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THE Lady Albinia would think of it.

She was a stately lady, of a bilious temperament,
and disliked precipitation. And if she
had required a week to reflect whether she
might suffer Mr. Lamplugh to be presented
to her without compromising her social dignity,
she might surely take a longer time to decide
on the offer of the hand and heart of the
same Mr. Lamplugh, now lying (in writing)
before her. True, she had laboured very
hard for this result, and had displayed as
much cleverness in her tactics as a general
besieging a fortress; yet she was fully aware
that she was called on for a supreme effort of
condescension should she accept it. For,
though Mr. Lamplugh was wealthy, while Lady
Albinia starved aristocratically on casual help
from her friends; and though he was the very
ideal of a magnificent-looking man in his
prime, while she in her virgin forty years had
withered rather than ripened; yet she was of
the peerage, and Mr. Lamplugh was a
commoner of low birth, whose antecedents were
not particularly favourable even in the eyes
of commoners themselves. His father had
been in some horrid tradeof course the
Lady Albinia did not know what; and he
himself had been a merchant somewhere in
Jamaica, or the Bermudas, or Madeira, or
Russia, my dear. And when therewherever
that might behe had married some dreadful
creature, black most likely, and perhaps with
a large bore through her under lip. or a piece
of wood in her ears, or with a nose ring or
flattened head, like the monsters one sees
in encyclopaedias. And this creature had
died, thank goodness! and left a family
Lady Albinia wondered if they were black
with woolly hairwhich family Mr. Lamplugh
prudently kept in the country, away
from civilised life, and which was confessedly
a great drawback to his fine fortune
and handsome face. But as the Lady
Albinia had a decided turn for education,
and held strong notions of discipline,
the children were not such an
obstacle to her. They would be occasions
for the exercise of her abilities more than
hindrances to her life, and she rather
congratulated herself than otherwise on
the opportunity of showing to the world
what she could do in the way of method
and training.

So, allowing herself to subside into the
easy chair, she sat and balanced the two
sides of the question, until she herself
wondered if the scale would ever turn.

What could Mr. Lamplugh, that handsome
man of fortune, see in the Lady Albinia
to tempt him to brave the shame of
rejection, or the very indefinite good of
acceptance? A tall thin spinster of forty and
upwards, with an aristocratic nose and a pair of
sharp brown eyes, a mouth that was a
simple line, the merest indication of lips,
and a figure which not all the art of the
dressmaker could pad into the semblance of
plumpnesswhat was there in this very
uncomfortable and uncompromising lady to
lure Mr. Lamplugh into the bondage of matrimony
again? It could not be her fortune,
it could not be her beauty, for she had neither;
and her temper was acid and her mind a
blank. Perhaps it was her title, which sounded
pleasantly to the ears of the ambitious
commoner, anxious to reap social state from his
golden seed; perhaps it was her aristocratic
connections, which would help on his own
children to distinction. Perhaps he wanted a
mother for Daisy, his eldest girl, who would
put her into a moral strait-waistcoat, and
cramp her growth. Lady Albiuia was
allowed by all who knew her, to be one of the
most admirable correctives to an overflush of
youth. Perhaps he had been captivated by
her attentions; for Mr. Lamplugh was one
of those weak men who are caught by
a woman's flattery sooner than by her
love. And Lady Albinia had certainly
courted and flattered the handsome merchant
to an extent that might have turned a
stronger brain than his, if a stronger
brain could have worshipped Debrett as much
as he did. Whatever its nature, the secret
feeling which prompted Mr. Lamplugh to
make this offer was one not easy even for
himself to define. He had said nothing to
his children, neither had he consulted with
his most intimate friend: dreading the "why?"
to which he would have been puzzled to fit
an answering "because."

Lady Albinia pondered and reflected on
this important matter. She looked round
her little room. It was very pretty, and