“Where shall I tell the man to drive, mum?” the butler asked with the cab-door in his hand.
Mrs. Branston felt herself blushing, and hesitated a little before she replied.
“The Union Bank, Chancery-lane. Tell him to go by the Strand and Temple-bar.”
“I can’t think what’s come to my mistress,” Miss Berners remarked as the cab drove off. “Catch me driving in one of those nasty vulgar four-wheel cabs, if I had a couple of carriages and a couple of pairs of horses at my disposal. There’s some style about a hansom; but I never could abide those creepy-crawley four-wheelers.”
“I admire your taste, Miss Berners; and a dashing young woman like you’s a credit to a hansom,” replied Mr. Parker gallantly. “But there’s no accounting for the vagaries of the female sex; and I fancy somehow Mrs. B. didn’t want any of us to know where she was going; she coloured-up so when I asked her for the direction. You may depend there’s something up, Jane Berners. She’s going to see some poor relation perhaps—Mile-end or Kentish-town way—and was ashamed to give the address.”
“I don’t believe she has any relations, except old Mother Pallinson and her son,” Miss Berners answered.
And thereupon the handmaiden withdrew to her own regions with a discontented air, as one who had been that day cheated out of her legitimate rights.
ONLY A WOMAN.
The cabman did not hurry his tall raw-boned steed, and the drive to Temple-bar seemed a very long one to Adela Branston, whose mind was disturbed by the consciousness that she was doing a foolish thing. Many times during the journey, she was on the point of stopping the man and telling him to drive back to Cavendish-square; but in spite of these moments of doubt and vacillation she suffered the vehicle to proceed, and only stopped the man when they were close to Temple-bar.
Here she told him where she wanted to go; upon which he plunged down an obscure side street, and stopped at one of the entrances to the Temple. Here Mrs. Branston alighted, and had to inquire her way to Mr. Saltram’s chambers. She was so unaccustomed to be out alone, that this expedition seemed something almost awful to her when she found herself helpless and solitary in that strange locality. She had fancied that the cab would drive straight to Mr. Saltram’s door.
The busy lawyers flitting across those grave courts and passages turned to glance curiously at the pretty little widow. She had the air of a person not used to be on foot and unattended—a kind of aerial butterfly air, as of one who belonged to the useless and ornamental class of society; utterly different from the appearance of such humble female pedestrians as were wont to make the courts and alleys of the Temple a short-cut in their toilsome journeys to and fro. Happily a porter appeared, who was