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Aha! You neednt tell me where the shoe pinched there. I see, I see. Each of em in turn thought she was THE one chosen by fate to fill your poor sister-in-laws place. May I speak frankly? If I take the post, you may make your mind perfectly easy on that score. Im not of the marrying sort. Some men are born to be bachelors; some women, bless em, whats known as old maids. I can assure you, my dear Mrs. Mahony, I am happiest in the single life. Nor have I missed a family of my own, for my little Fan here has been as much mine as though I had borne her. Here, however, seeing Marys rather dubious air, she laid a hand on her arm and added reassuringly: But dont be afraid, my dear. I do not noise these views abroad. Theyre just between you, me and the tea-caddy.

No, what Ned and Polly wanted was money, and money alone. This piece of knowledge was accompanied, however, by so disagreeable a sensation that Mary was thankful Richard was not there to share it. Not only were they ready to take every shilling offered . . . poor things, no one could blame them for that, pinched and straitened as they were . . . it was their manner of accepting that wounded Mary. They pocketed what Richard sent them almost as a matter of course, frankly inspecting the amount, and sometimes even going so far as to wrinkle their noses over it. Which was really hardly fair; for Richard was very generous to them; considering they were no blood relations of his, and he felt they didnt like him. Nor did they: there was no getting away from that; they showed it even to the extent of begrudging him his good luck . . . without which he would have been unable to do anything for them! Poor Neds eye was hot with envy whenever Richards rise in the world was mentioned. While Polly alluded to it with an open sneer.

The woman who was waiting for him brought a summons to one of the lonely little farms that dotted the inland hills.

What IS the matter?

I DO. I know nearly every time we go out now, I have to sit by and watch you letting yourself be humbugged. And then Im not to open my mouth, or say what I see, or have any opinion of my own.

Richard, dear I want to tell you something. What we suspected is true. The Burroughs HAVE called in Mr. Robinson. Selina says his gig stood outside their house yesterday for quite a time.

In the beginning, she was heartily glad of the change in Richards habits, and followed him without a grumble wherever he wished: he wouldnt budge a step without her. But, as week after week went by, she did occasionally long for an hour to herself; to prowl round the shops; see something of the children; write her letters in peace. As things stood, it was a ceaseless rush from one entertainment to another, not to mention all the dressing and re-dressing this implied. Done, too, with Richard standing irritable and impatient in the hall, watch in hand, calling: Now DO come along, Mary! cant you hear, my dear? We shall certainly be late.

YOU SEE WHERE I AM NOW. THE URQUHARTS INSISTED ON MY COMING OUT AND TILLY WITH ME. THERES A LARGE PARTY HERE AS USUAL, AND PICNICS, DANCING, MUSIC AND SINGING GO ON ALL THE TIME. I WAS SORRY TO LEAVE BALLARAT, WHICH IS AS LOVELY AS EVER, AND EVERY ONE JUST AS KIND. WILLY IS JUST THE SAME; SO FULL OF LIFE AND FUN YOU REALLY CANT HELP LIKING HIM, HOWEVER MUCH YOU MAY DISAPPROVE. BOTH HE AND LOUISA SEEM PLEASED TO HAVE ME AND ARE FULL OF REGRETS THAT YOU ARE NOT WITH ME. I THINK IT IS A GREAT PITY YOU DIDNT TAKE MY ADVICE AND COME TOO. EVER SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE INQUIRED AFTER YOU.

by Henry Handel Richardson