“What has happened?” was the wondering rejoinder of Mother Duff.
“Never you mind, just yet. I’ll tell you about it afore the week’s out.”
And, accordingly, before the week was out, all Deerham was regaled with the news; full particulars. And Susan Peckaby, a robe of purple, of the stuff called lustre, laid up in state, to be donned when the occasion came, passed her time, night and day, at her door and windows, looking out for the white donkey that was to bear her in triumph to New Jerusalem.
A SURPRISE FOR MRS. TYNN.
In the commodious dressing-room at Verner’s Pride, appropriated to its new mistress, Mrs. Verner, stood the housekeeper, Tynn, lifting her hands and her eyes. You once saw the chamber of John Massingbird, in this same house, in a tolerable litter: but that was as nothing compared with the litter in this dressing-room, piles and piles of it, one heap by the side of another. Mary Tynn stood screwed against the wainscoting of the wall: she had got in, but to get out was another matter: there was not a free place where she could put her foot. Strictly speaking, perhaps, it could not be called litter, and Mrs. Verner and her French maid would have been alike indignant at hearing it so classed. Robes of rich and rare texture; silks standing on end with magnificence; dinner attire, than which nothing could be more exquisite; ball dresses in all sorts of gossamer fabrics; under-skirts, glistening with their soft lustre; morning costumes, pure and costly; shawls of Cashmere and other recherche stuffs, enough to stock a shop; mantles of every known make; bonnets that would send an English milliner crazy; veils charming to look upon; laces that might rival Lady Verner’s embroideries, their price fabulous; handkerchiefs that surely never were made for use; dozens of delicately-tinted gloves, cased in ornamental boxes, costing as much as they did; every description of expensive chaussure; and trinkets, the drawn cheques for which must have caused Lionel Verner’s sober bankers to stare. Tynn might well heave her hands and eyes in dismay. On the chairs, on the tables, on the drawers, on the floor, on every conceivable place and space they lay; a goodly mass of vanity, just unpacked from their cases.
Flitting about amidst them was a damsel of coquettish appearance, with a fair skin, light hair, and her nose a turn-up. Her gray gown was flounced to the waist, her small cap of lace, its pink strings flying, was lodged on the back of her head. It was Mademoiselle Benoite, Mrs. Verner’s French maid, one she had picked up in Paris. Whatever other qualities the damsel might lack, she had enough of confidence. Not many hours yet in the house, and she was assuming more authority in it than her mistress did.
Mr. and Mrs. Verner had returned the night before, Mademoiselle Benoite and her packages making part of their train. A whole fourgon could not have been sufficient to convey these packages from the French capital to the frontier. Phoeby, the simple country maid whom Sibylla had taken to Paris with her, found her place a sinecure since the engagement of Mademoiselle Benoite. She stood now on the opposite side of the room to Tynn, humbly waiting Mademoiselle Benoite’s imperious commands.