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 Some seven or eight officers were sitting round the table in the messroom of the 103d Bengal Infantry at Cawnpore. It had been a guest night, but the strangers had left, the lights had been turned out in the billiard room overhead, the whist party had broken up, and the players had rejoined three officers who had remained at table smoking and talking quietly. Outside, through the open French windows, the ground looked as if sprinkled with snow beneath the white light of the full moon. Two or three of the mess servants were squatting in the veranda, talking in low voices. A sentry walked backwards and forwards by the gate leading into the mess house compound; beyond, the maidan stretched away flat and level to the low huts of the native lines on the other side.
“So the Doctor comes back tomorrow, Major,” the Adjutant, who had been one of the whist party, said. “I shall be very glad to have him back. In the first place, he is a capital fellow, and keeps us all alive; secondly, he is a good deal better doctor than the station surgeon who has been looking after the men since we have been here; and lastly, if I had got anything the matter with me myself, I would rather be in his hands than those of anyone else I know.”
“Yes, I agree with you, Prothero; the Doctor is as good a fellow as ever stepped. There is no doubt about his talent in his profession; and there are a good many of us who owed our lives to him when we were down with cholera, in that bad attack three years ago. He is good all round; he is just as keen a shikari as he was when he joined the regiment, twenty years ago; he is a good billiard player, and one of the best storytellers I ever came across; but his best point is that he is such a thoroughly good fellow—always ready to do a good turn to anyone, and to help a lame dog over a stile. I could name a dozen men in India who owe their commissions to him. I don't know what the regiment would do without him.”
“He went home on leave just after I joined,” one of the subalterns said. “Of course, I know, from all I have heard of him, that he is an awfully good fellow, but from the little I saw of him myself, he seemed always growling and snapping.”
There was a general laugh from the others.
“Yes, that is his way, Thompson,” the Major said; “he believes himself to be one of the most cynical and morose of men.”
“He was married, wasn't he, Major?”
“Yes, it was a sad business. It was only just after I joined. He is three years senior to me in the regiment. He was appointed to it a month or two after the Colonel joined. Well, as I say, a month or two after I came to it, he went away on leave down to Calcutta, where he was to meet a young lady who had been engaged to him before he left home. They were married, and he brought her up country. Before she had been with us a month we had one of those outbreaks of cholera. It wasn't a very severe one. I think we only lost eight or ten men, and no officer; but the Doctor's young wife was attacked, and in three or four hours she was carried off. It regularly broke him down. However, he got over it, as we all do, I suppose; and now I think he is married to the regiment. He could have had staff appointments a score of times, but he has always refused them. His time is up next year, and he could go home on full pay, but I don't suppose he will.”
“And your niece arrives with him tomorrow, Major,” the Adjutant said.
“Yes, I am going to try petticoat government, Prothero. I don't know how the experiment will succeed, but I am tired of an empty bungalow, and I have been looking forward for some years to her being old enough to come out and take charge. It is ten years since I was home, and she was a little chit of eight years old at that time.”
“I think a vote of thanks ought to be passed to you, Major. We have only married ladies in the regiment, and it will wake us up and do us good to have Miss Hannay among us.”
“There are the Colonel's daughters,” the Major said, with a smile.
“Yes, there are, Major, but they hardly count; they are scarcely conscious of the existence of poor creatures like us; nothing short of a Resident or, at any rate, of a full blown Collector, will find favor in their eyes.”
“Well, I warn you all fairly,” the Major said, “that I shall set my face against all sorts of philandering and love making. I am bringing my niece out here as my housekeeper and companion, and not as a prospective wife for any of you youngsters. I hope she will turn out to be as plain as a pikestaff, and then I may have some hopes of keeping her with me for a time. The Doctor, in his letter from Calcutta, says nothing as to what she is like, though he was good enough to remark that she seemed to have a fair share of common sense, and has given him no more trouble on the voyage than was to be expected under the circumstances. And now, lads, it is nearly two o'clock, and as there is early parade tomorrow, it is high time for you to be all in your beds. What a blessing it would be if the sun would forget to shine for a bit on this portion of the world, and we could have an Arctic night of seven or eight months with a full moon the whole time!”
A few minutes later the messroom was empty, the lights turned out, and the servants wrapped up in their blankets had disposed themselves for sleep in the veranda.
As soon as morning parade was over Major Hannay went back to his bungalow, looked round to see that his bachelor quarters were as bright and tidy as possible, then got into a light suit and went down to the post house. A quarter of an hour later a cloud of dust along the road betokened the approach of the Dak Gharry, and two or three minutes later it dashed up at full gallop amid a loud and continuous cracking of the driver's whip. The wiry little horses were drawn up with a sudden jerk.
The Major opened the door. A little man sprang out and grasped him by the hand.
“Glad to see you, Major—thoroughly glad to be back again. Here is your niece; I deliver her safe and sound into your hands.” And between them they helped a girl to alight from the vehicle.
“I am heartily glad to see you, my dear,” the Major said, as he kissed her; “though I don't think I should have known you again.”
