Orange said very little, except to admit that Lady Delayne was a very charming person, and to express his surprise that she had not divorced the baronet long ago. This remark escaped him at a moment when Bess Bethune had deserted the study of social jurisprudence for that of the velocity of snow when obstructed by the bald head of a choleric sleeper. When the young lady returned from her occupation, Lady Coral-Smith took up the running with the observation that the measure of a woman's endurance is often the measure of her intellect, and that bad men should certainly marry fools. This remark, directed to the dull understanding of Major Boodle, pleased that worthy mightily, and he echoed it with a succession of Eh, what's, which trilled like the warblings of an asthmatic bird.

Thereafter silence fell and endured until the major thought that he remembered a good story concerning the Delaynes, and was about to tell it, when what should happen but that her ladyship appeared suddenly among the company, and brought the men to their feet as though a bombshell had fallen amongst them.

Social credulity is a curious thing, and is apt to become incredulity on next to no provocation at all. The man or woman, whom all discuss, remains just the man, or the woman, when introduced to the company. All the stories concerning him or her seem to be forgotten in a moment; nothing is remembered but the personality of the intruder, and should that be satisfying, the recording finger ceases to write. So, at Andana, this little company would now have been prepared to swear in any court that none but the most flattering observations concerning her ladyship had fallen from its lips, and that it was ready to welcome this charming lady with the cordiality her position (and her father's money) demanded.

To this happy state of things Lily's own charm contributed not a little. She was, for some of these good middle-class folk, as an ambassador from another kingdom, and one which they might not hope to enter. Her unaffected manner, her gentleness, conquered the men, and did not provoke the women. Had she been of their own sphere, they would have envied her beauty and complained of it. But being of a race apart, even the mayor's relict could grant her some natural advantages. As for homely Mrs. Rider, particularly honoured by her ladyship's attentions, she, good soul, was in the seventh heaven. This would make a fine story in Bayswater when she got back. My friend, Lady Delayne, travelling incognito—how well it sounded. Her lips were already prepared for that delicacy.

Lily drew a chair close to the prospective mother of the boys, and began to talk to her in low tones. Sir Gordon, after a vain attempt to join in, had the wit to perceive that he was making no impression, and turned his attention to the little savage, as he called Mistress Bess. When he was gone, Lily approached the dangerous topic of Messrs. Robert Otway and Richard Fenton. She thought that they were pleasant young men and would start in life with some pecuniary advantages.

Had Mrs. Rider known them long—were they very old friends? To which that good lady replied with warmth that this was her third season at Andana, and that the boys had been there on each occasion. Then, with an aside of some moment, she hastened to confess that it was embarrassing to be the mother of two grown-up daughters at her age: For I am but nine-and-thirty, Mrs. Kennaird, and my poor husband has been dead these five years.