The next morning, Mavis was awakened by Mrs Bilkins bringing her a cup of tea.
“Bless my soul!” cried Mrs Bilkins, almost spilling the tea in her agitation.
“What’s the matter?”
“You’ve got your window open. It’s a wonder you’re alive.”
“I always sleep with it open.”
“Well, you are funny. What will you do next?”
Mrs Bilkins sat on the bed, seemingly inclined to gossip. Mavis did not discourage her; for some reason, the landlady was looking different from when she had seen her the day before. Curious to discover the cause, she let the woman ramble on unchecked about the way in which “her son, a Bilkins,” had “demeaned himself” by marrying a servant.
Then it occurred to Mavis that the way in which Mrs Bilkins had done her hair was the reason for her changed appearance: she had arranged it in imitation of the manner in which Mavis wore hers.
Presently, Mavis told the woman how she had got temporary employment, and added:
“But it’s work I’m quite unaccustomed to.”
To her surprise, Mrs Bilkins bridled up.
“Just like me. I ain’t used to letting lodgin’s; far from it.”
“Indeed!” remarked Mavis.
“Oh, well, if you don’t believe me, ask Mrs Bonus.”
When Mavis came downstairs, she found Mrs Bilkins busy trimming a hat. The next day, the landlady wore it about the house, when Mavis was surprised and amused to see that it was a shabby imitation of her own. At first, she could scarcely believe such emulation to be possible, but when, after buying a necessary pair of gloves, she found that her landlady had got a new pair for herself, she saw that Mrs Bilkins was possessed by jealousy of her lodger. This belief was strengthened by the fact of Mrs Bilkins making copious reference to past prosperity directly Mavis made innocent mention of former events in her life which pointed to her having been better off than she was at present. It was fourteen days before Miss Nippett’s chilblains were sufficiently healed to allow her to take her place at “Poulter’s” piano. During this time, Mavis became on friendly terms with the dancing-master; the more she saw of him, the more he became endeared to the lonely girl. Apart from his vanity where the academy was concerned (a harmless enough foible, which saddened quite as much as it amused Mavis), he was the simplest, the kindliest of men. He was very poor; although his poverty largely arose from the advantage which pupils and parents took of his boundless good nature, Mavis did not hear him utter a complaining word of a living soul, always excepting Gellybrand.