yard of stuff in the warehouse.

“I think we’ll look at that one at the bottom again.” Then the men went to work and removed a mountain.

“No, my dear, that green in the scroll-work won’t do. It would fly directly, if any hot water were spilt.” The man, smiling ineffably, declared that that particular green never flew anywhere. But Lady Amelia paid no attention to him, and the carpet for which the mountain had been removed became part of another mountain.

“That might do,” said Alexandrina, gazing upon a magnificent crimson ground through which rivers of yellow meandered, carrying with them in their streams an infinity of blue flowers. And as she spoke she held her head gracefully on one side, and looked down upon the carpet doubtingly. Lady Amelia poked it with her parasol at though to test its durability, and whispered something about yellows showing the dirt. Crosbie took out his watch and groaned.

“It’s a superb carpet, my lady, and about the newest thing we have. We put down four hundred and fifty yards of it for the Duchess of South Wales, at Cwddglwlch Castle, only last month. Nobody has had it since, for it has not been in stock.” Whereupon Lady Amelia again poked it, and then got up and walked upon it. Lady Alexandrina held her head a little more on one side.

“Five and three?” said Lady Amelia.

“Oh, no, my lady; five and seven; and the cheapest carpet we have in the house. There is twopence a yard more in the colour; there is, indeed.”

“And the discount?” asked Lady Amelia.

“Two and a half, my lady.”

“Oh dear, no,” said Lady Amelia. “I always have five per cent. for immediate payment — quite immediate, you know.” Upon which the man declared the question must be referred to his master. Two and a half was the rule of the house. Crosbie, who had been looking out of the window, said that upon his honour he couldn’t wait any longer.

“And what do you think of it, Adolphus?”, asked Alexandrina.

“Think of what?”

“Of the carpet — this one, you know!”

“Oh — what do I think of the carpet? I don’t think I quite like all these yellow bands; and isn’t it too red? I should have thought something brown with a small pattern would have been better. But, upon my word, I don’t much care.”

“Of course he doesn’t,” said Lady Amelia. Then the two ladies put their heads together for another five minutes, and the carpet was chosen — subject to that question of the discount.

“And now about the rug,” said Lady Amelia. But here Crosbie rebelled, and insisted that he must leave them and go to his office.

“You can’t want me about the rug,” he said.

“Well, perhaps not,” said Lady Amelia. But it was manifest that Alexandrina did not approve of being thus left by her senior attendant.

The same thing happened in Oxford Street with reference to the chairs and sofas, and Crosbie began to wish that he were settled, even though he should have to dress himself in the closet below the kitchen-stairs. He was learning to hate the whole household in St. John’s Wood, and almost all that belonged to it. He was introduced there to little family economies of which hitherto he had known nothing, and which were disgusting to him, and the necessity for which was especially explained to him. It was to men placed as he was about to place himself that these economies were so vitally essential — to men who with limited means had to maintain a decorous outward face towards the fashionable world. Ample supplies of butchers’ meat and unlimited washing-bills might be very well upon fifteen hundred a year to those who went out but seldom, and who could use the first cab that came to hand when they did go out. But there were certain things that Lady Alexandrina must do, and therefore the strictest household economy became necessary. Would Lily Dale have required the use of a carriage, got up to look as though it were private, at the expense of her husband’s beefsteaks and clean shirts? That question and others of that nature were asked by Crosbie within his own mind, not unfrequently.

But, nevertheless, he tried to love Alexandrina, or rather to persuade himself that he loved her. If he could only get her away from the De Courcy faction, and especially from the Gazebee branch of it, he would break her of all that. He would teach her to sit triumphantly in a street cab, and to cater for her table with a plentiful hand. Teach her! at some age over thirty; and with such careful training as she had already received! Did he intend to forbid her ever again to see her relations, ever to go to St. John’s Wood, or to correspond with the countess and Lady Margaretta? Teach her, indeed! Had he yet to learn that he could not wash a blackamoor white? that he could not have done so even had he himself been well adapted for the attempt, whereas he was in truth nearly as ill adapted as a man might be? But who could pity him? Lily, whom he might have had in his bosom, would have been no blackamoor.

