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            IN FIVE BOOKS
                BOOK V

"AN illustrious house, sir!" the vicar
was saying, as Maud entered. " A family
renowned in the history of their country.
My wife was a scion of a nobler stock than
any of these bucolic squires and squiresses
who patronised and looked down upon the
vicar's lady!"

Mr. Plew was standing with his hat in
one hand and his umbrella in the other,
beside the fire-place, and opposite to the
vicar's chair. Maud had already seen him
several times; but looking at him now with
the governess's words ringing in her ears, she
perceived that he was altered. There was
the impress of care and suffering on his
pale face. Mr. Plew was, on the whole, a
rather ridiculous-looking little man. His
insignificant features and light blue eyes
were by no means formed to express tragic
emotions. He had, too, a provincial twang in
his speech, and his tongue had never
acquired a bold and certain mastery over the
letter h. Nevertheless, more intrinsically
ignoble individuals than Benjamin Plew
have been placed in the onerous position of
heroes, both in fact and fiction.

"How do you do, Miss Desmond?" said

Maud gave him her hand. His was
ungloved, and its touch was cold as ice. The
vicar had abruptly ceased speaking when
Maud came into the room. But after
a short pause, he resumed what he had
been saying, with a rather superfluous
show of not having been in the least
disconcerted by her entrance.

"The family ofofthe late baronet
have shown themselves entirely willing
to receive her with every respect. Sir
Matthew called upon her, and so forth.
But she will have no need of people of
that stamp. The prince's position is in all
respects very different to that of these

Mr. Plew stood bravely to listen, though
with a dolorous visage. Maud was silent.
The vicar's tone pained her inexpressibly.
It was overbearing, triumphant, and yet
somewhat angry; the tone of a man who
is contradicting his better self.

"If," said Mr. Plew, without raising his
eyes from the ground, "if Miss Le
if Veronica is happy and contented, and
put right with the world, we shall all have
reason to be truly thankful. She must
have gone through a great deal of suffering."

"She gone through a great deal of
suffering!" cried the vicar, with a swift
change of mood. "And what do you
suppose her suffering has been to compare
with mine, sir? We shall all have reason
to be thankful! We! Understand that
no one can associate himself with my feelings
in this matter; no one! Who is it
that can put his feelings in comparison
with mine!"

Maud glanced up quickly at Mr. Plew,
fearing that he might resent this tone.
But the surgeon showed neither surprise
nor anger. He passed his hand once or
twice across his bald forehead like a man
in pain; but he said no word. The vicar
proceeded for some time in the same strain.
Had any one ever suffered such a blow as
he had suffered? He, a gentleman by birth
and breeding- a man of sensitive pride and
unblemished honour! Had not his life,
passed among stupid peasants and uncultivated