No announcement was necessary, indeed; for the good lady’s voice was heard as she walked across the court–yard to the house scolding the unfortunate postilion who had driven her from Barchester. At the moment Miss Thorne could not but be thankful that the other guests were more fashionable, and were thus spared the fury of Mrs Clantantram’s indignation.

‘Oh, Miss Thorne, look here!’ said she, as soon as she found herself in the drawing–room; ‘do look at my roquelaure! It’s clean spoilt, and for ever. I wouldn’t but wear it because I know you wished us all to be grand to–day; and yet I had my misgivings. Oh dear, oh dear! It was five–and–twenty shillings a yard.’

The Barchester post horses had misbehaved in some unfortunate manner just as Mrs Clantantram was getting out of the chaise and had nearly thrown her under the wheel.

Mrs Clantantram belonged to other days, and therefore, though she had but little else to recommend her, Miss Thorne was to a certain extent fond of her. She sent the roquelaure away to be cleaned, and lent her one of her best shawls out of her own wardrobe.

The next comer was Mr Arabin, who was immediately informed of Mrs Clantantram’s misfortune, and of her determination to pay neither master nor post–boy; although, as she remarked, she intended to get her lift home before she made known her mind upon that matter. Then a good deal of rustling was heard in the sort of lobby that was used for the ladies’ outside cloaks; and the door having been thrown wide open, the servant announced, not in the most confident of voices, Mrs Lookaloft, and the Miss Lookalofts, and Mr Augustus Lookaloft.

Poor man!—we mean the footman. He knew, none better, that Mrs Lookaloft had no business there, that she was not wanted there, and would not be welcome. But he had not the courage to tell a stout lady with a low dress, short sleeves, and satin at eight shillings a yard, that she had come to the wrong tent; he had not dared to hint to young ladies with white dancing shoes and long gloves, that there was a place ready for them in the paddock. And thus Mrs Lookaloft carried her point, broke through the guards, and made her way into the citadel. That she would have to pass an uncomfortable time there, she had surmised before. But nothing now could rob her of the power of boasting that she had consorted on the lawn with the squire and Miss Thorne, with a countess, a bishop, and the country grandees, while Mrs Greenacres and such like were walking about with the ploughboys in the park. It was a great point gained by Mrs Lookaloft, and it might be fairly expected that from this time forward the tradesmen of Barchester would, with undoubting pens, address her husband and T. Lookaloft, Esquire.

Mrs Lookaloft’s pluck carried her through everything, and she walked triumphant into the Ullathorne drawing–room; but her children did feel a little abashed at the sort of reception they met with. It was not in Miss Thorne’s heart to insult her own guests; but neither was it in her disposition to overlook such effrontery.

‘Oh, Mrs Lookaloft, is this you,’ said she; ‘and your daughters and son? Well, we’re very glad to see you; but I’m sorry you’ve come in such low dresses, as we are all going out of doors. Could we lend you anything?’

‘Oh dear no! thank ye, Miss Thorne,’ said the mother; ‘the girls and myself are quite used to low dresses, when we’re out.’

‘Are you, indeed?’ said Miss Thorne shuddering; but the shudder was not lost on Mrs Lookaloft.

‘And where’s Lookaloft,’ said the master of the house, coming up to welcome his tenant’s wife. Let the faults of the family be what they would, he could not but remember that their rent was well paid; he was therefore not willing to give them a cold shoulder.

‘Such a headache, Mr Thorne!’ said Mrs Lookaloft. ‘In fact he couldn’t stir, or you may be certain on such a day he would not have absented himself.’

  By PanEris using Melati.

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