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It was not easy to maintain a stand before the frame that held the four, for people must have told one another of it, and squeezed their way to it; till the poor little artist, growing nervous at the press, was grasping her brother tight to make him take her away. Just then there was a kind eager greeting, 'Good morning; I am delighted to meet you here. You must allow me to congratulate you.'

It was Mr. Grinstead, too considerate to utter a name that would instantly have brought all eyes upon the little lame girl, whom the gazers were almost sweeping away. He was full of that gracious fatherly kindness that elderly men were prone to show her, and solicitously asked where she was staying, and whether he might call upon her; and then, taking advantage of an interval of people, he brought her again in front of her pictures. With him on Lord Gerald's side of her, and Edgar on the other, she felt safe enough to enter into his kind critique, so discriminating as to gratify, improve, and stimulate, her far more than if it had been all compliment. By the time this was over, Cherry could stand no longer, and it was time for her visit to her sister, so the sculptor did Ferdinand's old part by taking care of her while Edgar hunted up their cousin's brougham.

'O Edgar, aren't you coming?'

'Well! I can't say the Mynheer's ménage likes me better than I like it.'

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Oh, Eddie, dear, do. How shall 1 ever get in among all those dreadful strange servants?'

'What, the crack exhibitor, whose pictures transcend woman's genius, afraid of a flunky or two!'

Nevertheless, he let her pull him into the carriage, laughing, and demanding whether she could not have opposed coachman and footman to their congeners; but he recollected the stair-case, and was all the more amenable that in her he had the only perfectly willing auditor of all his whys and wherefores of all Brynhild's characteristics, all his hopes of purchasers and plans built upon her, and (now that Brynhild was out of sight) the most profound believer in her beauties and sublimities.

The arrival was impressive. The vista of liveries, flowers, and marble, was so alarming, that Cherry could hardly have found

CHAP.

XXIX.

CHAP. XXIX.

courage to make her way through them with no support but Lord Gerald's; but when she entered the drawing-room the grandeur was instantly mitigated by the plainly attired, gentle, motherly lady who came forward to greet her with a kiss. 'So you are Geraldine, the only sister I have never seen. Alda will be delighted.'

Lady Mary Murray must have been rather surprised by the sight of 'the little deformed one,' with her sweet pensive face of sunshine and shade, and the small slender form, as shapely as that of her sister, though leaning a little forward when walking. So kind was she, that Cherry felt that she could quite spare Edgar when he made his retreat, and never observed that he was not pressed to stay to see Alda, who had a dress-maker with her, and would send down when ready.

This gave Cherry time to become at home with Lady Mary, and to receive some gratifying compliments upon her Constellation, united with a little caution on the danger of making the little girl vain. 'I hope not,' said Cherry much in earnest; 'indeed, I think Edgar and I are mere terrors to all our pretty ones, we teaze them so with sitting.'

'The little boy in a surplice is another brother, I think I heard.' Yes, my brother Lance. He is gone into the business now. He was in the Cathedral choir at Minsterham.'

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Oh! I understood that it was a portrait of the one who was in the St. Matthew's brotherhood, in his ornaments.'

'Oh no. That was Clement; and I am sure neither of them wore anything like that! I made out the ornaments from a book.'

'I am glad to hear it,' said Lady Mary, a little less cordially; and when Cherry, recollecting her views, proceeded to lead away by speaking of Brynhild, it was to be met with a kind smile and avowal that Mr. Underwood's picture was not so easy to understand.

Then came the summons to Lady Vanderkist's room. It seemed chiefly addressed to her mother-in-law, who, however, extended it to Cherry, and proffered a soft, comfortable, substantial arm to help her up the stairs.

There sat Alda, beautiful to behold in white and bright blue

ribbons, thinner than formerly, but exquisitely and delicately pretty, and so eager in her conference with her milliner, that she could only give Geraldine a hasty kiss, and sign her to a seat, before appealing to Lady Mary on some point of clashing taste respecting her court dress, which was the present subject of engrossing interest to the younger lady, while the elder evidently did not feel greatly at home or interested in a subject which she said had not come before her since the maiden days of Queen Victoria. Indeed, when Alda became excited in maintaining her own opinion, she put an end to it with gentle but irresistible authority, dismissed the milliner, and insisted upon the repose that Alda was inclined to laugh to scorn.

After an exhibition of the little four weeks daughter, a pretty creature, in whom mother as well as grandmother shewed plenty of pride, the two sisters were left to a tête à tête, Cherry feeling almost hypocritical when Lady Mary supposed them to be so eager for it.

