“I’ll take it for my girl,” said Hope, blushing, “and because it is offered me by a gentleman and like a gentleman.”
“Granted, for the sake of argument,” said this sprightly youth; and so they parted for the time, little dreaming, either of them, what a chain they were weaving round their two hearts, and this little business the first link.
The rich man’s child.
The world is very big, and contains hundreds of millions who are strangers to each other. Yet every now and then this big world seems to turn small; so many people whose acquaintance we make turn out to be acquaintances of our acquaintances. This concatenation of acquaintances is really one of the marvels of social life, if one considers the chances against it, owing to the size and population of the country. As an example of this phenomenon, which we have all observed, William Hope was born in Derbyshire, in a small parish which belonged, nearly all of it, to Colonel Clifford; yet in that battle for food which is, alas! the prosaic but true history of men and nations, he entered an office in Yorkshire, and there made friends with Colonel Clifford’s son, Walter, who was secretly dabbling in trade and matrimony under the name of Bolton; and this same Hope was to come back, and to apply for a place to Mr. Bartley; Mr. Bartley was brother-in-law to that same Colonel Clifford, though they were at daggers drawn, the pair.
Miss Clifford, aged thirty-two, had married Bartley, aged thirty-seven. Each had got fixed habits, and they soon disagreed. In two years they parted, with plenty of bitterness, but no scandal. Bartley stood on his rights, and kept their one child, little Mary. He was very fond of her, and as the mother saw her whenever she liked, his love for his child rather tended to propitiate Mrs. Bartley, though nothing on earth would have induced her to live with him again.
Little Mary was two months younger than Grace Hope, and, like her, had blue eyes and golden hair. But what a difference in her condition! She had two nurses and every luxury. Dressed like a princess, and even when in bed smothered in lace; some woman’s eye always upon her, a hand always ready to keep her from the smallest accident.
Yet all this care could not keep out sickness. The very day that Grace Hope began to cough and alarm her father, Mary Bartley flushed and paled, and showed some signs of feverishness.
The older nurse, a vigilant person, told Mr. Bartley directly; and the doctor was sent for post-haste. He felt her pulse, and said there was some little fever, but no cause for anxiety. He administered syrup of poppies, and little Mary passed a tranquil night.