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"Let me be Paul's substitute." She
offered Sir John the support of her arm
with perfect tact and self-possession, as
though it were the most natural and ordinary
proceeding in the world.

After that occasion the daily walk
became a matter of course.

The temporary absence of Miss Desmond
from the vicarage was by no means
regretted by Sir John. In truth, he did not
like Maud. Some word, to that effect
escaped him in speaking to Veronica.

"You must not say that to papa, Sir
John," said she, looking quietly up at him.

"Say what?"

"That you do not like Miss Desmond."

"Of course not. I never said so to any
one. It would be untrue. Miss Desmond
is a very charming young lady, very
charming and very young, and perhaps
her youth explains a slight touch, the very
slightest touch, ofof self-sufficiency. We
grow tolerant and sceptical as we get older.

"Maud is not self-sufficient. She is only
very earnest and very honest."

"Miss Desmond is happy in having so
warm and generous a friend. And pray do
not accuse me of any want of respect fo
r Miss Desmond. I have no doubt that she
possesses the most admirable qualities; only
her manner is a littlea little hard and
chilly, if I may venture to say so."

"At heart she is really very impulsive."

"Is she?"

"But she has great self-command in

"I am bound to say that she must have.
Anything less impulsive than Miss
Desmond's manner I have seldom seen. But
forgive me. I will not say another word
that shall even seem like disparagement of
one for whom you entertain so warm an

Sir John spoke with a winning
deferential softness of manner, and looked with
undisguised admiration into the beautiful
ace by his side.

Such looks were now not rare on his
part. Veronica, in her retrospective
meditations, could recall many such glances;
could recall, too, many soft words, so soft
as to be almost tender, spoken in her ear
during the afternoon stroll in meadow or
garden. She was nattered and touched by
the deference towards herself of this man,
whose character she perceived to be
imperious, almost arrogant, to the rest of the

Others had been admiring and deferential
before now. Mr. Plew would endure
her scornful raillery with abject submission;
but then Mr. Plew was habitually
submissive to every one, and was, after all
(she reflected), a very insignificant
individual indeed.

That young man, that Mr. Lockwood,
the other evening had shown himself very
sensible to the fascinations of her brightness
and her beauty. He was not abject,
truly. No; he was manly and modest, and
he looked, and spoke, and moved in a way
which showed that he thought himself
the equal of any one among Captain Sheardown's
guests. Nevertheless, in Veronica's
apprehension, he was not so. Although
she had chosen to put down Emma Begbie's
ill-breeding, she had been, to a certain
degree, mortified by her contemptuous tone.

Sir John Gale was a different kind of
person from this young Lockwood, whose
father had been educated by the bounty of
Admiral Sheardown.

To be "my Lady Gale"!

The words rang in her ears. She
whispered them to herself in the solitude
of her chamber. Wealth, station, and al
l that was alluring to the girl's vanity and
ambition, were in the sound.

In those earliest years of existence during
which, as some think, the deepest and
most abiding impressions are made on the
character, the ideal of happiness held up
before Veronica's eyes was an essentially
ignoble one. The possession of such
delights as may be summed up in the vulgar
word "finery" she was directly or
indirectly taught to look upon as an aim to be
attained. As she grew older, and the life
that lay before her in Shipley-in-the-Wold
became clear to her apprehension, an eating
discontent took hold upon her like a
slow poison. At times, in recalling her
mother's stories of her young days in
Florence, a passion of envy and longing
would make the girl's heart sick within
her. Not that those things which had made
Stella Barletti gay and happy would have
altogether satisfied her daughter. The
latter had more pride and less simplicity.
Stella liked to "far figura," as the Italian
phrase goes: to make a figure, in the world.
But her ambition never soared on a very
daring wing. She was perfectly contented
to accept Russian hospodaresses laden with
emeralds, or even Princesses Delia Scatoli
da Salsa, crowned with paste diamonds and
enamelled with effrontery, as her social
superiors, and to enjoy the spectacle of
their real or sham splendours exactly as