Then came the time of Lady de Courcy’s visit to town, and Alexandrina moved herself off to Portman Square. There was some apparent comfort in this to Crosbie, for he would thereby be saved from those daily dreary journeys up to the north-west. I may say that he positively hated that windy corner near the church, round which he had to walk in getting to the Gazebee residence, and that he hated the lamp which guided him to the door, and the very door itself. This door stood buried as it were in a wall, and opened on to a narrow passage which ran across a so-called garden, or front yard, containing on each side two iron receptacles for geraniums, painted to look like Palissy ware, and a naked female on a pedestal. No spot in London was, as he thought, so cold as the bit of pavement immediately in front of that door. And there he would be kept five, ten, fifteen minutes, as he declared — though I believe in my heart that the time never exceeded three — while Richard was putting off the trappings of his work and putting on the trappings of his grandeur.

If people would only have their doors opened to you by such assistance as may come most easily and naturally to the work! I stood lately for some minutes on a Tuesday afternoon at a gallant portal, and as I waxed impatient a pretty maiden came and opened it. She was a pretty maiden, though her hands and face and apron told tales of the fire-grates.

“Laws, sir,” she said, “the visitors’ day is Wednesday; and if you would come then, there would be the man in livery!” She took my card with the corner of her apron, and did just as well as the man in livery; but what would have happened to her had her little speech been overheard by her mistress?

Crosbie hated the house in St. John’s Wood, and therefore the coming of the countess was a relief to him. Portman Square was easily to be reached, and the hospitalities of the countess would not be pressed upon him so strongly as those of the Gazebees. When he first called he was shown into the great family dining-room, which looked out towards the back of the house. The front windows were, of course, closed, as the family was not supposed to be in London. Here he remained in the room for some quarter of an hour, and then the countess descended upon him in all her grandeur. Perhaps he had never before seen her so grand. Her dress was very large, and rustled through the broad doorway, as if demanding even a broader passage. She had on a wonder of a bonnet, and a velvet mantle that was nearly as expansive as her petticoats. She threw her head a little back as she accosted him, and he instantly perceived that he was enveloped in the fumes of an affectionate but somewhat contemptuous patronage. In old days he had liked the countess, because her manner to him had always been flattering. In his intercourse with her he had been able to feel that he gave quite as much as he got, and that the countess was aware of the fact. In all the circumstances of their acquaintance the ascendancy had been with him, and therefore the acquaintance had been a pleasant one. The countess had been a good-natured, agreeable woman, whose rank and position had made her house pleasant to him; and therefore he had consented to shine upon her with such light as he had to give. Why was it that the matter was reversed, now that there was so much stronger a cause for good feeling between them? He knew that there was such change, and with bitter internal upbraidings he acknowledged to himself that this woman was getting the mastery over him. As the friend of the countess he had been a great man in her eyes — in all her little words and looks she had acknowledged his power; but now, as her son-in-law, he was to become a very little man — such as was Mortimer Gazebee!

“My dear Adolphus,” she said, taking both his hands, “the day is coming very near now; is it not?”

“Very near, indeed,” he said.

“Yes, it is very near. I hope you feel yourself a happy man.”

“Oh, yes, that’s of course.”

“It ought to be. Speaking very seriously, I mean that it ought to be a matter of course. She is everything that a man should desire in a wife. I am not alluding now to her rank, though of course you feel what a great advantage she gives you in this respect.”

Crosbie muttered something as to his consciousness of having drawn a prize in the lottery; but he so muttered it as not to convey to the lady’s ears a proper sense of his dependent gratitude.

“I know of no man more fortunate than you have been,” she continued “and I hope that my dear girl will find that you are fully aware that it is so. I think that she is looking rather fagged. You have allowed her to do more than was good for her in the way of shopping.”