Rather languidly Alda inquired after everyone at home, chiefly after Wilmet and Captain Harewood, where he was, and what chance there was of his return. Then Cherry talked of the great home subject of interest, namely that the organ was actually ordered; but Lady Vanderkist attended little, and it was safer as well as more entertaining to let her talk of herself; and she seemed to have had a very gay winter, to have been recognized as the great lady of her neighbourhood as well as bride and beauty, and to have had much sporting society at home and abroad, while now she looked forward to a season among the circles which had always been the object of her ambition. No wonder that the cares and joys of Bexley occupied her but little, and that it was not much to her whether Felix was to be a town-councillor. However, she was now among people who considered it an honour to have a sister exhibiting at the Academy, and she professed much eagerness to see the Constellation. 'But what could have induced Edgar to send such a picture ?' she added; 'Adrian says it is the maddest thing he ever saw in his life.'

It takes some study,' said Cherry, subduing her indignation. 'I should think it had taken very little study.'

'You have not seen it?'

CHAP.

XXIX.

CHAP. XXIX.

'No of course not yet. I shall go as soon as I can, it is so stupid not to be able to talk of the Exhibition; but I don't look forward to Edgar's picture at all, I hear the drawing and painting are so disgraceful.'

'There is an apparent carelessness that enhances effect.'

'Standing up for Edgar as usual, Cherry! But if you still have any influence with him, this is the time to use it. Adrian hears that he has taken up with a lot of tremendous scamps. Indeed, he saw him on the Derby day betting away with all his might. Now he cannot stand that long, and Adrian says I must let him know that when he gets into difficulties, he need not expect to fall back upon us.'

'The last thing he is likely to do,' said Cherry, burning with suppressed wrath.

'Well, give him a warning, and tell him to be careful how he comes in Adrian's way. It upsets me so when he comes in and asks where I think he has met my precious brother.'

'I don't see,' cried Geraldine, breaking out, 'why a place should be worse for one than for the other.'

Alda drew up her head with a little contempt, but instead of flying out as when they were on an equality, she merely said, 'Don't you?'

Then Geraldine recollected herself, and tried to say meekly something about the difference made by being able to afford it; but though Alda was kinder than usual, and changed the subject, there was no more real comfort throughout the visit, and she went home to be unhappy. Here it was as hard as ever to behave properly to Alda. Her presence seemed always to rouse the spitfire propensities, of which Cherry would otherwise have been unconscious; and what was far worse was the misgiving that she had only spoken too truly. Cherry's heart sank, scold it as she would for sinking. Her will might adore Brynhild, but her sense assured her of grievous carelessness in the execution; and when she recalled Edgar himself, she knew there was something indefinable about him that confirmed Alda's suspicions.

Her own success had been real and brilliant, but through it all her heart ached with apprehension as she became more conscious of the difference with which her doings and his were regarded,

and could not always succeed in attributing everything to personal politeness to herself. She was staying on to take a few more studies, and to collect materials for the illustrations of a serial tale, an order for which Mr. Renville had procured her; and she found herself quite at home at those pleasant little parties at his house, treated as one of the confraternity who had won her standing, and with new comers begging to be introduced. Mr. Grinstead was always there, and a real friend and protector among strangers; and all was delightful except the reserve about Brynhild, and the frequent absence of Edgar, who used once to be always welcome, and like a son of the house.

Even at Lady Vanderkist's, Geraldine found herself a mild sort of lion, when Alda came out into the world and found that her sister was viewed as having done something remarkable.

Not that there was much intercourse. There was an invitation to the christening, extended even to Edgar and the school girls; but Lady Mary was more the mover in this than Alda herself. Edgar excused himself, and it was not a very brilliant festivity. Indeed, one anxiety on Geraldine's part was lest Lady Mary's engaging kindness should embolden Angela to break out aloud in the wrath and indignation that stiffened her neck and shone in her eyes at the bare dull christening on a week-day-standing all alone —in an ugly 'pewy' church. A luncheon, at which the health of Mary Alda Vanderkist was drunk, was the only honour to the occasion; and Sir Adrian, though not actually uncivil, looked as usual bored, and left the amiable and gracious to his wife and mother.

Mrs. Underwood was indignant, and abused him all the way home. All Lady Mary's kindness had not hidden from her the fact that Alda was ready to spurn aside the scaffolding by which she had mounted to her present elevation, and was only withheld from so doing in consideration of Marilda's wealth; while Marilda, with her unfailing good nature and instinct of defence towards Alda, declared that all arose out of anxiety lest Sir Adrian should be wearied with them, and bluntly declared, 'You know, Mamma, we are very tiresome people; not like Cherry here, who always has something to say.'

'Oh! Cherry is a genius, but without that people needn't be

CHAP.

XXIX.

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