“Right, Mary Anne. Whether there were any Lizzies in the early Christian Church must be considered very doubtful, very doubtful.”’ Miss Peecher was exceedingly sage here. “Speaking correctly, we say, then, that Hexam’s sister is called Lizzie; not that she is named so. Do we not, Mary Anne?”

“We do, Miss Peecher.”

“And where,” pursued Miss Peecher, complacent in her little transparent fiction of conducting the examination in a semiofficial manner for Mary Anne’s benefit, not her own, “where does this young woman, who is called but not named Lizzie, live? Think, now, before answering.”

“In Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank, ma’am.”

“In Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,” repeated Miss Peecher, as if possessed beforehand of the book in which it was written. “Exactly so. And what occupation does this young woman pursue, Mary Anne? Take time.”

“She has a place of trust at an outfitter’s in the City, ma’am.”

“Oh!” said Miss Peecher, pondering on it; but smoothly added, in a confirmatory tone, “At an outfitter’s in the City. Ye-es?”

“And Charley—” Mary Anne was proceeding, when Miss Peecher stared.

“I mean Hexam, Miss Peecher.”

“I should think you did, Mary Anne. I am glad to hear you do. And Hexam — ”

“Says,” Mary Anne went on, “that he is not pleased with his sister, and that his sister won’t be guided by his advice, and persists in being guided by somebody else’s; and that—”

“Mr Headstone coming across the garden!” exclaimed Miss Peecher, with a flushed glance at the looking- glass. “You have answered very well, Mary Anne. You are forming an excellent habit of arranging your thoughts clearly. That will do.”

The discreet Mary Anne resumed her seat and her silence, and stitched, and stitched, and was stitching when the schoolmaster’s shadow came in before him, announcing that he might be instantly expected.

“Good evening, Miss Peecher,” he said, pursuing the shadow, and taking its place.

“Good evening, Mr Headstone. Mary Anne, a chair.”

“Thank you,” said Bradley, seating himself in his constrained manner. “This is but a flying visit. I have looked in, on my way, to ask a kindness of you as a neighbour.”

“Did you say on your way, Mr Headstone?” asked Miss Peecher.

“On my way to — where I am going.”

“Church Street, Smith Square, by Mill Bank,” repeated Miss Peecher, in her own thoughts.

“Charley Hexam has gone to get a book or two he wants, and will probably be back before me. As we leave my house empty, I took the liberty of telling him I would leave the key here. Would you kindly allow me to do so?”

“Certainly, Mr Headstone. Going for an evening walk, sir?”

“Partly for a walk, and partly for — on business.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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