“That’s rather a pity, isn’t it?” Sybil asked, sweetly. “The Society has done so much good, and in so short a time. Every one admits that.”
“I think that the opinion is very far from universal,” the elder lady remarked, firmly. “There appears to be no discrimination shown whatever in the distribution of relief. The deserving and the undeserving are all classed together. I could not possibly approve of any charity conducted upon such lines, nor, I think, could any good churchwoman.”
“Mr. Brooks thinks,” Sybil remarked, with her mouth full of cake, “that it is the undeserving who are in the greatest need of help.”
“One could believe anything,” the bishop’s wife said stiffly, “of a man who adopted such principles as that. And although I do not as a rule approve of Mr. Lavilette or his paper, I am seriously inclined to agree with him in some of his strictures upon Mr. Brooks.”
Sybil laughed softly.
“I hadn’t read them,” she remarked. “Mother doesn’t allow the man’s paper in the house. Do you really mean that you have it at the palace, Mrs. Endicott?”
The bishop’s wife stiffened.
“Mr. Lavilette has at times done great service to the community by his exposure of frauds of all sorts, especially charitable frauds,” she said. “It is possible that he may shortly add to the number.”
Lord Arranmore shook his head slowly.
“Mr. Lavilette,” he said, “has also had to pay damages in one or two rather expensive libel cases. And, between you and me, Mrs. Endicott, if our young friend Brooks chose to move in the matter, I am afraid Mr. Lavilette might have to sign the largest cheque he has ever signed in his life for law costs.”
The bishop’s wife rose with an icy smile.
“I seem to have found my way into Mr. Brooks’ headquarters,” she remarked. “Lady Caroom, I shall hope to see you at the palace shortly.”
“Poor me,” Sybil exclaimed, as their visitor departed. “She only asked you, mummy, so as to exclude me. And poor Mr. Brooks! I wish he’d been here. What fun we should have had.”
“Oh, these Etrusians,” Lord Arranmore murmured. “I thought that a bishop was very near heaven indeed, all sanctity and charity, and that a bishop’s wife was the concentrated essence of these things—plus the wings.”
Sybil laughed softly.
“Sanctity and charity,” she repeated, “and Mrs. Endicott. Oh!”
THE RESERVATION OF MARY SCOTT
The two girls were travelling westwards on the outside of an omnibus, in itself to Sybil a most fascinating mode of progression, and talking a good deal spasmodically.
“It’s really too bad of you, Miss Scott,” Sybil declared. “Now to-day, if you will come, luncheon shall be served in my own room. We shall be quite cosy and quiet, and I promise you that you shall not see a soul except my mother—whom I want you to know.”