Page:Tales of John Oliver Hobbes.djvu/386

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A Bundle of Life.

husband. Eighteen years had now passed and, by living in close retirement, Lady Warcop was become a much-sought-after person. She had suddenly inherited, too, a considerable fortune, and as views on marriage are only immoral (as it would seem) when one cannot afford to pay for them, it was not so much a question whether her ladyship would be received, but whether she would receive. And she gave such delicious dinners! The early transgression of Sir Sidney and his wife was forgotten, and their daughter (whose age was a subject delicately avoided by the feeling and discreet world), was receiving her education in a convent abroad. It is possible that she would have remained there always and ended her life as a nun, but for the great interest most unexpectedly shown in her welfare by a rich and childless aunt—her mother's own sister—Mrs. Constance Charlotte Portcullis.

The heart of Mrs. Portcullis was, as it were, a moral scent-sachet, which she refilled with the fashionable perfume of each season, scattering the musk of the old year to make room for the myrrh of the new. This custom—which is commonly called Toleration—won for her numberless acquaintances of every rank and opinion, among whom it would have been hard to decide, which expressed his or her contempt for the lady's uncertain principles, in the most affectionate manner. Mrs. Portcullis had, nevertheless, one fixed and unalterable idea, and that had reference to Lady Warcop. She held that her appalling conduct had brought perpetual disgrace on that distinguished family the Tracy Tottenhams, of which she and her ladyship were members. Years passed and the sisters