to an end, unless it proved a great success. She should by that time at any rate, have made up her mind what the boy's character was, and would then act as circumstances might determine.

The pretext she put forward ostensibly was that her doctor said she ought to be a year or two in the country after so many years of London life, and had recommended Roughborough on account of the purity of its air, and its easy access to and from London - for by this time the railway had reached it. She was anxious not to give her brother and sister any right to complain, if on seeing more of her nephew she found she could not get on with him, and she was also anxious not to raise false hopes of any kind in the boy's own mind.

Having settled how everything was to be, she wrote to Theobald and said she meant to take a house in Roughborough from the Michaelmas then approaching, and mentioned, as though casually, that one of the attractions of the place would be that her nephew was at school there and she should hope to see more of him than she had done hitherto.

Theobald and Christina knew how dearly Alethea loved London, and thought it very odd that she should want to go and live at Roughborough, but they did not suspect that she was going there solely on her nephew's account, much less that she had thought of making Ernest her heir. If they had guessed this, they would have been so jealous that I half believe they would have asked her to go and live somewhere else. Alethea, however, was two or three years younger than Theobald; she was still some years short of fifty, and might very well live to eighty-five or ninety; her money, therefore, was not worth taking much trouble about, and her brother and sister-in-law had dismissed it, so to speak, from their minds with costs, assuming, however, that if anything did happen to her while they were still alive, the money would, as a matter of course, come to them.

The prospect of Alethea seeing much of Ernest was a serious matter. Christina smelt mischief from afar, as indeed she often did. Alethea was worldly - as worldly, that is to say, as a sister of Theobald's could be. In her letter to Theobald she had said she knew how much of his and Christina's thoughts were taken up with anxiety for the boy's welfare. Alethea had thought this handsome enough, but Christina had wanted something better and stronger. `How can she know how much we think of our darling?' she had exclaimed, when Theobald showed her his sister's letter. `I think, my dear, Alethea would understand these things better if she had children of her own.' The least that would have satisfied Christina was to have been told that there never yet had been any parents comparable to Theobald and herself. She did not feel easy that an alliance of some kind would not grow up between aunt and nephew, and neither she nor Theobald wanted Ernest to have any allies.

Joey and Charlotte were quite as many allies as were good for him. After all, however, if Alethea chose to go and live at Roughborough, they could not well stop her, and must make the best of it.

In a few weeks' time Alethea did choose to go and live at Roughborough. A house was found with a field and a nice little garden which suited her very well. `At any rate,' she said to herself, `I will have fresh eggs and flowers.' She even considered the question of keeping a cow, but in the end decided not to do so. She furnished her house throughout anew, taking nothing whatever from her establishment in Gower Street, and by Michaelmas - for the house was empty when she took it - she was settled comfortably, and had begun to make herself at home.

One of Miss Pontifex's first moves was to ask a dozen of the smartest and most gentlemanly boys to breakfast with her. From her seat in church she could see the faces of the upperform boys, and soon made up her mind which of them it would be best to cultivate. Miss Pontifex, sitting opposite the boys in church, and reckoning them up with her keen eyes from under her veil by all a woman's criteria, came to a truer conclusion about the greater number of those she scrutinized than even Dr Skinner had done. She fell in love with one boy from seeing him put on his gloves.

Miss Pontifex, as I have said, got hold of some of these youngsters through Ernest, and fed them well. No boy can resist being fed well by a good-natured and still handsome woman. Boys are very like nice

  By PanEris using Melati.

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