“She has done a good deal, certainly,” said Crosbie.

“She is so little used to anything of that kind! But of course, as things have turned out, it was necessary that she should see to these things herself.”

“I rather think she liked it,” said Crosbie.

“I believe she will always like doing her duty. We are just going now to Madame Millefranc’s, to see some silks — perhaps you would wish to go with us?”

Just at this moment Alexandrina came into the room, and, looked as though she were in all respects a smaller edition of her mother. They were both well-grown women, with handsome large figures, and a certain air about them which answered almost for beauty. As to the countess, her face, on close inspection, bore, as it was entitled to do, deep signs of age; but she so managed her face that any such close inspection was never made; and her general appearance for her time of life was certainly good. Very little more than this could be said in favour of her daughter.

“Oh dear, no, mamma,” she said, having heard her mother’s last words. “He’s the worst person in a shop in the world. He likes nothing, and dislikes nothing. Do you, Adolphus?”

“Indeed I do. I like all the cheap things, and dislike all the dear things.”

“Then you certainly shall not go with us to Madame Millefranc’s,” said Alexandrina.

“It would not matter to him there, you know, my dear,” said the countess, thinking perhaps of the suggestion she had lately made to Mr Gazebee.

On this occasion Crosbie managed to escape, simply promising to return to Portman Square in the evening after dinner.

“By-the-by, Adolphus,” said the countess, as he handed her into the hired carriage which stood at the door,

“I wish you would go to Lambert’s, on Ludgate Hill, for me. He has had a bracelet of mine for nearly three months. Do, there’s a good. creature. Get it if you can, and bring it up this evening.”

Crosbie, as he made his way back to his office, swore that he would not do the bidding of the countess. He would not trudge off into the city after her trinkets. But at five o’clock, when he left his office, he did go there. He apologised to himself by saying that he had nothing else to do, and bethought himself that at the present moment his lady mother-in-law’s smiles might be more convenient than her frowns. So he went to Lambert’s, on Ludgate Hill, and there learned that the bracelet had been sent down to Courcy Castle full two months since.

After that he dined at his club, at Sebright’s. He dined alone, sitting by no means in bliss with his half-pint of sherry on the table before him. A man now and then came up and spoke to him, one a few words, and another a few, and two or three congratulated him as to his marriage; but the club was not the same thing to him as it had formerly been. He did not stand in the centre of the rug, speaking indifferently to all or any around him, ready with his joke, and loudly on the alert with the last news of the day. How easy it is to be seen when any man has fallen from his pride of place, though the altitude was ever so small, and the fall ever so slight. Where is the man who can endure such a fall without showing it in his face, in his voice, in his step, and in every motion of every limb? Crosbie knew that he had fallen, and showed that he knew it by the manner in which he ate his mutton chop.

At half-past eight he was again in Portman Square, and found the two ladies crowding over a small fire in a small back drawing-room. The furniture was all covered with brown holland, and the place had about it that cold comfortless feeling which uninhabited rooms always produce. Crosbie, as he had walked from the club up to Portman Square, had indulged in some serious thoughts. The kind of life which he had hitherto led had certainly passed away from him. He could never again be the pet of a club, or indulged as one to whom all good things were to be given without any labour at earning them on his own part. Such for some years had been his good fortune, but such could be his good fortune no longer. Was there anything within his reach which he might take in lieu of that which he had lost? He might still be victorious at his office, having more capacity for such victory than others around him. But such success alone would hardly suffice for him. Then he considered whether he might not even yet be happy in his own home — whether Alexandrina, when separated from her mother, might not become such a wife as he could love. Nothing softens a man’s feelings so much as failure, or makes him turn so anxiously to an idea of home as buffetings from those he meets abroad. He had abandoned Lily because his outer world had seemed to him too bright to be deserted. He would endeavour to supply her place with Alexandrina, because his outer world had seemed to him too harsh to be supported. Alas! alas! a man cannot so easily repent of his sins, and wash himself white from their stains!

