Mr. Withers was fully justified in his conviction that there need be no doubt as to the view Mabel would take of the Miss Penfold's offer. The girl had hitherto been in entire ignorance both as to the will being missing, and of the interest she had in it. She was now called in from the garden, and was much surprised when her father told her to sit down, as he and her mother wished to have a serious talk with her.
"Do you know, my little Mabel," he began, "that you have had a narrow escape of being an heiress?"
"An heiress, papa! Do you mean of having a lot of money?"
"Yes, of coming in some day to a fortune. Mr. Penfold some time ago confided to your mother and me his intention of dividing his property equally between Ralph Conway and yourself."
"What! all the Penfold estates, papa, and the house and everything?"
"Yes, my dear. Everything, including the large sum of money that has accumulated during the years Mr. Penfold has not been spending a third of his income."
"Then if he meant that, papa, how is it that I am not going to be an heiress?"
"Simply, my dear, because the will by which Mr. Penfold left the property to you and Ralph is missing."
Mr. Withers then told the whole story of the loss of the will, the search that had been made for it, and the strong grounds there were for believing in the existence of some secret place in the Hall, and that this place of concealment was known to Mr. Penfold's sisters.
"But they surely could never be so wicked as that, papa. They have always seemed to like me—not very much, you know, because they thought I wasn't quiet and ladylike enough. Still I don't think they really disliked me."
"No, I think in their way they liked you, Mabel; and perhaps if Mr. Penfold had half left his property to you, divided the other half between them the will would have been found. But they certainly did not like Ralph Conway. They disliked him partly no doubt for himself, but principally on account of a wrong which I believe they once did to his mother. Now, it is in human nature, Mabel, that you may forgive a wrong done to you, but it is very hard to forgive a person you have wronged. Anyhow, I am convinced that it was more to prevent Mrs. Conway's son from getting this money than to get it themselves that they have concealed this will, or rather that they refuse to point out its place of concealment."
"But it does seem hard, papa, that Mr. Penfold should have left everything to Ralph and me and nothing to his sisters."
"The Miss Penfolds have a very comfortable income of their own, Mabel, and their brother might very well have thought there was no occasion for them to have more; beside, although they lived in his house, and indeed managed it and him, Mr. Penfold had, I know, strong reason to believe that they had ruined his life. But this is a matter into which we need not go. Well, Mabel, the Miss Penfolds have just given a proof that they do not dislike you. Now I will read you this letter, because I think you ought to know it has been written, and I will then tell you the reasons why your mother and I think that the offer cannot be accepted."
Mabel listened in silence until her father had finished the arguments he had used with his wife, with the exception only of that relating to the Miss Penfolds' motives in putting in the condition concerning Mabel's marriage. When he ceased speaking she exclaimed indignantly, "Of course, papa, we could not take the money, not if it were ten times as much! Why, we could not look Mrs. Conway and Ralph in the face again! Beside, how could we speak to people one believes to have done such a wicked thing?"
"Very well, Mabel. I was quite sure that you would agree with us, but at the same time I thought it was right before we refused the offer you should know that it was made. Whatever our sentiments on the subject might be, we should not have been justified in refusing without your knowledge an offer that might, from a worldly point of view, be your interest to accept."
"Why, papa," Mabel said, "I would rather go out and weed turnips or watch sheep, like some of the girls in the village, than touch a penny of the Miss Penfolds' money."
A short time after this Mr. Tallboys' clerk brought a letter into his private office.
"A lady asked me to give you this, sir." The solicitor opened it. It contained only a card.
"Show the lady in. How are you, madam? I am glad to have the pleasure of making your acquaintance. I suppose you are staying with Mr. Withers?"
"No, Mr. Tallboys, I am at the hotel here. I only arrived an hour since by the packet from Dover."
"Dear me. I am afraid you have had a very unpleasant voyage."
"It has not been pleasant," Mrs. Conway said quietly. "But I preferred it to the long journey by coach up to London, and down here again. We were five days on the way, as the vessel put in at so many ports. Still that was quite a minor question with me. I wanted to see you and have a talk with you personally. There is no saying into whose hands letters may fall, and one talk face to face does more good than a score of letters."
Mr. Tallboys looked rather surprised, and the idea flashed across his mind that the only business Mrs. Conway could want to see him about must be some proposal for raising money upon the security of her annuity.
"I presume, Mr. Tallboys, from what I hear, that you are as thoroughly convinced as I am myself that this will of Mr. Penfold's is in existence, and is hidden somewhere about the Hall?"
