with your present style of living, that there will be a drawing-room for your reception as well as a dining- room. Your papa invited Mr. Rokesmith to partake of our lowly fare. In excusing himself on account of a particular engagement, he offered the use of his apartment.”

Bella happened to know that he had no engagement out of his own room at Mr. Boffin’s, but she approved of his staying away. “We should only have put one another out of countenance,” she thought, “and we do that quite often enough as it is.”

Yet she had sufficient curiosity about his room, to run up to it with the least possible delay, and make a close inspection of its contents. It was tastefully though economically furnished, and very neatly arranged. There were shelves and stands of books, English, French, and Italian; and in a portfolio on the writing- table there were sheets upon sheets of memoranda and calculations in figures, evidently referring to the Boffin property. On that table also, carefully backed with canvas, varnished, mounted, and rolled like a map, was the placard descriptive of the murdered man who had come from afar to be her husband. She shrank from this ghostly surprise, and felt quite frightened as she rolled and tied it up again. Peeping about here and there, she came upon a print, a graceful head of a pretty woman, elegantly framed, hanging in the corner by the easy chair. “Oh, indeed, sir!” said Bella, after stopping to ruminate before it. “Oh, indeed, sir! I fancy I can guess whom you think that’s like. But I’ll tell you what it’s much more like — your impudence!” Having said which she decamped: not solely because she was offended, but because there was nothing else to look at.

“Now, Ma,” said Bella, reappearing in the kitchen with some remains of a blush, “you and Lavvy think magnificent me fit for nothing, but I intend to prove the contrary. I mean to be Cook to-day.”

“Hold!” rejoined her majestic mother. “I cannot permit it. Cook, in that dress!”

“As for my dress, Ma,” returned Bella, merrily searching in a dresser-drawer, “I mean to apron it and towel it all over the front; and as to permission, I mean to do without.”

You cook?” said Mrs. Wilfer. “You, who never cooked when you were at home?”

“Yes, Ma,” returned Bella; “that is precisely the state of the case.”

She girded herself with a white apron, and busily with knots and pins contrived a bib to it, coming close and tight under her chin, as if it had caught her round the neck to kiss her. Over this bib her dimples looked delightful, and under it her pretty figure not less so. “Now, Ma,” said Bella, pushing back her hair from her temples with both hands, “what’s first?”

“First,” returned Mrs. Wilfer solemnly, “if you persist in what I cannot but regard as conduct utterly incompatible with the equipage in which you arrived —”

(“Which I do, Ma.”)

“First, then, you put the fowls down to the fire.”

“To — be — sure!” cried Bella; “and flour them, and twirl them round, and there they go!” sending them spinning at a great rate. “What’s next, Ma?”

“Next,” said Mrs. Wilfer with a wave of her gloves, expressive of abdication under protest from the culinary throne, “I would recommend examination of the bacon in the saucepan on the fire, and also of the potatoes by the application of a fork. Preparation of the greens will further become necessary if you persist in this unseemly demeanour.”

“As of course I do, Ma.”

  By PanEris using Melati.

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