When he entered the room the two ladies were sitting over the fire, as I have stated, and Crosbie could immediately perceive that the spirit of the countess was not serene. In fact there had been a few words between the mother and child on that matter of the trousseau, and Alexandrina had plainly told her mother that if she were to be married at all she would be married with such garments belonging to her as were fitting for an earl’s daughter. It was in vain that her mother had explained with many circumlocutional phrases, that the fitness in this respect should be accommodated rather to the plebeian husband than to the noble parent. Alexandrina had been very firm, and had insisted on her rights, giving the countess to understand that if her orders for finery were not complied with, she would return as a spinster to Courcy, and prepare herself for partnership with Rosina.

“My dear,” said the countess, piteously, “you can have no idea of what I shall have to go through with your father. And, of course, you could get all these things afterwards.”

“Papa has no right to treat me in such a way. And if he would not give me any money himself, he should have let me have some of my own.”

“Ah, my dear, that was Mr Gazebee’s fault.”

“I don’t care whose fault it was. It certainly was not mine. I won’t have him to tell me”—“him” was intended to signify Adolphus Crosbie —“that he had to pay for my wedding-clothes.”

“Of course not that, my dear.”

“No; nor yet for the things which I wanted immediately. I’d much rather go and tell him at once that the marriage must be put off.”

Alexandrina of course carried her point, the countess reflecting with a maternal devotion equal almost to that of the pelican, that the earl could not do more than kill her. So the things were ordered as Alexandrina chose to order them, and the countess desired that the bills might be sent in to Mr Gazebee. Much self-devotion had been displayed by the mother, but the mother thought that none had been displayed by the daughter, and therefore she had been very cross with Alexandrina.

Crosbie, taking a chair, sat himself between them, and in a very good-humoured tone explained the little affair of the bracelet.

“Your ladyship’s memory must have played you false,” said he, with a smile.

“My memory is very good,” said the countess; “very good indeed. If Twitch got it, and didn’t tell me, that was not my fault.” Twitch was her ladyship’s lady’s-maid. Crosbie, seeing how the land lay, said nothing more about the bracelet.

After a minute or two he put out his hand to take that of Alexandrina. They were to be married now in a week or two, and such a sign of love might have been allowed to him, even in the presence of the bride’s mother. He did succeed in getting hold of her fingers, but found in them none of the softness of a response.

“Don’t,” said Lady Alexandrina, withdrawing her hand; and the tone of her voice as she spoke the word was not sweet to his ears. He remembered at the moment a certain scene which took place one evening at the little bridge at Allington and Lily’s voice, and Lily’s words, and Lily’s passion, as he caressed her: “Oh, my love, my love, my love!”

“My dear,” said the countess, “they know how tired I am. I wonder whether they are going to give us any tea.” Whereupon Crosbie rang the bell, and, on resuming his chair, moved it a little farther away from his lady-love.

Presently the tea was brought to them by the housekeeper’s assistant, who did not appear to have made herself very smart for the occasion, and Crosbie thought that he was de trop. This, however, was a mistake on his part. As he had been admitted into the family, such little matters were no longer subject of care. Two or three months since, the countess would have fainted at the idea of such a domestic appearing with a tea-tray before Mr Crosbie. Now, however, she was utterly indifferent to any such consideration. Crosbie was to be admitted into the family, thereby becoming entitled to certain privileges — and thereby also becoming subject to certain domestic drawbacks. In Mrs Dale’s little household there had been no rising to grandeur; but then, also, there had never been any bathos of dirt. Of this also Crosbie thought as he sat with his tea in his hand.

He soon, however, got himself away. When he rose to go Alexandrina also rose, and he was permitted to press his nose against her cheekbone by way of a salute.

“Good-night, Adolphus,” said the countess, putting out her hand to him.

“But stop a minute; I know there is something I want you to do for me. But you will look in as you go to your office tomorrow morning.”

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 18:43