"Yes, I think so, Mrs. Conway. That is, supposing it has not been destroyed."
"Do you think it likely that it has been destroyed, Mr. Tallboys?"
"Well, that I cannot say," the solicitor said gravely. "I have, of course, thought much over this matter. It is one that naturally vexed me much for several reasons. In the first place, Mr. Withers and you yourself had been good enough to place the matter in my hands, and to authorize me to act for you, and it is always a sort of vexation to a professional man when his clients lose their cause, especially when he is convinced that they are in the right. In the second place, I am much disturbed that the wishes of my late client, Mr. Penfold, should not have been carried out. Thirdly, I feel now that I myself am somewhat to blame in the matter, in that I did not represent to Mr. Penfold the imprudence of his placing valuable papers in a place where, should anything happen to him suddenly, they might not be found. Of course I could not have anticipated this hostile action on the part of the Miss Penfolds. Still, I blame myself that I did not warn Mr. Penfold of the possibility of what has in fact happened taking place. Lastly," and he smiled, "I have a personal feeling in the matter. I have lost a business that added somewhat considerably to my income."
"I don't think any of us have thought of blaming you in the matter, Mr. Tallboys. I am sure that I have not. You could not possibly have foreseen that Mr. Penfold's sisters were likely to turn out thieves."
"Well, that is rather a strong expression, Mrs. Conway; though natural enough I must admit in your position as Mr. Ralph Conway's mother. You see, there is a difference between concealing and not disclosing. Mr. Penfold himself concealed the will. The Miss Penfolds simply refuse to assist us in our search for it."
"And as the nearest heirs take possession of the property."
"Quite so, Mrs. Conway. I am not defending their conduct, which morally is dishonest in the extreme, but I doubt whether any court of law would find it to be a punishable offense."
"Well, now, Mr. Tallboys, I want you to let me know whether you suspect that they have destroyed the will; which, I suppose, would be a punishable offense."
"Certainly the destruction of the will, in order that those who destroyed might get possession of property, would be criminal. Well, I don't know; I have thought it over in every sense, and think the balance of probability is against their having destroyed it. In the first place the Miss Penfolds doubtless consider that the will is so securely hidden there is little, if any, chance of its being discovered. That this is so we know, from the fact that although I ransacked the house from top to bottom, pulled down wainscoting, lifted floors, and tried every imaginable point which either I or the men who were working with me suspected to be a likely spot for a hiding-place, we did not succeed in finding it.
"Now, I have noticed that ladies have at times somewhat peculiar ideas as to morality, and are apt to steer very close to the wind. The Miss Penfolds may consider themselves perfectly justified in declining to give us any assistance in finding the will, soothing their consciences by the reflection that by such refusal they are committing no offense of which the law takes cognizance; but while doing this they might shrink from the absolutely criminal offense of destroying the will. I do not say that now they have entered upon the path they have that they would not destroy the will if they thought there was a chance of its being discovered. I only say that, thinking it to be absolutely safe, they are unlikely to perform an act which, if discovered, would bring them under the power of the law.
"They may consider themselves free to believe, or if not actually to believe, to try and convince themselves, that for aught they know their brother may have destroyed the will, and that it is not for them to prove whether he did so or not. Upon these grounds, therefore, it seems to me probable that the will is still in existence; but I acknowledge that so far as its utility is concerned it might as well have been destroyed by Mr. Penfold himself or by his sisters."
"Well, Mr. Tallboys, no doubt you are thinking that you might as well have expressed this opinion to me on paper, and that I have troubled myself very unnecessarily in making this journey to have it from your own lips."
"Well, yes, Mrs. Conway, I do not deny that this was in my mind."
"It would have been useless for me to make the journey had this been all, Mr. Tallboys. I am very glad to have heard your opinion, which agrees exactly with that which I myself have formed, but it was scarcely with the object of eliciting it that I have made this journey. We will now proceed to that part of the subject. We agree that the will is probably still in existence, and that it is hidden somewhere about the Hall. The next question is, how is it to be found?"
"Ah! that is a very difficult question indeed, Mrs. Conway."
"Yes, it is difficult, but not, I think, impossible. You have done your best, Mr. Tallboys, and have failed. You have no further suggestion to offer, no plan that occurs to you by which you might discover it?"
"None whatever," Mr. Tallboys said decidedly. "I have done all that I could do; and have, in fact, dismissed the question altogether from my mind. I had the authority of the court to search, and I have searched very fully, and have reported my failure to the court. The power to search would certainly not be renewed unless upon some very strong grounds indeed."
