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The woman's a mystery to me.

She has a certain amount of ladylike bearing, she speaks decently; but after that song, and in the face of that very yellow hair, I'm sure she's in some way connected with the stage. I wish I could get Bob down here to see her. If she is well-known, he'd know her. It would be almost worth while to arrange some private theatricals just to test her.'

Bob was Joanna's brother; a youth about town, much given to theatres and music-halls, and supposed to be on speaking terms with several of the lesser luminaries. Joanna had always set her face against the luminaries of whatever rank. Now, apparently, one had swum into her own orbit, and threatened dire mischief. Therefore, Joanna wrote a very diplomatic letter to Bob. She cast about in her mind how to account for her sudden interest in star artistes and pets of the ballet, and at last decided to be perfectly frank with him and avow her reasons. She laid the whole case before Bob. She described Mrs. Walker at great length, and asked him if any such lady were known in the London theatres or music-halls, and if any such person were now temporarily absent.

Bob's reply was couched in the most deplorable slang. Joanna had some difficulty in interpreting it. He evidently felt himself master of the situation. He pointed out that his sister's description of the fair Imogen would apply to many ladies of light and leading in the theatrical world. He could enumerate scores of ladies who rejoiced in golden hair and preposterously dark eyebrows and eyelashes, and whose lips outvied the cherry, but he remarked en passant that this was the general type (he spelt it tipe) of celebrities in that particular branch of art, adding—“You might as well ask me to spot a painter fellow by saying he had long hair and a velvet coat.' But towards the end of his letter, Bob stated that London was plunged into mourning, and the Pavilion music-hall into special desolation, by the temporary disappearance of Peggy Jenkins. Peggy was a person of superior abilities and bewitching appearance; no one could do a breakdown as Peggy could. He gave an able résumé of Peggy's distinguished career since she had been before the public; and wound up by saying that if Joanna was ever so blessed as to hear her sing Houp la!' it would be a regular eye-opener to her. Everybody sang 'Houp la!' now, but it was Peggy who first gave that lyrical gem to a grateful London.

When Joanna finished that letter, she felt she was on the right track. One oracular sentence in Bob's letter was beyond Joanna's comprehension, and Maggie was equally at sea. Bob finished his letter by saying, 'Peggy lifts her elbow.' Maggie thought it meant she had a nervous jerk or kind of St. Vitus's dance, perhaps. Joanna inclined to the view that it was a gesture appropriate to 'Houp la!' or was a necessary portion of a breakdown, though Joanna had not the remotest notion of what a breakdown really


'I'll think till I'm blue in the face,' she said to Maggie, 'but I'll find it out. I'll practise before the glass all the morning, and lift my elbow in every direction, and see what it suggests.'

Just before lunch Maggie ran into the room and found Joanna before the long glass.

'Shut the door,' said Joanna; then, advancing to Maggie, she said solemnly:

'Peggy drinks! look here.' In a moment she caught up a tumbler, threw herself into a Bacchanalian attitude, her head tilted well back and her elbow well lifted in the air, as she poured the supposed liquor down her throat. Maggie at once gave up the theory of St. Vitus's dance, and admitted that Joanna had settled the question.

Meanwhile, Uncle Joe was getting every day more and more enamoured. The great work on Dürer entailed much writing, and Imogen had offered to act as his amanuensis, and they were shut up in the study for hours together. To Joanna's great disgust she found it impossible to secure ten minutes alone with Uncle Joe; if she beguiled him to go for a short stroll alone with her, Mrs. Walker would glide from behind a corner, also going for a stroll, and would lovingly link her arm in Uncle Joe's and accompany them. Once at breakfast Joanna said:


Joe, I have had some tiresome letters. Will you let me have a little business talk with you by-and-by?' Before Uncle Joe could answer, Mrs. Walker said with a little playful laugh :

'I'm sorry to veto that proposal, but I must, I really must. Dearest Joe's brain is so overworked just now with Dürer study that he must not be troubled with business of any kind.'

'That's the truth. No one knows,' said Uncle Joe, 'the trouble that that sleuth-hound in the "Knight and Death" is giving me You see, Joanna

'No, Joe, I don't see. I don't think sleuth-hounds or Dürers or

anybody else ought to prevent my having a quiet talk with you, if I want it.' Mrs. Walker intervened again.

'I am sorry I can't permit it. Joe, you promised to be guided by me in matters like this.' Joanna's temper boiled over.

'I think, Mrs. Walker, it will be time enough for you to give your orders in this house when you are mistress of it.' Then Mrs. Walker actually made a little mocking grimace at Joanna, and said:

'Accept the inevitable, dear, and don't lose your temper. Really Joe is useless in business; now I'm clever at it, won't I do instead of him?'

'No, you won't!' said Joanna fiercely, the grimace rankling in her mind. If I want "Houp la!" sung, I'll come to you to do it.' With this Parthian dart she left the room.


That evening Maggie said to Joanna:

'You work on your line, and I'll try to open his eyes to her ridiculous art. I'm convinced she coaches up for the occasion. Did you hear her glibly telling him of her overwhelming impression when she first went into the Tribuna at Florence?'

'Bother her impressions and the Tribuna too!' said Joanna, still raging at her defeat.

