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“I think I have heard the name. Yes, I am sure I have heard Martin mention it."
“ To whom?'
“To Mr. Gibson long ago. Also, it seems to me, that I have heard it of late years at the Gate House."
Very possibly, for Mr. Merriton and Martin have had dealings ever since you were taken to Eaglesmere. And Mr. Merriton is your lawyer, and to some extent your guardian."
"My lawyer! my guardian!” I answered, in extreme astonishment. “What need have I for a lawyer, madre?”
“I should have said, rather, he is your man of business. He holds your money, he has taken care of it all these years, and it is from him, through your bankers, that you receive your allowance. He is a good, wise, righteous man, and you may always trust him.” “And he is in some sort my guardian, you say?"
He has guarded your property, and, in case of Martin's death, he would be your nominal guardian till you were of age. Long ag? he accepted the trust of your money, but he declined to interfere with you personally while you were a child. I had a letter from him the other day, and he wishes to see you at the first convenient opportunity."
“ Where does he live ?"
“ In London. You can call upon him when you pass through on your way to Dovercourt. You must cross by Calais or Boulogne, and go up to town, see Mr. Merriton, and then come back south again to Dovercourt. Of course London is out of your way,
but that does not matter. You will soon be going, you know.”
“Yes, if I am to spend Christmas with the Wrays.”
“It has occurred to me that, as they have no special associations with the season, it might be well for you to go earlier-go at once, I would say, now that Mr. Merriton wishes to see you. It would be better in many ways."
“It would, madre; it would be an excuse for breaking off with Du Carel and Montsallier and the others, and afterwards it will be easy not to resume the intimacy."
“I was thinking of that, my dear. I do not want you to quarrel with these young men, especially with Du Carel, whose mother is related by marriage to Lady Juliana Rashleigh."
“I had made an engagement with Du Carel for this very evening."
“Tell him that I claimed you. Indeed, I do want you to go out with Olive and myself presently to Pastor Mercier's.”
Madre, what has changed Lady Olive?" “In what respect do you mean that she is changed ? ” “In nearly every respect; but, above all, in her conduct towards
myself. Whenever we met, which was seldom, at Dovercourt, she treated me with as much arrogance, disdain, and scorn as could be expressed in words and looks and manner. She used to speak to me as if I were an inferior creature scarcely of her own species,in fact, she was far more courteous to the dogs. She was not only haughty and supercilious, but insolent,-yes, duly acknowledging her rank and my own obscurity,-she was outrageously, abominably insolent!”
?" “Now you may judge for yourself. Lady Olive and I are the best of friends. No; I am not certain that we are friends, for friendship implies so much; but we are allies-great allies, certainly. Lately I have seen less of her, but it has been my own fault. I have sought other society, and she has reproached me more than once for deserting her.”
“It seemed to me that Olive was cordial that first evening of your arrival ?"
“She was; she came out to me on the balcony, while you were dressing. I was ready fifty minutes too soon, for I had made a mistake in your dinner-hour. She met me with something more than courtesy-with actual effusion; and she struck up an intimacy there and then that has continued ever since, progressing rather than receding. I received her advances coldly enough, I confess, for I distrusted her. Besides, I remembered her scorn, her rudeness. I could not forget how greatly she had humiliated me in days past. But insensibly the ice in my bosom thawed, the charm of her society conquered me; and it is not easy to repulse the attentions—the kindness, I should say-of a beautiful girl like Lady Olive. Besides, she was but a child when she hated me so demonstratively, and she apologised, too, with so much frankness and sweetness that I should have been a brute to persevere in my resentment and reserve. Still I wonder, no less now than then, what wrought the change which seemed to me little less than a miracle? Can it be the influence of Madame Le Gramont?'
“ Indeed, Hugh, I am no less puzzled than yourself. Between Olive and myself there was always an impenetrable coldness, an unexpressed antagonism. I never exercised over her the authority which I might have claimed. I felt instinctively that it would be unwise to come to open war, which must have been the case had I ever urged my rights. She, on her side, never flagrantly transgressed, and though she refused to acknowledge me as her mother she never forgot that I was her father's wife. I was the Marchioness of Dovercourt, and, as such, entitled to some show of deference.”
“But she calls you 'mamma' now.”
“Yes, we are almost mother and daughter now! She consults me on every point, and recognises my authority on all occasions. She is as obedient as Maudie. Not that I ever greatly test her obedience. I always try to meet her wishes, and I have sometimes, when no principle was involved, sacrificed my own opinion, my own plans, to hers; so we go on our way charmingly, and people quote us as perfect in our relations as step-mother and stepdaughter.” “Do you, can you love Lady Olive?”
Hugh, I am afraid I do not love her ; I am not quite sure that I trust her. Madame Le Gramont may have influenced her pupil, but it seems to me-indeed, it is self-evident--that Olive rules her governess. I never could endure that Miss Flogg. She was a very vulgar person, and her cunning was apparent. She was an accomplished linguist, and that was all that could be said for her."
Why did you permit her to remain so long in office ? " “She was Lady Juliana's selection, and I would not interfere. To me personally Miss Flogg was respectful, more than respectful, for she cringed, and fawned, and toadied to an extent possible only to a very low and mean type of character. professed to be guided by me in every action. She was constantly consulting me on minutiæ which were left entirely to herself. She tried flattery, she proffered confidences, she would have told tales had I condescended to listen; but I never did. I mistrusted her, and she knew it, and with the natural venom of a base, narrow mind she hated me accordingly. She lamented my dislike, and was désolée, because I did not believe in her. She was a very dangerous person, and I am thankful that she is gone. Olive herself despised her, and when there arose some misunderstanding between the Marquis and his sister, Olive adroitly seized the opportunity to get rid of her obnoxious governess. Lady Juliana, as you know, took Flogg as her companion—they always suited ; and we secured Madame Le Gramont. Truly the changes we have remarked date from her arrival among us.”