"I suppose not, Mr. Tallboys; that is what I expected. Well, it seems to me that you having done all in your power for us, your clients, and having now relinquished your search, it is time for us, or some of us, to take the matter in hand."'
Mr. Tallboys looked surprised.
"I do not quite understand, Mrs. Conway, how you can take it in hand."
"No? Well, I can tell you, Mr. Tallboys, that I am going to do so. I am not going to sit down quietly and see my son robbed of his inheritance. I have quite made up my mind to devote my life to this matter, and I have come, not to ask your advice—for I dare say you would try to dissuade me, and my resolution is unalterable—but to ask you to give me what aid you can in the matter."
"I shall be glad to give you aid in any way, Mrs. Conway, if you will point out to me the direction in which my assistance can be of use. I suppose you have formed some sort of plan, for I own that I can see no direction whatever in which you can set about the matter."
"My intention is, Mr. Tallboys, to search for this hiding-place myself."
Mr. Tallboys raised his eyebrows in surprise.
"To search yourself, Mrs. Conway! But how do you propose to gain admittance to the Hall, and how, even supposing that you gain admittance, do you propose to do more than we have done, or even so much; because any fresh disturbance of the fabric of the house would be out of the question?"
"That I quite admit. Still we know there is the hiding-place, and it is morally certain that that hiding-place is opened or approached by the touching of some secret spring. It is not by pulling down wainscoting or by pulling up floors, or by force used in any way, that it is to be found. Mr. Penfold, it would seem, used it habitually as a depository for papers of value. He certainly, therefore, had not to break down or to pull up anything. He opened it as he would open any other cabinet or cupboard, by means of a key or by touching a spring. You agree with me so far, Mr. Tallboys?"
"Certainly, Mrs. Conway. There can be no doubt in my mind that this hiding-place, whether a chamber or a small closet, is opened in the way you speak of."
"Very well then; all that has to be looked for is a spring. No force is requisite; all that is to be done is to find the spring."
"Yes, but how is it to be found? I believe we tried every square foot of the building."
"I have no doubt you did, but it will be necessary to try every square inch, I will not say of the whole building, but of certain rooms and passages. I think we may assume that it is not in the upper rooms or servants' quarters. Such a hiding-place would be contrived where it could be used by the owners of the house without observation from their dependants, and would therefore be either in the drawing-room, dining-room, the principal bed-chambers, or the passages, corridors, or stairs between or adjoining these."
"I quite follow you in your reasoning, Mrs. Conway, and agree with you. Doubtless, the place is so situated as to be what I may call handy to the owners of the Hall, but I still do not see how you are going to set about finding it."
"I am going to set about it by going to live at the Hall."
"Going to live at the Hall, Mrs. Conway! But how is that possible under the circumstances? You are, I should say, the last person whom the Miss Penfolds would at present invite to take up her residence there."
"I agree with you, if they had any idea of my identity; but that is just what I intend they shall not have. My plan is to go there in the capacity of a servant. Once there I shall examine, as I say, every square inch of the rooms and places where this hiding-place is likely to exist. Every knob, knot, or inequality of any kind in the wood-work and stone-work shall be pressed, pulled, and twisted, until I find it. I am aware that the task may occupy months or even years, for, of course, my opportunities will be limited. Still, whether months or years, I intend to undertake it and to carry it through, if my life is spared until I have had time thoroughly and completely to carry it out."
Mr. Tallboys was silent from sheer astonishment.
"Do you realty mean that you think of going there as a servant, Mrs. Conway?"
"Certainly I do," she replied calmly. "I suppose the work will be no harder for me than for other women; and whereas they do it for some ten or twelve pounds a year I shall do it for a fortune. I see not the slightest difficulty or objection in that part of the business. I shall, of course, let my house at Dover, making arrangements for my son's letters there being forwarded, and for my letters to him being posted in Dover. I shall have the satisfaction that while engaged upon this work my income will be accumulating for his benefit. I own that I can see no difficulty whatever in my plan being carried out.
