Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/305

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A Study in Temptations.

The footman assisted his aged mistress out of the carriage with respectful sympathy.

"Have I the pleasure of addressing——?" began Lady Warbeck, feeling for the first time in her life, and very much against her will, that it is not the apron which makes the servant.

"I am Jane," said the girl; "will you come into the kitchen, for the sitting-room is full of dust?"

The Countess, in spite of her eccentricities, was a well-bred woman—one who had travelled much, observed much, and read much. She was, too, so absolutely sure of her own excellent social position that she suffered none of those fears so common to mushroom nobility, lest she might not be taken for the exalted being she was. She could, if necessary, adapt herself to any scene or any society; she did not look less a countess because she sat in a kitchen. Good breeding does not require a background. She always held, however, that nervousness in her august presence showed very proper feeling, so she looked at Jane very hard for seeming so unembarrassed. Jane met her look modestly, and with the respect which instinct taught her was due to one who was so many years her senior, but with no more fear than if her great relative had been—as her ladyship wrote to Warbeck—"a tabby cat on a wall."

Miss Caroline appeared from the scullery, where she had been washing her hands, and greeted her visitor with much old-fashioned grace, but, it must be owned, little style. That is to say, she neither tittered nor stared, nor assumed an unnatural voice, but spoke and acted exactly as she always did when there was no one in sight and hearing save Battle and Jane.