“Miss Egerton says that he is twenty-six, Hannah.”
“Twenty-six,” answered Hannah; “don’t interrupt me for a minute, dear. I’m comparing dates—twenty-six—twenty-six. Law, goodness gracious me! You haven’t never noticed, Miss Primrose, that he have a kind of a mole—long-shaped, and rather big, a little way up his left arm? Have you, now, dearies?”
“No, really, Hannah, I’ve never seen Mr. Noel’s arm without his coat-sleeve. How very queerly you are speaking, Hannah.”
“Not at all, dearie; it’s only because I’ve got the trembles on me. Well, love, and so you don’t want to be under no compliments to that Mrs. Ellsworthy, who never took no notice of your poor dear ma?”
“I feel sore about it, Hannah,” she said. “But I must try not to be too proud. I will ask God to help me to do what is really right in the matter.”
“That’s it, honey, and maybe you won’t have to do it after all. I wonder, now, dear, if Mr. Noel is well off.”
“Really, Hannah, I think you have got Mr. Noel on the brain! Yes, I have heard Miss Egerton say that he is a rich man. He was the adopted son of a very wealthy person, who left him all his property.”
“Adopted, was he?” said Hannah. “On my word, these tremblings are terrible! Miss Primrose, dear, I have come in to say that I may be going a little journey in the morning. I’ll be off by the first dawn, so as to be back by night, and the shop needn’t be opened at all to-morrow. There’s a nice cold roast fowl for you and Miss Daisy, and a dish of strawberries which I gathered with my own hands not an hour back, so you’ll have no trouble with your dinner. You see that Miss Daisy eats plenty of cream with her strawberries, dear, for cream’s fattening; and now good-night.”
Hannah Martin had never been much of a traveller. It was years since she set her foot inside a railway carriage. She often boasted of her abnormal lack of nerves, but she was also heard to say that accidents by rail were fearful and common, and likely to happen at any moment. She sighed for the old coaching days, and hated the thought of all locomotives propelled by steam. Nevertheless, early in the morning of the day following her interview with Primrose, Hannah, in her usual neat print dress, was seen to enter the little railway station at Rosebury, was observed to purchase for herself a third-class return ticket, and after carefully selecting her carriage, to depart for London.
In the afternoon of that same day Hannah reached her destination, and securing the first porter whose attention she could arrest, she placed a bit of paper in his hand, and asked him to direct her to the address written upon it. The man screwed up his eyes, stared at the paper, and suggested that Hannah should place herself in a hansom, and direct the driver to take her to Park Lane. Hannah had not an idea what a hansom meant; she had never visited London since her early days. She stared with horror at the proposed vehicle, and finally selecting the creakiest and most uninviting of the four-wheelers, drove off to her destination.