What that mystery was the reader will learn in due course. It was a strange sight to see Gertie at her lessons among the animals.
Then she would go and stand at the door and look up the street, and Lion would stand beside her. If Miss Adrian saw the dog and the child together she knew that she might come in. If Gertie was alone she would pass by, just speaking a few words to the child as she went along.
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Ruth Adrian, at the age of twenty-eight, was as young looking as many a girl of eighteen. To such a one the minute personal description of his characters is indeed a task, but he is bound to attempt it. What would the gentlemen say if he failed properly to describe the beautiful features of sweet Ruth Adrian? Here you have what the auctioneers would call a catalogue of the features of Ruth Adrian. Picture her thus and you will behold a marble statue; to see her as she was, a sweet and noble English woman, the beautiful spirit that was hers must animate the lifeless clay. The one great trouble of her life had chastened her beauty, and left upon her features that gentle look of melancholy which poets love to give their heroines.
Ruth had loved and lost. The man who won her girlish heart had been unworthy of her. She believed him to be an honourable English gentleman; she discovered him to be an adventurer and a scamp. The moment the fatal truth was revealed to her, the quiet heroism of her character asserted itself.
She renounced him, not with scorn or indignation, but with loving words and gentle pity. She bade him farewell, and buried her unhappy love in the innermost chamber of her heart.
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She bowed beneath the blow, and prayed God for strength to bear it. He went his way, and she went hers, and from that moment the poor and suffering took the vacant place in her heart. She had a hearty sympathy with the poor and oppressed, with dumb animals and little children, and she went about doing good quietly and effectively. Ruth Adrian was free from the cant which mars the efforts of so many well-meaning people. If she could save a soul she was delighted, but she always tried to save the body first.
The penny-packet-of -tea-dust-once-a-month, and tracts-once-a-week system of mission work she despised. She did not bribe people to be hypocrites, neither did she have holy names in her mouth in season and out of season. She went with the precepts of the loving Lord in her heart instead of on her lips, and so she conquered where the professional missionary, male and female, failed utterly. Only Lion knew about them. She was beginning to write a little now, and she had a slate on which she wrote letters to Lion and to Miss Adrian and did little sums.
CHAPTER I. THE WRECK OF THE ‘BON ESPOIR.’
The foxhound and the spaniel and the bulldog always wagged their tails when Ruth came in, and then sat down on their haunches and stared at the proceedings. Lion was privileged. He was one of the class. But then he was such a superior dog to all the others.
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They were always being sold and going away and being replaced by other dogs before they had learned proper behaviour. But Lion was part of the establishment. Heckett kept him to guard the premises, perhaps. Lion said nothing, but he evidently thought a good deal. Unfortunately, there was a member of the menagerie who behaved very indifferently.
That was the parrot. When Miss Adrian was there he had to be quieted with lumps of sugar. He rarely swore before her. Gertie was very thankful for that. The parrot only swore as a rule at grandfather. But Polly interrupted lessons; in fact, she took part in them. Doubtless she selected them for the occasion in deference to Miss Adrian. You must have a new heart, Polly. Oh, Polly, why are you so wicked? Miss Adrian says so. Gertie gave Polly up in despair, and turned to Lion for comfort. He at least was good, and did not swear and use bad words.
But we forgive you, because we must forgive our enemies. When the old man got well enough to be about, he began to go out as usual, and Gertie was delighted to think she could renew her studies and the happy times with Miss Adrian. T ime? Grigg was tall and thin. Limpet was short and fat. Admirable lawyers and admirable men; they made admirable partners. Solicitors to dozens of wealthy families, tin boxes, lettered in white, lined the walls of every room.
Envious neighbours said that Grigg started in the profession with six dozen of the said boxes, bought cheap at a sale, and that the capital which Limpet brought into the business was a gross more. Of course, this was merely malice. Doubtless each one of those tin boxes was crammed with deeds relating to millions and millions and millions of money.
He used to come down occasionally about eleven, put the kettle on in his private office, and as soon as the water was warm enough he would wash his hands and go home again. He posted it home with praiseworthy promptitude. After that the partners agreed that the less Limpet junior attended to business, the more likely he was to be worth the salary he drew.
Grigg and Limpet are sitting opposite each other to-day in room B. All the rooms are lettered, and this has a great effect upon clients. Faney a business so extensive that the very rooms have to be lettered for fear they should get mixed! The clerks having retired to do their bidding, the partners sit still for a few minutes. Clients calling on Grigg and Limpet are always kept waiting from ten minutes to a quarter of an hour. Grigg goes to the side of the room where several speaking-tubes are arranged. Presently the three clerks appear, bringing in the doctor, Mrs.
Turvey and Topsy, and Mr. Symonds, who, judging from his appearance, is a seafaring man. Grigg and Limpet bow and motion the visitors to the seats. Grigg bows to the ladies, Limpet to the gentlemen. Grigg and myself, to ask you to attend here to-day together in re Egerton. I should say in the matter of our client, Mr.
Gurth Egerton—our late client, I fear I should say.