A Mental Struggle. 13
looked upon by Imogen and her mother as a death-blow to
all their hopes. For one thing, it ensured them an ex¬
pensive winter, when economy was so much to be desired,
and—what was far worse—upon a severe cross-examination
of Sir Hugh, it was discovered that this friend of his youth
was distinctly disreputable in his antecedents, having been
indeed—in trade ! Trade ! A cotton-merchant 1 It was
horrible ! Cotton could not possibly mean anything but
low birth and sordid Burroundings and general vulgai-ity.
" But who was Mr.—Mr. Brown's father, my dear
Hugh ? " Lady Olivia had asked when first the coming of
these dreadful people had beea broached. And Sir Hugh,
being pressed, was obliged to confess that the position of
his early friend's father was utterly unknown to him. A
closer investigation, indeed, led to the belief that probably
old Brown never had a father.
" We were great chums at school and college," said Sir
Hugh reflectively, " and once I brought Brown home with
me for a vacation. Somebody must have paid for his
schooling; but I really, now you mention it, don't recollect
ever hearing anything about a father. But of course he
must have had one—eh 1 "
Whereupon Ladj' Olivia groaned in spirit, and thought
dismally of what the Blounts and the De Veres and the
Vernons would say.
She had had some little hope, perhaps, that something,
after all, might prevent the necessity of her having to ask
them, but to-day's letter has put all such hopes to flight.
Entering Imogen's pretty room. Lady Olivia seats herself
upon the nearest ottoman and gives herself up a prey to