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THE TALE OF
AUNT MARGARET'S TROUBLE.

IN SIX WEEKLY PORTIONS. SECOND PORTION.

CHAPTER III.

AUNT and Uncle Gough were neither rich nor
grand people, though the Gable House was, as
I have said, the noblest-looking dwelling in
Willborough. The house was not my uncle's own
property, but he held a long lease of it. It
belonged to some great county magistrate: a baronet
whose very name I have forgotten, though he
was a mighty person in Willborough, and held
property for miles around it. But socially
speaking, he was as far removed from our
household as if he had lived in Kamschatka.
His steward, Mr. Lee, we knew slightly, and
saluted when we met him in the street on
market-days; but he was so solemn and grand a
person that he always chilled me into awe-struck
silence, though he often condescended to smile
and speak to us girls as we grew up. Once he
told uncle that Miss Anna had a monstrous
sprightly air and a fine shape, and would turn all
the young fellows' heads, by-and-by. "And did
he say nothing of our sweet Madge?" asked my
aunt, when the flattering words had been
reported at home, and had been blushed and smiled
at. Aunt Gough, dear tender-hearted soul,
feared that I might feel slighted; but, in truth,
it had never occurred to me as possible that the
pompous Mr. Lee should have noticed or remembered
me at all. "Well, well, well," said my
uncle, as he drew me to him with so sweet and
fond a smile that I felt my eyes fill with tears,
"I'm not sure that I want Mr. Lee to make
pretty speeches about Madge. He can tell which
of them has the brightest eyes; of that he's a
good enough judge, so don't think I want to rob
you of your compliment, Anna. But if Madge
won't turn heads, she'll creep into hearts; won't
she, my dear?" He passed his hand softly over
my hair as he spoke. I want to tell the truth,
and I must confess that just for a moment I felt
a sort of irritable impatience at being told I
should not turn heads. Why should I not turn
heads, as well as another? I half withdrew
myself from the touch of the fatherly hand that
was caressing me. But the little unworthy
feeling passed directly, and in an instant I had
kissed my uncle, and we were all laughing
together at Anna's assurance that she would begin
to practise the turning process on Mr. Lee
himself, the very next time she saw him.

The opportunity was not long in coming,
but I think Anna had forgotten her vow; at
any rate, I don't believe she tried to fulfil it.
It was a fortnight after uncle had told us of
Mr. Lee's compliment, on the next market-day
but one, that my sister and I, coming homeward
up the High-street, saw before us my
uncle's tall figure, walking side by side with the
portly Mr. Lee. They were talking earnestly
together, and going at a much slower pace than
we were, so we soon overtook them. The
foot pavement of the Willborough High-street
was very narrow: so narrow that two persons
walking abreast needed its whole width. We
could not pass my uncle and Mr. Lee by stepping
off the pavement, because on market-days the
roadway was filled with country folk. Vendors
of poultry, eggs, butter, fruit, and vegetables,
stood all along the edge of the causeway. Great
carts, piled with country produce, or laden with
a ruddy-cheeked farmer's family, jolted ponderously
along, the waggoner whip in hand steering
his unwieldy horses amidst the crowd as
well as he could; and the docile brutes seeming
to understand his uncouth gees, and woos, and
wuts, with almost human intelligence. Now
and again, a prosperous yeoman would ride by,
his well-fed cob chafing and fretting at the
enforced slowness of the pace. Then there were
stout servant-girls with heavy baskets, travelling
pedlars hoarse with vaunting their wares, a
blind fiddler or doleful ballad-singer, farm-
labourers slow and bewildered of aspect, busy
shopkeepers, whooping schoolboys, barking
dogs, cackling hens, and I don't know what
else.

We came close behind my uncle and his
companion, and had even walked some paces at
their heels, before they were aware of our being
near them. "Yes, Mr. Gough," said the
steward, with pompous emphasis, "so it is
arranged. He will have the advantage of my
name, position, and connexion, and I think on
the whole we may expect a fair starta fair
start. If a young man is put in the way of
making a fair start, I consider it to be his own
fault if he does notif he does not, in fact,
start fair."

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