The conversation turned on bicycling.
“I bike now and then in the country,” said Ada, “but I have not done much lately. We have only just come down from town, and, of course, I never bike in London.”
Rachel had just said that she did.
“Perhaps you are nervous about the traffic,” said Rachel.
“Oh! I’m not the least afraid of the traffic, but it’s such bad form to bike in London.”
“That, of course, depends on how it’s done,” said Rachel; “but I am sure in your ease you need not be afraid.”
Ada glared at Rachel, and did not answer.
When the Pratts had taken leave she said to her mother:
“Well, you can have Rachel West if you want to, but if you do I shall go away. She is only Birmingham, and yet she’s just as stuck up as she can be.”
The Pratts were “Liverpool.”
“Well, my dear,” said Mrs. Pratt with natural pride, “it’s well known no one is good enough for you. But I took to Miss West, and an orphan and all, with all that money, poor thing!”
“She has no style,” said Selina, “but she has a nice face; and she’s coming to stay with Sibbie Loftus next week, when she leaves Vi Newhaven. She may be Birmingham, Ada, but she’s just as thick with county people as we are.”
“I did not rightly make out,” said Mrs. Pratt, reflectively, “whether that tall gentleman, Mr. Vernon, was after Miss West or Hessie Gresley.”
“Oh, ma! You always think some one’s after somebody else,” said Ada, impatiently, whose high breeding obliged her to be rather peremptory with her simple parent. “Mr. Vernon is a pauper, and so is Hessie. And, besides, Hessie is not the kind of girl anybody would want to marry.”
“Well, I’m not so sure of that,” said Selina. “But if she had had any chances I know she would have told me, because I told her all about Captain Cobbett and Mr. Baxter.”
Le monde est plein de
gens qui ne sont pas plus sages.
If, after the departure of the Pratts, Rachel had hoped for a word with Hester, she was doomed to disappointment. Mr. Gresley took the seat on the sofa beside Rachel which Ada Pratt had vacated, and after a few kindly eulogistic remarks on the Bishop of Southminster and the responsibilities of wealth, he turned the conversation into the well-worn groove of Warpington.
Rachel proved an attentive listener, and after Mr. Gresley had furnished her at length with nutritious details respecting parochial work, he went on:
“I am holding this evening a temperance meeting in the Parish Room. I wish, Miss West, that I could persuade you to stay for it, and thus enlist your sympathies in a matter of vital importance.”
“They have been enlisted in it for the last ten years,” said Rachel, who was not yet accustomed to the invariable assumption on the part of Mr. Gresley that no one took an interest in the most obvious good work until he had introduced and championed it. “But,” she added, “I will stay with pleasure.”