"How quickly your maid dresses you," said Cora, resolved to keep the conversational ball rolling. "Oh, yes; Strong knows how to pack things so that what you want first is uppermost, and I had my dinner dress in a hand traveling-case." Then, turning about she asked, abruptly: "Have you a good maid, step-mamma?" Cora laughed nervously as she replied: "I have no maid, good or bad.
Not desiring to return immediately, I seized an opportunity that came in my way, and bestowed my name upon a poor girl who died in the hospital, thus making sure that my anxious friends would abandon all search for me. However, I have thought better of my decision, and so I return to my own home to take my position under the chaperonage of my pretty step-mamma, as the Heiress of Oakley!"
Madeline realized fully that the part she was now playing was even more difficult and distasteful than that which she had abandoned. But she was resolute. To go back now would be worse than death. While she felt a thrill of repugnance as she saw the fair, sensual face of John Arthur's wife reflected in her mirror, she turned with smiling countenance, saying: "Is it you, step-mamma?
Cora roused herself from her stupor, and said, haughtily: "I am Mrs. Arthur, and the mistress of the house!" "Ah! then you are my new step-mamma? And you have been very ill, I understand. Pray, don't rise, madame; you look feeble." Then, turning again to Miss Arthur: "Don't you intend to speak to me, Aunt Ellen?" "But," gasped the spinster, "I thought, that you " "Oh, I see!
The other day I smuggled a couple of them into my chambers, and had a little feast of cream and strawberries to welcome them. My step-mamma, who happened to be in town, came flying down in her chariot, pounced upon the poor thing and the children in the midst of the entertainment; and when I asked her, with rather a bad grace to be sure, to take a chair and a share of the feast "Mr.
"Oh, yes!" said Cora, positively; "he has been known to me a very long time. Besides, we had in one of the Bellair doctors, who agreed with Dr. Le Guise in every particular." "Well, I must see this learned gentleman to-morrow, and my step-papa also, I think. Step-mamma, you look fatigued; dining is too much for your strength. Let us leave the gentlemen to their wine and cigars."
Cora put two fingers to her blistered cheek, saying: "You can't ask me to come down with this face." "True, I can't. Good-night, step-mamma; it would have been better if you had let the doctor pull that tooth." And Miss Payne swept away, leaving the would-be fugitive to her own reflections. Mrs. Ralston had become to Olive Girard as one of the family.
I have three big brothers, and a little one; two sisters older than myself; a cross papa and proud step-mamma. We live about a mile from here No. 3 Victoria Square and I go home to dinner every day during recess." Having delivered this wonderful announcement in one breath, Winnie paused and waited for her companion to speak. Nellie smiled as she replied,
One thing was evident; it was no part of her plan to betray him, at least not yet. "Nurse," said Madeline, turning to Hagar, "see that a room is prepared for me immediately, and send a servant to the station for my luggage. Also, prepare a room for my maid, who is below, and tell her to get me out a dinner dress immediately." Then turning to Cora, "Step-mamma, you look fatigued.
"No," said Ellen Arthur, sullenly; "you are Madeline Payne. Any one in the village could testify to that." Madeline turned to Cora. "Step-mamma, I forgive you. It is hard to find the entailed estate of Oakley slipping out of your hands, no doubt, but this world is full of disappointments." Cora's eyes sought Lucian.