CHAPTER XXII.—My LEGAL ADVISER. In three days I had said good-bye to Paris. I had bidden adieu to the Marchioness and Lady Olive, promising to be back again for the Jour de l'An at latest. It was a mild, soft day early in December, grey and tranquil, and the long railway journey from Paris to Boulogne was pleasant. I found the sea as quiet as a mill-pond, and I crossed at once, and made the passage in something less than two hours.
It was dark when I got into London, and I was proceeding to take a cab from London Bridge to Bedford Square where Mr. Merriton lived when some one touched me on the shoulder.
“Mr. Hugh Travis, I believa?"
I turned round, and there stood an elderly, impenetrable-looking gentleman, with shaggy eyebrows, plenty of iron-grey hair, and a grave though kindly expression of countenance. I admitted that I was Mr. Hugh Travis.
"I was sure of it," responded my companion. “I had the pleasure of seeing your father many years ago, and the moment you got out of the train I knew that you must be his son. I came to meet you; my name is Merriton.”
A neat one-horse brougham was waiting for us, and we drove away to Bedford Square. London streets seemed to be in just the same state of bustle and commotion as when I had seen them last six years ago. Mr. Merriton did not attempt to converse, but as we drove through the gas-lit streets-oh! how dingy and dim they seemed after the Boulevards and the Rue Rivoli — he gave me sundry information as to the localities through which we passed.
“ This is Cannon Street,” he announced, “and that is St. Paul's. Ah! you know it. I thought this was your first visit to town ? "
I explained, and presently he continued : “ That is the Old Bailey, and there is St. Sepulchre's Church, and here we are at the foot of Holborn Hill, the worst foot crossing in all London, not excepting the Mansion House and London Bridge from King William Street corner. I always tell Mrs. Merriton that if ever I come to my death by being driven over it will be at the junction of Holborn Hill and Farringdon Street. Lots of people are run over there, you know, annually, but they are nobodies; one of these days a somebody will be killed, and then there will be-a viaduct.” Which singular prevision has come true literally. The dangerous crossing was left in its normal condition of danger and difficulty, till only a very few years ago, an omnibus coming full tilt down the incline of Holborn Hill ran over and caused the death of a person of importance, a very wealthy and philanthropic Bristol merchant, W. D. Wills, Esq. And there is the Holborn Viaduct un fait accompli at this day, a monument to the memory of Mr. Wills for at least the remainder of the century. “ Now we are in New Oxford Street," resumed Mr. Merriton ; " that was Chancery Lane where the horse shied at the milk-boy. Up there is Bloomsbury Square, and this is Bedford Square. Welcome, Mr. Travis, to my humble home.”
Mrs. Merriton met us in the hall; she was a quiet, elderly woman, short and stout, as kind as she knew how to be, but uncompromisingly dull and stupid ; I presume Mr. Merriton thought otherwise in his youthful days, else why did he make her Mrs. Merriton ? She paid me a great deal of attention, and I could plainly perceive that the dinner was a sort of inaugural feast celebrated expressly on my account. There was a Miss Merriton, the eldest daughter of the worthy couple, and as I discovered afterwards, she was a little over thirty years of age, while I, in my juvenile inexperience, set her down for a regular old maid of five. and-forty. Her sisters were all married, for the Merritons had rejoiced in numerous olive branches round about their table; and she who answered to the name of Lavinia was the last full-blown blossom upon the parent stem. She was evidently quite as common-place, but not nearly so amiable as her mother, and I remarked that she ale her dinner as it were under protest, and drank her wine as if she were at feud with mankind generally. She refused to enter into conversation, but listened with a covert air to all that others said. I made up my mind that Lavinia Merriton was a very disagreeable person, and that her nephews and nieces caricatured her, and voted her a nuisance.
We had no business talk that evening, for it was presumed that I was fatigued, and some one came to speak to Mr. Merriton on an affair of importance, and kept him till long after Lavinia had established herself behind the vrn, and rattled the cups and saucers. I tried to make myself agreeable, and talked eloquently about Heidelberg and Paris; and Mrs. Merriton, after listening attentively to my spirited narration, anxiously inquired if I could tell her whether flounces were really going out and plain skirts coming in. She had heard that frills up to the waist were no longer seen in Paris, and that short waists and square-cut boddices were all the rage. I am afraid I sank sadly in her estimation when I replied regretfully that really I had not noticed; I knew that the ladies had waists, but could not say whether they were long or short, and I was quite sure they wore dresses, though whether flounced, or tucked, or plain I could not remember. I said, however, that I thought the Marchioness and Lady Olive wore a great many skirts, one over the other, voluminous, diaphanous skirts that floated about them like clouds. Mrs. Merriton was sorry I could not name the material of which they were made. Miss Merriton sneered and glanced sulkily at her own unbecoming, stiff copper-coloured silk, trimmed with yards of heavy purple velvet. And was this regulation London dinner-dress, I wondered !
The evening wore away. When Mr. Merriton came in he desired Lavinia to give him some music, and she rose and went to the piano, still under protest, while I hastened to open the instrument and drag the music books into position. She neither thanked me nor rejected my services, but she scowled at me over her shoulder, and intimated that she never allowed any one to turn over the leaves for her. Presently, in a thin, high-pitched voice she sang a