'I have no art books handy, and I forget most of what I knew, but there's a St. Ursula series of pictures at Venice by Carpaccio, and another at Bruges by Memling, and she muddled up the two, and that idiot Joe was holding her hand under the table all the time and didn't observe it.'

'Write to Mrs. Hogarth,' said Joanna.

Happy thought,' cried Maggie, 'so I will; she'll post me on these points, and I will lay pitfalls for Mrs. Walker.' But that adroit lady was not easily beguiled into pitfalls; she descried them afar off, and avoided them. It became clear to her that the ladies were plotting against her, and that if she intended to marry Uncle Joe she would have to be exceedingly quick about it.

As appears by her letter, Mrs. Walker was indeed the true and only Peggy Jenkins; the solace and joy of all music-hall frequenters. She began life as a governess, and was then a sharpwitted, pretty girl-not sharp-witted enough, however, to withstand London life and London temptations when she was flung into them. Peggy made a false step, and then, having a good voice and some rough idea of using it, she secured an engagement at a music-hall--an extremely humble place of amusement to begin

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with, but Peggy 'took.' She had a few lessons from a music-hall tenor who was much enamoured of her, and in consequence taught her for nothing, and she was quick at picking up the slangy airs and graces which are essential to success in that walk of life. So Peggy rose in her profession. Champagne took the place of beer, and hansoms replaced the twopenny omnibus; her photographs appeared in the shop windows between a Bishop and a Prime Minister. Peggy made hay whilst the sun shone, but made it a little too fast. During the process she imbibed too much champagne, and partook of too many little suppers at Richmond: she developed a cough, and her voice began to get shaky. Then the doctor, who was a blunt but kindly old gentleman, said plainly:

'Look here, my girl, unless you throw London up for a time, secure perfect rest and quiet in the country, you'll go to the dogs; you're half-way on your journey there already.'

Peggy disliked country air very much, and quiet still more, but she said she'd compromise matters by going to Harrogate. Might she ride?

"Yes,' said her doctor, ' ride all day long, if you like; take your maid with you, and go into quiet lodgings. Drink the waters if you like, but don't drink anything else.'

Peggy actually followed his advice, and in about a fortnight she began to feel better; she delighted in horse exercise, and scoured the country for miles. It so happened that, riding one day through Hillbeck, her horse had a nasty stumble and threw her, wrenching her ankle badly. P'eggy had to put up for the night at the village inn, and there was quite an excitement that evening in Hillbeck. The excitement penetrated to the Rookery even, and ruffled the calm of Uncle Joe's life. When he heard that a young lady had been thrown from her horse and was lying at the inn with several ribs broken (so said report), he felt impelled to call and make offers of help. Peggy received him graciously. She was reclining on the extremely hard horsehair sofa that every country inn boasts. Uncle Joe was extremely touched; filled with admiration. He thought her the most lovely creature he had ever seen. His Dürer studies were abandoned for the rest of the day. When he left her, Peggy sent for the landlady and made particular inquiries about Uncle Joe. Rumour had transformed her sprained ankle into three broken ribs, and rumour had exaggerated Uncle Joe's eccentricities and his riches in the same generous way: his little capital of twenty thousand pounds became forty thousand.

Peggy liked adventure of any kind, and stayed for two days at the inn: she sent for her maid, and for some of her nice dresses. Whilst lying there she amused herself with picturing how she could help Uncle Joe to spend the forty thousand pounds. Supposing she made love to the old gentleman! Peggy was so tickled with the idea that she laughed till the bandages on her damaged foot became loosened; but, to her surprise, that evening Uncle Joe (who called every day and sometimes twice a day) began to make unmistakable love to her himself. This set Peggy thinking seriously, and Peggy said to her maid (who was her dresser at the Pavilion):

'I shall pose as a widow, marry the old gentleman, rattle through the forty thousand pounds, and then give him the slip.' Peggy, reclining on the hard sofa, made all her plans and rehearsed her little comedy. It was a difficult part to play at first. Peggy transformed herself into Mrs. Walker (Christian name, Imogen); she arranged the details of the defunct Walker's career, and a few interesting incidents in her own life.

Uncle Joe was too much in love to be a sharp critic; some of the incidents did not dovetail together very neatly, but a man in love is superior to ill-fitting details.

Peggy got quite interested in her adventure, and entered into it with zest. She soon found the forty thousand pounds was an exaggeration, but there were certainly a good many thousands. When the ladies came on the scene, Peggy was put on her mettle. The light of battle glowed in her eyes; it added a new joy to the prospect of squandering Uncle Joe's thousands, if at the same. time she triumphed over her two enemies. Already she had extracted some lovely presents from her adorer.


Always give me something that won't wear out,' Peggy said to him, by which she meant jewelry: she knew by experience that diamonds were always convertible into cash.


One morning at breakfast Uncle Joe astonished the two ladies by saying that the marriage was arranged to take place next week. Mrs. Walker could not manage a blush, but widows are supposed to be superior to those maidenly weaknesses, and it did not matter.

'I thought that amanuensing would lead to that,' said Joanna, directly after breakfast. 'I must write to your husband, my dear, and explain to him that not a moment is to be lost; and somehow,

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