But common sense would have rendered chance powerless by giving it no opportunity to be malevolent. She was furious with Rachel Fleckring. That Rachel Fleckring, of all mortal girls, should have exposed herself to so dreadful, so unforgettable a humiliation was mortifying in the very highest degree. Her lips trembled. She was about to burst into a sob.
Assistance in the enterprise of shifting for herself she welcomed, but not sympathy. The devotion of the Fleckring women began to form a legend. People said that Rachel's aunt had been another such creature as Rachel. Hence the effect on Louis, who, through his aunt and his cousin, was acquainted with the main facts and surmises, of Rachel's glowing reference to the vanished Reuben.
Or, more accurately, Lovelace Curzon was Reuben Fleckring, junior, Rachel's brother, a young man in a million. An amazing occurrence! At that time Reuben, junior, was a minor, scarcely eighteen.
Upon a day Louis had chosen that advertisement from among its rivals, and had written to Lovelace Curzon. But on the very next day he had come into his thousand pounds, and so had lost the advantage of business relations with Lovelace Curzon. Lovelace Curzon, as he had learnt later, was Reuben Fleckring, Rachel's father.
All her muscles were lax, and every full curve of her body tended downward in response to the negligent pose. Her eyes were shut, her face flushed; and her chest heaved with the slow regularity of her deep, unconscious breathing. Louis as he gazed was enchanted. This was not Miss Fleckring, the companion and household help of Mrs.
In the evening dimness of old Mrs. Maldon's sitting-room stood the youthful virgin, Rachel Louisa Fleckring. The prominent fact about her appearance was that she wore an apron. Not one of those white, waist-tied aprons, with or without bibs, worn proudly, uncompromisingly, by a previous generation of unaspiring housewives and housegirls!
And she braced her being, reaching up towards her own conception of herself, towards the old invulnerable Rachel Louisa Fleckring. At any cost she must keep her reputation for common sense with Mrs. Maldon.
And nothing but her own daily existence, as she had always lived it, was real. The rest was a snare. There were no forests, no passionate love, no flying steeds, no splendid adorers for her. She was Rachel Fleckring and none else.
The tale of the illness, then, was spread over the town! She was glad, and her self-consciousness somehow decreased. She now fully understood the wisdom of Mrs. Maldon in refusing to let the police be informed of the disappearance of the money. What a fever in the shops of Bursley even in the quiet shop of Ted Malkin if the full story got abroad! "And what is it to be to-night, Miss Fleckring?
Heath's voice grew more and more confidential and at length, after a brief pause, he whispered "Ye're not married, are ye, sir? Excuse the liberty." It was a whisper, but one of those terrible, miscalculated whispers that can be heard for miles around, like the call of the cuckoo. Plainly Heath was not aware of the identity of Rachel Fleckring.