“It is unfortunate,” said Joe, “that we can’t come down upon her for arrears. Still, there’s an income, a steady income, of three thousand six hundred a year when the son’s heirs present themselves. I should like to call myself a solicitor, but that kite won’t fly, I’m afraid. Lotty must be the sole heiress. Dressed quiet, without any powder, and her fringe brushed flat, she’d pass for a lady anywhere. Perhaps it’s lucky, after all, that I married her, though if I had had the good sense to make up to Iris, who’s a deuced sight prettier, she’d have kept me going almost as well with her pupils, and set me right with the old man and handed me over this magnificent haul for a finish. If only the old man hasn’t broken the seals and read the papers!”
The old man had not, and Joe’s fears were, therefore, groundless.
As A brother.
Arnold immediately began to use the privilege accorded to him with a large and liberal interpretation. If, he argued, a man is to be treated as a brother, there should be the immediate concession of the exchange of christian-names, and he should be allowed to call as often as he pleases. Naturally he began by trying to read the secret of a life self-contained, so dull, and yet so happy, so strange to his experience.
“Is this, Iris?” he asked, “all your life? Is there nothing more?”
“No,” she said; “I think you have seen all. In the morning I have my correspondence; in the afternoon I do my sewing, I play a little, I read, or I walk, sometimes by myself, and sometimes with Lala Roy; in the evening I play again, or I read again, or I work at the mathematics, while my grandfather and Lala Roy have their chess. We used to go to the theater sometimes, but of late my grandfather has not gone. At ten we go to bed. That is all my life.”
“But, Iris, have you no friends at all, and no relations? Are there no girls of your own age who come to see you?”
“No, not one; I have a cousin, but he is not a good man at all. His father and mother are in Australia. When he comes here, which is very seldom, my grandfather falls ill only with thinking about him and looking at him. But I have no other relations, because, you see, I do not know who my father’s people were.”
“Then,” said Arnold, “you may be countess in your own right; you may have any number of rich people and nice people for your cousins. Do you not sometimes think of that?”
“No” said Iris; “I never think about things impossible.”
“If I were you, I should go about the streets, and walk round the picture-galleries looking for a face like your own. There cannot be many. Let me draw your face, Iris, and then we will send it to the Grosvenor, and label it, ‘Wanted, this young lady’s cousins.’ You must have cousins, if you could only find them out.”
“I suppose I must. But what if they should turn out to be rough and disagreeable people?”