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• Not if I can help it,' answered • Freddy,' with all a weak creature's keen instinct of self-preservation. But now, Mrs. Vaughan, don't you think that women are bores when they're slang ?'
Perhaps you don't speak the language. I have heard that it is a nice one, when thoroughly understood,' remarked Helen, ironically.
Oh, but I do understand it,' cried Freddy, who was evidently unwilling to be thought deficient in any modern accomplishment; 'my sisters talk it a little too, and I assure you they were much nicer before they learnt it. Cecilia used to be ladylike and goodnatured, but now she is always making herself sick with cigarrettes; while Julia almost swears at her, and tells her that she makes herself look as ugly as the deuce.'
'A pleasant picture you have drawn of your sisters. And what do you do the while? Look on and say nothing ?'
- Well I used to sing with them, but
they don't care about that now, or for playing either. They think men hate music, and are bored by quiet, accomplished girls. I do believe my sisters would do just us at the clubs if they could.
It is a pitiable state of things,' said Mrs. Vaughan, condolingly. “But surely you give them good advice, and the benefit of your experience.
•Why should I ? they won't listen to me. They think me a muff when I tell them that men hate fast girls; and as to believing me when I say that fellows talk about and ridicule them at the clubs, why, they only laugh at me.'
Then I don't see what more you can do; and I fear that Miss Cecilia and Miss Julia must be left to the purchase of their own experience.
When the conversation (if such it could be called) had reached this point, Helen, whose eyes were turned towards the stalls, remarked the two men whose double barrels
were at that moment again levelled at her box. One of them she knew, while the other scarcely seemed a stranger to her. She could not recollect when or where she had seen him before ; but surely that rather singularly shaped head, with its broad massive forehead, was not strange to her.
While she was searching her memory for time and place, she perceived an empty space where the two men had been; and in another moment the door of the box opened and admitted them.
Mrs. Vaughan shook hands with the one she was acquainted with, and who happened to be among her especial favourites; the latter then introduced his companion as Arthur Brandreth.
On hearing the name, Helen at once recollected it to be that of the singular individual with whom years before she had formed an acquaintance, transient indeed, but pleasant.
'I was sure I had seen you before,' said she, holding out her hand; for you are the same, and yet almost as different as two people can be
"Is it possible that you had the faintest shadow of a recollection of me?' asked Brandreth, seating himself beside her.
Scarcely a man has recognized me that I have met in the streets to-day; and I have had serious thought of ticketing niyself as “ Arthur Brandreth, as per invoice, by ship • Malabar,' from Madagascar.”'
*But when did you come home?' asked Helen.
Home? there is no particular spot on earth that bears that name for me. Is it home where one has most friends? If so, mine is surely not in the British Islands.'
*Don't believe him, Mrs. Vaughan,' interposed his companion; he has more friends than almost anyone I know, to say nothing of— Johnnie Paulett?' interrupted Arthur. “A very host in himself, as I can testify. I wish you could have seen his face when I sloped in at one in the morning yesterday and offered to toss up for a pound I owed
• Yes; and a nice-looking party you were. Just landed by ship and rail from the other side of the world! I was just going to turn in myself, Mrs. Vaughan, when he made his appearance and reminded me that he'd been absent a year short of the ten I betted him he wouldn't stay away.”
And now I hope that you intend to give up your wandering life,' said Helen, and try if you can like us all better than you did nine years ago.'
• Not he,' said Paulett, he'll hate us all, especially the young women; he won't like their playing “ fast and loose.”.
‘Hush,' said Helen, do not prejudice him against anyone. I will not allow you to be a fair judge of either persons or things, for you have been too long an unconcerned