"Now, as to the assistance that I wish you to give me. It could, perhaps, have been more readily given by Mr. Withers, for naturally he would know personally most of the servants of the Hall, as the majority of them doubtless belong to the village. But Mr. Withers, as a clergyman, might have conscientious scruples against taking any part in a scheme which, however righteous its ends, must be conducted by what he would consider underground methods, and involving a certain amount of deceit. At any rate, I think it better that neither he nor Mrs. Withers should have any complicity whatever in my plans. I therefore come to you. What I want, in the first place, is to find out when a vacancy is likely to be caused by some servant leaving; secondly, if no such vacancy is likely to occur, for a vacancy to be manufactured by inducing some servant to leave—a present of a year's wages would probably accomplish that; thirdly, the vacancy must occur in the case of some servant whose work would naturally lie in the part of the building I have to examine; finally, it must be arranged that I can be so recommended as to insure my getting the place."
Mr. Tallboys was silent for some time.
"Certainly your plan does appear feasible, Mrs. Conway," he said at length. "It does seem to me that if once installed in the way you propose at the Hall, and prepared to spend, as you say, months or even years in the search, it is possible and even probable that in the end you may light upon the spring that will open this mystery. You must be prepared to face much unpleasantness. You will have for all this time to associate with servants, to do menial work, to relinquish all the luxuries and appliances to which you have all your life been accustomed, and possibly to fail at last. Still, if you are prepared to face all this, there does appear to me to be a possibility of your enterprise being crowned with success."
"I have thought it all over, Mr. Tallboys, and am quite prepared to submit to all the sacrifices you mention, which, however, will scarcely be felt by me to be sacrifices, working, as I shall be, for the future of my son. And now, can I rely upon your assistance?"
"You shall have any assistance I can give, assuredly, Mrs. Conway. The matter is by no means a simple one, still I can see no reason why it should not be successfully carried out."
"It must take time, that I quite anticipate, Mr. Tallboys. Time, fortunately, is of no consequence."
"Well, Mrs. Conway," Mr. Tallboys said, after sitting for some minutes in thought, "it is a matter that will require careful thinking over. How long do you intend staying here?"
"Just as long as it is necessary," Mrs. Conway said, "a day or a month. I have not given my own name at the 'George,' but shall be known there as Mrs. Brown. As you saw, I sent my card in in an envelope, so that even your clerk should not be aware that Mrs. Conway was in Weymouth."
"But," the solicitor said suddenly, "surely the Miss Penfolds knew you in the old time?"
"Certainly, they did. But, to begin with, that is nearly twenty years ago; and, of course, I have changed very much since then."
"Not very much, Mrs. Conway," the lawyer said; "for I once had the pleasure of seeing you when I went to the Hall to see Mr. Penfold on business. I do not say that I should have known you anywhere, but having had your card I remembered you at once when you came into the room; and, indeed, if you will excuse my saying so, you might pass anywhere as thirty."
"So much the better for my purpose at present," Mrs. Conway replied. "Thirty will do very well for the age of a housemaid at the Hall. I should imagine the Miss Penfolds would prefer a woman of that age to a young girl; beside, you see, I must be an upper housemaid in order to have charge of the part of the house I want to examine. As to knowing me, in the first place the Miss Penfolds will not have the advantage of receiving my card, and, in the second place, it is not very difficult for a woman to alter her appearance so as to be unrecognizable by another who has not seen her for twenty years. My hair is a good deal darker now than it was then, and I wore it altogether differently. A little black dye on that and my eyebrows, a servant's cap and gown, will so alter me that you who see me now would hardly know me; certainly they will not do so. You need not trouble about that, Mr. Tallboys; I will answer for it that they shall not know me. It is possible, just possible, that Mr. and Mrs. Withers might know me if they saw me in church; but I shall, without letting them know my plans, guard against any indiscretion. Now, as we have quite settled the matter, Mr. Tallboys, I shall go back to the inn, and when you have thought the matter over and decided upon the best plan for carrying out my wishes, you will send a note to Mrs. Brown at the 'George,' making an appointment for me to meet you here."
Mr. Tallboys sat for some time in thought after Mrs. Conway had left him. It was certainly a daring scheme, requiring no little courage, resolution, and self-possession to carry out, but his client evidently possessed all these qualities. She had a clear head, and seemed to have grasped every point in the matter. There was really no reason why she should not succeed. There must be a spring somewhere, and if she was as patient as she declared herself to be, she would surely find it sooner or later; that is, if she could carry out her search without exciting suspicion.
The first difficulty was to get her settled at the Hall. What was the best way to set about that? It certainly was not as easy as she seemed to think, still there must be some way of managing it. At any rate he must act cautiously in the matter, and must not appear in it in any way personally. And so he sat thinking, until at last the clerk, who had been a good deal surprised at receiving no instruction from him as to several matters he had in hand, knocked at the door, and came in with a number of papers, and Mr. Tallboys was obliged to dismiss the matter from his mind for a time, and to attend to present business. The very next morning Mrs. Conway received the note, and again went to the office.
