“Oho!” thought Miss Bella. “In — deed! That’s it, is it!” For Mr Mortimer Lightwood had dined there two or three times, and she had met him elsewhere, and he had shown her some attention. “Rather cool in a Secretary — and Pa’s lodger — to make me the subject of his jealousy!”

That Pa’s daughter should be so contemptuous of Pa’s lodger was odd; but there were odder anomalies than that in the mind of the spoilt girl: the doubly spoilt girl: spoilt first by poverty, and then by wealth. Be it this history’s part, however, to leave them to unravel themselves.

“A little too much, I think,” Miss Bella reflected scornfully, “to have Pa’s lodger laying claim to me, and keeping eligible people off! A little too much, indeed, to have the opportunities opened to me by Mr and Mrs Boffin, appropriated by a mere Secretary and Pa’s lodger!”

Yet it was not so very long ago that Bella had been fluttered by the discovery that this same Secretary and lodger seemed to like her. Ah! but the eminently aristocratic mansion and Mrs Boffin’s dressmaker had not come into play then.

In spite of his seemingly retiring manners a very intrusive person, this Secretary and lodger, in Miss Bella’s opinion. Always a light in his office-room when we came home from the play or Opera, and he always at the carriage-door to hand us out. Always a provoking radiance too on Mrs Boffin’s face, and an abominably cheerful reception of him, as if it were possible seriously to approve what the man had in his mind!

“You never charge me, Miss Wilfer,” said the Secretary, encountering her by chance alone in the great drawing-room, “with commissions for home. I shall always be happy to execute any commands you may have in that direction.”

“Pray what may you mean, Mr Rokesmith?” inquired Miss Bella, with languidly drooping eyelids.

“By home? I mean your father’s house at Holloway.”

She coloured under the retort — so skilfully thrust, that the words seemed to be merely a plain answer, given in plain good faith — and said, rather more emphatically and sharply:

“What commissions and commands are you speaking of?”

“Only such little words of remembrance as I assume you sent somehow or other,” replied the Secretary with his former air. “It would be a pleasure to me if you would make me the bearer of them. As you know, I come and go between the two houses every day.”

“You needn’t remind me of that, sir.”

She was too quick in this petulant sally against “Pa’s lodger;” and she felt that she had been so when she met his quiet look.

“They don’t send many — what was your expression? — words of remembrance to me,” said Bella, making haste to take refuge in ill-usage.

“They frequently ask me about you, and I give them such slight intelligence as I can.”

“I hope it’s truly given,” exclaimed Bella.

“I hope you cannot doubt it, for it would be very much against you, if you could.”

“No, I do not doubt it. I deserve the reproach, which is very just indeed. I beg your pardon, Mr Rokesmith.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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