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nothing save laugh, and you only called Nanny a pickle of a girl,' Iris ventured wistfully to remind her grandmother.
Nanny Hollis was not a married woman, and her brother's clothes were different from a groom's,' said Lady Fermor truly enough in her sternness. I hope you are not such an utter imbecile as to fail to see that there is one law for a family like the Hollises and another for the scum of the earth. But you didn't rush off and hide your face; you turned and went with the depraved gipsy to the wretched man whom she had inveigled, who had wanted you, whom you had sent to his ruin.'
It was to save her and him from the last sin and misery,' urged Iris, forgetting the prohibition to cast pearls before swine. “If I had anything to do with their wretchedness, I was the more bound to aid them.”
Child, I sometimes wonder whether you have been sent to torment me before my time, till I am beside myself, like some miserable annoyance which I could have brushed aside without a thought when I was young and strong ; whether you speak and act simply for the purpose of exasperating me; or whether it is all done out of pure fatuousness of mind. I can tell you that you have enough to do to look after yourself, without inviting all the vagabonds and blackguards in the country to hang on by your skirts. Do you know what the thing that pious puritans and ninnies call “a good name ” means? Do you know what it is worth in the eyes of the fools and hypocrites of this world? Are you aware that you have come into the world with a smirched shred of a name, in spite of your airs and scruples—though you seem to have cast aside the last of your detestable goody-goodiness? Why, the women of your family who lived before you, and were as strong drink to your milk-and-water, played away your good name before you were born. They had something for their play; they enjoyed life while it lasted; but you are only fit to clutch your rag and make the most of it. I have told you it was not to be trifled with, and that it was little I could do for you or your mother before you—so little that, though she was a harmless fool, I was fain to dispose of her to the first scamp, with the show of a good rental, who would take her off my hands. What you might call a good man would not have ventured near her, or had a gift of her, any more than he would have of you.'
"Oh! grandmamma, for mercy's sake don't say such things !' implored Iris, putting her hands upon her ears.
But the old woman caught the hands and pulled them down.
• You shall eat of the tree of the knowledge of evil, as your flourishing friend the Rector would call it, though it should set your teeth on edge, if that is the only thing to bring you to your senses and humble you. Who takes the trouble to separate between the girl and the people she has come of, who have brought her up, with small reward for their pains, I must say ? Ask Tom Mildmay's wife what she thinks of you, and whether she would invite you to pay her a visit en famille, though her boys are still in petticoats and her girls in short frocks and pinafores. Was it for such a one, whose name is as shaky as a tottering tree, whose fame has been breathed upon, though she herself may creep about as if she were begging folk's pardon, and getting up good deeds—I suppose as a kind of sacrifice to atone for her people's free treatment of the decalogue-I say was it for the like of her to go within a mile of Sir William Thwaite, with his randy beggar wife, and their disreputable house and doings? Mrs. Hollis—even Nanny and Maudie, might go for their amusement, and laugh themselves out of the adventure. The last are wellknown to be girls of spirit, besides they have no clog at their heels; they are not spotted. Mrs. Acton and the girl Lucy, or any other clergyman's wife and daughter, might hand in tracts—it is their business—wipe the dust from their feet, and nothing be thought or said. But for you, girl! even I can hardly believe that you went from any other motive than a secret hankering after the miserable fellow you thought fit to reject last year. There, that is the bell at last. It ought to have rung half an hour ago, and I'll pay out Fordham and the rest for it. I'm old, and Fermor is a wreck ; but I am not come to the pass of being either neglected or bullied by my servants, or, for that matter, by my grand-daughter. You may stay upstairs and have your dinner sent to you. Your company gives me little pleasure at . any time, and I am not forced to bear it when you have made it intolerable to me. If starving on bread and water would be likely to do you any good, you may be sure I should try it; but I know to my cost the conceit and self-assurance of young people in this generation, and that if you have not stout stomachs, you have the capacity of mules for sticking to your point. I don't mean to give you the consolation of making yourself a martyr at my expense. Besides, I'm a good grandmother, Miss Compton,' with another snarl under an ugly grin; 'I don't wish to set servants and people talking of you, so long as I can prevent it, for when all is said and done, I dare say you will go the way of those who came before you. It is in the blood. Your day of temptation and downfall will dawn, if it is not hovering over you already. But come when it may, it can only be a half-and-half, whimpering, sinning and repenting, altogether contemptible day, not to be compared to some I have seen, when men and women sinned “with a cart-rope," as your friend the Rector would tell you, with a dash and a swing which you will never know.'