"Do you know, Mrs. Conway," he began, as soon as his client entered, "the more I think over the matter, the more I feel that it is extremely difficult to manage it from here. I should have to engage some one to go over in the first place. He would have to stay in the village some time before he could make the acquaintance of the servants at the Hall. He would have to get very intimate with them before he could venture to broach such a thing for if he made a mistake, and the woman told her mistress that some one had been trying to persuade her to leave in order to introduce another into the place, their suspicions would be so aroused that the scheme would become hopeless."
"Yes, I see the difficulty, Mr. Tallboys; for I thought it over in every way before I came to you. Beside I don't like the thought of this intermediate. No doubt you would choose a trustworthy man. Still I don't like the thought of any one knowing the secret, especially as the plan may take so long working out."
"What I have been thinking, Mrs. Conway is this. No doubt the servants at the Hall have taken sides on this matter. Of course from our searches there they know that Mr. Penfold's will is missing, and that it is because it is missing that the Miss Penfolds are now mistresses there. Without knowing anything myself about the feelings of the servants there, beyond what would probably be the case from the difference of character between Mr. Penfold and his sisters, I should imagine that they were fond of him, for he was the kindest and most easy-going of masters, and not very fond of his sisters, who are, as I have always observed in the course of my professional visits there, the reverse of agreeable.
"If this is the case, not improbably there may be one or other of these women with whom you might open direct negotiations. What has struck me is this. The men who were over there with me of course slept and took their meals in the village; still, going about as they did in the house, no doubt they talked with the servants. The Miss Penfolds were away, and I dare say the women had plenty of time to gossip; and it is probable the men gathered from their talk something of their sentiments toward the Miss Penfolds and their brother, and which side they would be likely to go with. I might ask the foreman about it."
"I think the idea is a capital one, Mr. Tallboys; but there is one detail I think might be improved. I imagine that if instead of asking the foreman you choose the youngest and best-looking of the men, provided he is unmarried, you are more likely to get at the women's sentiments."
Mr. Tallboys laughed. "No doubt you are right, Mrs. Conway. That shall be done. I must get the foreman first, though, for I don't know the names or addresses of the other men. I shall tell him frankly that I want to find out the opinions of the servants at the Hall about the missing will, ask him which of his men was the most given to gossip with them, and tell him to send him here to me at ten o'clock to-morrow morning; then when you see him and hear what he has to say, you can judge for yourself how far you care to trust him in the matter, or whether to trust him at all. Perhaps you will come here a few minutes before ten, and then I can tell you what the foreman has said first."
Accordingly at a quarter to ten the next day Mrs. Conway was again at the office.
"I think, Mrs. Conway, that things are going even better than we hoped. The foreman said that from what little talk he had with the servants, he thought they had all been attached to Mr. Penfold, and that his sisters were by no means popular among them. He said very often one or other of them would come into the room where they were working and make suggestions, and hunt about themselves to see if they could find anything. But the best part of it is that one of the carpenters, a steady fellow of twenty-five, took up, as he calls it, with the upper housemaid, and he believes there is a talk about their being married some day. If this is so it would be the very thing for you. You could help him to get married, and the girl could help you to get her place."
"The very thing," Mrs. Conway said. "Nothing could have turned out better."
In a few minutes the young carpenter arrived. He was a pleasant-looking young fellow, and Mrs. Conway was not surprised at the impression he had made upon the housemaid at the Hall.
"Sit down, Johnson," Mr. Tallboys began. "You know what I asked you to come here for?"
"Mr. Peters told me that it was something to do with that job we had at the Miss Penfolds', sir."
"Yes, that is it, Johnson. You know we were looking for a missing will there?"
"Yes, sir; so I understood."
"Now, what we wanted to ask you specially, Johnson, was whether you can tell us what the servants at the Hall thought about it?"
The young carpenter turned rather red in the face, and twisted his cap about in his fingers.
"Well, sir, I don't know that I can say much about that. I don't think most of them was overfond of the Miss Penfolds, and wouldn't have been sorry if the will had been found that would have given them another master or mistress."
"Just so, Johnson, that is what I thought was likely. Now, the point I want to know, Johnson, and this lady here is, I may tell you, interested in the matter of this will being found, is as to whether there is in your opinion any one of the maids at the Hall who could be trusted to aid us in this business? Of course we should make it worth her while to do so."
