and saucer; really good; canary yellow, with the cherubs in pink. It is well painted, and good of its kind.’
‘Keep it,’ said the Marquess. ‘I make you a present of it as a remembrance of my den which you have invaded.’
‘Thank you, thank you! this is kind,’ said Joanna, with sparkling eye. ‘I will never part with my little cup, never; and I beg pardon, my lord, for having persuaded Mrs. Probus to bring me in here, against her better judgment. It was not her fault, it was mine. I entreated her to let me see your china.’
‘Not another word; you are heartily welcome. If I want to buy china again, I will consult you.’
Joanna withdrew with a curtsey. Lord Saltcombe signed to the housekeeper to remain behind.
‘Who is the little china-fancier?’ he asked, in a low tone.
‘Oh, my lord! I am so ashamed. Only the new housemaid at the Lodge.’
‘Indeed! How education advances!’ laughed the Marquess. ‘In the march of culture we are being overtaken. Who would have supposed to find a housemaid so thorough a connoisseur? Well, she looks brimming over with brains, she has plenty of assurance, and is deucedly pretty.’
The words of commendation spoken by the Marquess were sufficient to make Mrs. Probus think of Joanna with more favour than before. She had recovered from her panic, Joanna had cleverly taken all the blame on herself, so the old woman’s face was wreathed with smiles, and she professed her readiness to show the girl whatever she desired. The Marquess had pronounced on her abilities—a word of commendation from him was enough for Mrs. Probus.
‘I daresay, my dear,’ said she, confidentially, ‘that Mr. Blomfield, the butler, will let you see the plate.’
‘I am a judge of plate,’ said Joanna, gravely. ‘I know the hall marks on silver as I do those on china.’
‘You do? Lord bless me!’ exclaimed the housekeeper.