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and Ellen his wife sat before their dully
burning, carefully-banked-up fire.
The room, especially when it be known that it
was part of a house standing in a grimy, if not
exactly sordid, London thoroughfare, was
exceptionally clean and well-cared-for. A casual
stranger, more particularly one of a Superior
class to their own, on suddenly opening the door
of that sitting-room; would have thought that
Mr. and Mrs. Bunting presented a very pleasant
cosy picture of comfortable married life.
Bunting, who was leaning back in a deep leather
arm-chair, was clean-shaven and dapper, still in
appearance what he had been for many years of
his life—a self-respecting man-servant.
On his wife, now sitting up in an uncomfortable
straight-backed chair, the marks of past
servitude were less apparent; but they were
there all the same—in her neat black stuff dress,
and in her scrupulously clean, plain collar and
cuffs. Mrs. Bunting, as a single woman, had been
what is known as a useful maid...
There came the sound of a discreet,
embarrassed cough, and Althea Scrope turned
quickly round from the window by which she had
been standing still dressed in her outdoor
She had heard the door open, the unfolding of
the tea-table, the setting down of the tea-tray,
but her thoughts had been far away from the old
house in Westminster which was now her home; her
thoughts had been in Newcastle, dwelling for a
moment among the friends of her girlhood, for
whom she had been buying Christmas gifts that
The footman's cough recalled her to herself, and
to the present....
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