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A Devotee by Mary Cholmondeley

Loftus looked blankly at Lady Pierpoint


'Pretty,

delicate, impulsive creature, so generous, so ignorant, so full of the ephemeral enthusiasms of youth which have no staying power. The real enthusiasms of life are made of sterner stuff than she, poor child! guesses. What will become of her? What man in the future will take her ardent, fragile devotion, and hold it without breaking it, and bask in the green springtide of her love without desecrating it, like those poor outcasts in the Park?'

Lady Pierpoint was at home, and he was presently ushered into the drawing-room, where she was sitting in her walking things. The room was without flowers, without books, without any of the small landmarks of occupation. It had evidently been arranged only for the briefest stay, and had as little welcome in it as a narrow mind.

Lady Pierpoint, pouring tea out of a metal teapot into an enormous teacup, looked also as if she were on the point of departure.

She greeted him cordially, and sent for another cup. A further glance showed him that she looked worn and harassed. Her cheerful motherly face was beginning to droop like a mastiff's at the corners of the mouth, in the manner in which anxiety cruelly writes itself on plump middle-aged faces.

'I am not really visible,' she said, smiling, as she handed him the large cup which matched her own. 'I cannot bring forth butter in a lordly dish, as you perceive,

for everything is locked up. I am here only for two days, cook-hunting.'

Mr. Loftus had intended to ask after Sibyl, but he asked after Peggy instead.

'She is quite well,' said Lady Pierpoint. 'She is always well, I am thankful to say. I have another Peggy coming out this year--Molly--perhaps you remember her; but how to bring her to London this season I don't know. I have hardly seen anything of her all last winter, poor child! as I was in Egypt with Sibyl. I have only just returned to England.'

'And Miss Carruthers?' he said, examining his metal teaspoon; 'will not she be in London with you this season, with your own daughters?'

'No,' said Lady Pierpoint, looking narrowly at him; 'Sibyl is ill. I have been very anxious about her all the winter. I greatly fear that she will sink into a decline. You know, her sister died of consumption a year or two ago.'

Mr. Loftus looked blankly at Lady Pierpoint.

'Sibyl!' he said--'ill? Oh, surely there is some mistake? What do the doctors say?'

'They all say the same thing,' said Lady Pierpoint, her lips quivering. 'She had a cough last winter, and she is naturally delicate, but there is no actual disease as yet. But if she continues in this morbid state of health--if she goes on as she is at present--they say it will end in that.'


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