Page:Out of due time, Ward, 1906.djvu/19

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seemed immense a few years before, but which was dwindling rapidly as she made progress in her teens.

"Do begin at the very beginning, and tell me all about the visit."

"No, I'll tell the horridest thing first," I said firmly. "It was the last night, after dinner, and everybody was playing cards. As I didn't want to play I slipped behind a screen with a book. Presently Mrs. John and another woman, Lady Hornbrook, sat down on the other side on the sofa and began to talk. After they had talked a little about their intolerable governesses, Mrs. John gave a fat sigh and said: 'I envy them playing cards, but I don't care to play now that I can't afford to do it properly'. 'But, my dear, with your fortune!' 'My fortune goes to keeping up my husband's place,' in a martyr sort of voice. 'It's not John's fault,' Maud went on, 'it was all spent by his father, and then people talk of Mr. Fairfax as if he were a saint! He denied himself nothing, but he built a church and pensioned lots of people long before they ought to have stopped work. He and Mrs. Fairfax enjoyed themselves in every expensive hotel in Europe. Now, besides having to do up the house, and keep the place going, and pay for everything, I'm thought stingy if I don't carry on all the ridiculous, extravagant charities. One man had the impertinence to tell me that if I kept fewer hunters, I could provide for more orphan children.'

"Of course the other woman went on saying it was all too bad and atrocious, but I liked her the best, and she said rather kindly: 'What will become of the shy little sister? Mr. Sutcliffe says that Miss Lizzie Fairfax is very pretty and the cleverest girl here, but then, you know, she had read his article in the Nineteenth Century.' 'There won't be a penny for her and her sister,' said Mrs. John, with a sort of vicious satisfaction. 'I suppose I shall have to do something for them.' I nearly screamed out 'Never!' I was