The fruition of these honours, or such of them as fell to the lot of the envied family, was not such as should have caused much envy. The attention paid to the Lookalofts by the De Courcys was very limited, and the amount of society was hardly in itself a recompense for the dull monotony of their day. But of what they endured Mrs Greenacre took no account; she thought only of what she considered they must enjoy, and of the dreadfully exalted tone of living which would be manifested by the Rosebank family, as the consequence of their present distinction.

‘But did ’ee zee ’em there, dame, did ’ee zee ’em then with your own eyes?’ asked poor Mrs Greenacre, still hoping that there might be some ground for doubt.

‘And how could I do that, unless so be I was there myself?’ asked Mrs Guffen. ‘I didn’t set eyes on none of them this blessed morning, but I zee’d them as did. You know our John; well, he will be for keeping company with Betsey Rusk, madam’s own maid, you know. And Betsey isn’t one of your common kitchen wenches. So Betsey, she come out to our John, you know, and she’s always vastly polite to me, is Betsey Rusk, I must say. So before she took so much as one turn with John, she told me every ha’porth that was going on up in the house.’

‘Did she now?’ said Mrs Greenacre.

‘Indeed she did,’ said Mrs Guffern.

‘And she told you them people was up there in the drawing–room?’

‘She told me she zee’d them come in—that they was dressed finer by half nor any of the family, with all their neckses and buzoms stark naked as a born babby.’

‘The minxes!’ exclaimed Mrs Greenacre, who felt herself more put about by this than any other mark of aristocratic distinction which her enemies had assumed.

‘Yes, indeed,’ continued Mrs Guffern, ‘as naked as you please, while all the quality was dressed just as you and I be, Mrs Greenacre.’

‘Drat their impudence’ said Mrs Greenacre, from whose well–covered bosom all milk of human kindness was receding, as far as the family of the Lookalofts were concerned.

‘So says I,’ said Mrs Guffern; ‘and so says my good–man Thomas Guffern, when he hear’d it. “Molly,” says he to me, “if ever you takes to going about o’ mornings with yourself all naked in them ways, I begs you won’t come back no more to the old house.” So says I, “Thomas, no more I wull.” “But,” says he, “drat it, how the deuce does she manage with her rheumatiz, and she not a rag on her:”’ said Mrs Giffern, laughed loudly as she though of Mrs Lookalofts’s probable sufferings from rheumatic attacks.

‘But to liken herself that way to folk that ha’ blood in their veins,’ said Mrs Greenacre.

‘Well, but that warn’t all neither that Betsey told. There they all swelled into madam’s drawing–room, like so many turkey cocks, as much to say, “and who dare say no to us?” and Gregory was thinking of telling them to come down here, only his heart failed him ‘cause of the grand way they was dressed. So in they went; but madam looked at them as glum as death.’

‘Well now,’ said Mrs Greenacre, greatly relieved, ‘so they wasn’t axed different from us all then?’

‘Betsey says that Gregory says that madam wasn’t a bit too well pleased to see them where they was and that, to his believing, they was expected to come here just like the rest of us.’

There was great consolation in this. Not that Mrs Greenacre was altogether satisfied. She felt that justice to herself demanded that Mrs Lookaloft should not only not be encouraged, but that she should also be absolutely punished.

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