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DURING the first four or five years of
Maud Desmond's stay at Shipley, Lady
Tallis had written several times to Mr.
Levincourt, asking news of her niece, and
pouring out tidings of her own troubles
and injuries in long, tangled skeins of
sentences, wherein verbs and their nominative
cases were involved together in inextricable
confusion. Moreover, as she wrote with
very pale ink, on very thin paper, and
crossed each page of writing, the trouble of
deciphering her epistles speedily became a
greater one than Mr. Levincourt was willing
to give himself.

Her ladyship's mode of expressing
herself was singularly enigmatical. This did
not arise from any intention of being
mysterious, but simply from what the vicar
styled "puzzle-headedness," and from a
conception of the grammatical construction
of the English language considerably at
variance with the best authorities.

Lady Tallis invariably wrote of her
husband as "he." This was intelligible until
some other male individual requiring the
same personal pronoun appeared in the
letter. But when that other individual
whoever he might behad to be
mentioned, the difficulty of distinguishing the
"he's" became considerable.

Add to this that every word which could
be abbreviated was cut down to two or
three letters: "which" became wh,
"your" yr, "morning" mrg, and so forth.
As though time and letter-paper were so
inestimably precious to the writer that
they must be economised at all hazards.
Though, in truth, she had quite as much
both of the one and the other as she knew
what to do with.

Mr. Levincourt would glance at the
beginning and the end, and then would fold
up the letter, saying to himself, as he placed
it in his desk, that he would read it carefully

As years went on the communications
between Lady Tallis and the family at the
vicarage grew rarer and rarer. Her
ladyship was travelling about. The
town-house was let on a long lease. Her address
was uncertain. It became more and more
apparentor would have become so, to any
one taking the trouble to consider the poor
lady's epistles with patience and sympathy
that her married life was wretched. She
would, she said, very gladly have received
her niece for a while, but "circumstances
forbade her doing so." What those
circumstances were, the vicar knew with
tolerable accuracy.

Veronica, too, had learned from her
mother more of Lady Tallis's history than
was known to Maud. Mrs. Levincourt had
often expressed her contempt for Lady
Tallis's weakness in submitting to be
crushed and tyrannised over by her
husband, and had said that the woman must
be an imbecile!

Veronica was inclined to think so too.

Occasionally Maud had spoken of her
aunt to the vicar. " I should like to see
Aunt Hilda," she had said. "She is the only
one left of dear mamma's relatives. And
I know mamma loved her very much."

Then the vicar had explained that
although Mrs. Desmond loved her sister, she
by no means loved or esteemed her sister's
husband: and that there was no possibility