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"He is shooting in Yorkshire," said Tom.
"Sent Loo a basket half as big as a church,
yesterday."

"The kind of gentleman now," said Mrs.
Sparsit, sweetly, "whom one might wager to
be a good shot!"

"Crack," said Tom.

He had long been a down-looking young
fellow, but this characteristic had so increased
of late that he never raised his eyes to any
face for three seconds together. Mrs. Sparsit
consequently had ample means of watching
his looks, if she were so inclined.

"Mr. Harthouse is a great favourite of
mine," said Mrs. Sparsit, "as indeed he is of
most people. May we expect to see him
again shortly, Mr. Tom?"

"Why, I expect to see him to-morrow,"
returned the whelp.

"Good news!" cried Mrs. Sparsit, blandly.

"I have got an appointment with him to
meet him in the evening at the station here,"
said Tom, "and I am going to dine with him
afterwards, I believe. He is not coming
down to Nickits's for a week or so, being due
somewhere else. At least, he says so; but I
shouldn't wonder if he was to stop here over
Sunday, and stray that way."

"Which reminds me!" said Mrs. Sparsit.
"Would you remember a message to your
sister, Mr. Tom, if I was to charge you with
one?"

"Well! I'll try," returned the reluctant
whelp, "if it isn't a long un."

"It is merely my respectful compliments,"
said Mrs. Sparsit, "and I fear I may not
trouble her with my society this week; being
still a little nervous, and better perhaps by
my poor self."

"Oh! If that's all," observed Tom, "it
wouldn't matter much, even if I was to forget
it, for Loo's not likely to think of you unless
she sees you."

Having paid for his entertainment with
this agreeable compliment, he relapsed into a
hangdog silence until there was no more
India ale left, when he said, "Well, Mrs.
Sparsit, I must be off!" and went off.

Next day, Saturday, Mrs. Sparsit sat at
her window all day long; looking at the
customers coming in and out, watching the
postmen, keeping an eye on the general
traffic of the street, revolving many things in
her mind, but, above all, keeping her attention
on her staircase. The evening come,
she put on her bonnet and shawl, and went
quietly out: having her reasons for hovering
in a furtive way about the station by which
a passenger would arrive from Yorkshire,
and for preferring to peep into it round
pillars and corners, and out of ladies' waiting-
room windows, to appearing in its
precincts openly.

Tom was in attendance, and loitered about
until the expected train came in. It brought
no Mr. Harthouse. Tom waited until the
crowd had dispersed, and the bustle was
over; and then referred to a posted list of
trains, and took counsel with porters. That
done, he strolled away idly, stopping in the
street and looking up it and down it, and
lifting his hat off and putting it on again,
and yawning, and stretching himself, and
exhibiting all the symptoms of mortal weariness
to be expected in one who had still to
wait until the next train should come in, an
hour and forty minutes hence.

"This is a device to keep him out of the
way," said Mrs. Sparsit, starting from the
dull office window whence she had watched
him last. "Harthouse is with his sister
now!"

It was the conception of an inspired
moment, and she shot off with her utmost swiftness
to work it out. The station for the
country house was at the opposite end of the
town, the time was short, the road not easy;
but she was so quick in pouncing on a
disengaged coach, so quick in darting out of it,
producing her money, seizing her ticket, and
diving into the train, that she was borne
along the arches spanning the land of coal-
pits past and present, as if she had been
caught up in a cloud and whirled away.

All the journey, immovable in the air
though never left behind; plain to the dark
eyes of her mind, as the electric wires which
ruled a colossal strip of music-paper out of
the evening sky, were plain to the dark eyes
of her body; Mrs. Sparsit saw her staircase,
with the figure coming down. Very near
the bottom now. Upon the brink of the
abyss.

An overcast September evening, just at
nightfall, saw beneath its drooping eyelid
Mrs. Sparsit glide out of her carriage, pass
down the wooden steps of the little station
into a stony road, cross it into a green lane,
and become hidden in a summer-growth of
leaves and branches. One or two late birds
sleepily chirping in their nests, and a bat
heavily crossing and recrossing her, and the
reek of her own tread in the thick dust
that felt like velvet, were all Mrs. Sparsit
heard or saw until she very softly closed a
gate.

She went up to the house, keeping within
the shrubbery, and went round it, peeping
between the leaves at the lower windows.
Most of them were open, as they usually
were in such warm weather, but there were
no lights yet, and all was silent. She tried
the garden with no better effect. She thought
of the wood, and stole towards it, heedless
of long grass and briers: of worms, snails,
and slugs, and all the creeping thing that be.
With her dark eyes and her hook nose
warily in advance of her, Mrs. Sparsit
softly crushed her way through the thick
undergrowth, so intent upon her object that
she probably would have done no less, if the
wood had been a wood of adders.

Hark!

The smaller birds might have tumbled out

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