Again the young carpenter colored, and fidgeted on his chair, examining his cap intently.
"I suppose it would depend on what you wanted her to do," he said at last. "The Hall is a good service, though they don't like the mistresses, and of course none of them would like to do anything that might risk their place."
"That's natural enough, Johnson. But, you see, we could perhaps more than make up to her for that risk."
"Well, I don't know, sir," the man said after another pause. "It isn't only the place; but, you see, a young woman wouldn't like to risk getting into a row like and being turned away in disgrace, or perhaps even worse. I don't know what you want, you see, sir?"
Mr. Tallboys looked at Mrs. Conway, and his eyes expressed the question, How far shall we go? She replied by taking the matter in her own hands.
"We can trust you, can't we, whether you agree to help us or not?"
"Yes, ma'am," he said more decidedly than he had hitherto spoken. "You can trust me. If you tell me what you want, I will tell you straight whether I can do anything. If I don't like it, the matter shan't go beyond me."
"Very well, then, I will tell you exactly what we want. We believe that the will is still there, and we believe that if some one in the house were to make a thorough search it might be found. It is right that it should be found, and that the property should go to those to whom Mr. Penfold left it, and who are now being kept out of it by the Miss Penfolds. I am very much interested in the matter, because it is my son who is being cheated out of his rights; and I have made up my mind to find the will. Now, what I want to know is, do you think that one of the housemaids would be willing to give up her place and introduce me as her successor, if I gave her twenty-five pounds? That would be a nice little sum, you know, to begin housekeeping with."
Mrs. Conway saw at once by the expression of the young carpenter's face that she had secured him as an ally.
"I think that might be managed, ma'am," he said in a tone that showed her he was endeavoring to hide his gladness. "Yes, I think that could be managed. There is certainly a young woman at the Hall—" and he stopped.
Mrs. Conway helped him. "I may tell you, Mr. Johnson, that the foreman hinted to Mr. Tallboys that he thought you and the upper housemaid were likely one of these days to come together, and that is principally why we spoke to you instead of to one of the others who were there. We thought, you see, that she might probably be leaving her place one of these days, and that perhaps this twenty-five pounds might enable you and her to marry earlier than you otherwise would have done. In that case, you see, it would suit us all. You and she would, moreover, have the satisfaction of knowing that you were aiding to right a great wrong, and to restore to those who have been defrauded the property Mr. Penfold intended for them. What do you say?"
"Well, ma'am, I think that, as you say, it would be doing the right thing; and I don't deny that Martha and I have agreed to wait a year or two, till we could save up enough between us for me to start on my own account; for as long as I am a journeyman, and liable to lose my work any day, I would not ask her to come to me. But what with what we have laid by, and this money you offer, I think we might very well venture," and his radiant face showed the happiness the prospect caused him.
"Very well, then. We may consider that as settled," Mrs. Conway said. "What I want is for you to tell your Martha that she is to give notice to leave at once, and that if she has an opportunity she is to mention to Miss Penfold that she has a friend who is out of place at present, and whom she is sure will suit. Of course as she will say that she is going to leave to be married, Miss Penfold cannot be vexed with her, as she might be otherwise, and may take her friend on her recommendation."
"But suppose she shouldn't, ma'am," and the young carpenter's face fell considerably at the thought, "where would Martha be then?"
"I shall pay the money, of course," Mrs. Conway said, "whether I get the place through her or not. I should think that Miss Penfold will very likely be glad to be saved the trouble of looking for another servant. But, if not, I must try some other way to get the place."
"What name am I to say her friend has?"
"Let me think. Ann Sibthorpe."
"But suppose she asks about where her friend has been in service, ma'am, and about her character?"
"We will settle that afterward. The first thing to do is for you to go over and see her, and ask her if she is willing to leave and do this."
"I think I can answer for that, ma'am," the young carpenter said with a quiet smile.
"Very well. Still, we had better have it settled. Will you go over to-day and see her? and then by to-morrow Mr. Tallboys and I will have talked the matter over and settled about the other points. Of course you will tell her not to give notice until she has heard from you as to what she is to say about me."
"Very well, ma'am. I will start at once."
"I can arrange about the character," Mr. Tallboys said when they were alone. "I have a cousin in London, to whom I shall write and explain the matter, and who will, I am sure, oblige me by writing to say that Ann Sibthorpe is all that can be desired as a servant: steady, quiet, industrious and capable. Well, I really congratulate you, Mrs. Conway. At first I thought your project a hopeless one; now I think you have every chance of success."