“I should think not, uncle,” the girl said. “In the first place, I was a little girl in short frocks when I saw you last; and in the second place, I am so covered with the dust that you can hardly see what I am like. I think I should have known you; your visit made a great impression upon us, though I can remember now how disappointed we were when you first arrived that you hadn't a red coat and a sword, as we had expected.”
“Well, we may as well be off at once, Isobel; it is only five minutes' walk to the bungalow. My man will see to your luggage being brought up. Come along, Doctor. Of course you will put up with me until you can look round and fix upon quarters. I told Rumzan to bring your things round with my niece's. You have had a very pleasant voyage out, I hope, Isobel?” he went on, as they started.
“Very pleasant, uncle, though I got rather tired of it at last.”
“That is generally the way—everyone is pleasant and agreeable at first, but before they get to the end they take to quarreling like cats and dogs.”
“We were not quite as bad as that,” the girl laughed, “but we certainly weren't as amiable the last month or so as we were during the first part of the voyage. Still, it was very pleasant all along, and nobody quarreled with me.”
“Present company are always excepted,” the Doctor said. “I stood in loco parentis, Major, and the result has been that I shall feel in future more charitable towards mothers of marriageable daughters. Still, I am bound to say that Miss Hannay has given me as little trouble as could be expected.”
“You frighten me, Doctor; if you found her so onerous only for a voyage, what have I to look forward to?”
“Well, you can't say that I didn't warn you, Major; when you wrote home and asked me to take charge of your niece on the way out, I told you frankly that my opinion of your good sense was shaken.”
“Yes, you did express yourself with some strength,” the Major laughed; “but then one is so accustomed to that, that I did not take it to heart as I might otherwise have done.”
“That was before you knew me, Dr. Wade, otherwise I should feel very hurt,” the girl put in.
“Yes, it was,” the Doctor said dryly.
“Don't mind him, my dear,” her uncle said; “we all know the Doctor of old. This is my bungalow.”
“It is pretty, with all these flowers and shrubs round it,” she said admiringly.
“Yes, we have been doing a good deal of watering the last few weeks, so as to get it to look its best. This is your special attendant; she will take you up to your room. By the time you have had a bath, your boxes will be here. I told them to have a cup of tea ready for you upstairs. Breakfast will be on the table by the time you are ready.”
“Well, old friend,” he said to the Doctor, when the girl had gone upstairs, “no complications, I hope, on the voyage?”
“No, I think not,” the Doctor said. “Of course, there were lots of young puppies on board, and as she was out and out the best looking girl in the ship half of them were dancing attendance upon her all the voyage, but I am bound to say that she acted like a sensible young woman; and though she was pleasant with them all, she didn't get into any flirtation with one more than another. I did my best to look after her, but, of course, that would have been of no good if she had been disposed to go her own way. I fancy about half of them proposed to her—not that she ever said as much to me—but whenever I observed one looking sulky and giving himself airs I could guess pretty well what had happened. These young puppies are all alike, and we are not without experience of the species out here.
“Seriously, Major, I think you are to be congratulated. I consider that you ran a tremendous risk in asking a young woman, of whom you knew nothing, to come out to you; still it has turned out well. If she had been a frivolous, giggling thing, like most of them, I had made up my mind to do you a good turn by helping to get her engaged on the voyage, and should have seen her married offhand at Calcutta, and have come up and told you that you were well out of the scrape. As, contrary to my expectations, she turned out to be a sensible young woman, I did my best the other way. It is likely enough you may have her on your hands some little time, for I don't think she is likely to be caught by the first comer. Well, I must go and have my bath; the dust has been awful coming up from Allahabad. That is one advantage, and the only one as far as I can see, that they have got in England. They don't know what dust is there.”
When the bell for breakfast rang, and Isobel made her appearance, looking fresh and cool, in a light dress, the Major said, “You must take the head of the table, my dear, and assume the reins of government forthwith.”
“Then I should say, uncle, that if any guidance is required, there will be an upset in a very short time. No, that won't do at all. You must go on just as you were before, and I shall look on and learn. As far as I can see, everything is perfect just as it is. This is a charming room, and I am sure there is no fault to be found with the arrangement of these flowers on the table. As for the cooking, everything looks very nice, and anyhow, if you have not been able to get them to cook to your taste, it is of no use my attempting anything in that way. Besides, I suppose I must learn something of the language before I can attempt to do anything. No, uncle, I will sit in this chair if you like, and make tea and pour it out, but that is the beginning and the end of my assumption of the head of the establishment at present.”
“Well, Isobel, I hardly expected that you were going to run the establishment just at first; indeed, as far as that goes, one's butler, if he is a good man, has pretty well a free hand. He is generally responsible, and is in fact what we should call at home housekeeper—he and the cook between them arrange everything. I say to him, 'Three gentlemen are coming to tiffen.' He nods and says 'Atcha, sahib,' which means 'All right, sir,' and then I know it will be all right. If I have a fancy for any special thing, of course I say so. Otherwise, I leave it to them, and if the result is not satisfactory, I blow up. Nothing can be more simple.”
“But how about bills, uncle?”
“Well, my dear, the butler gives them to me, and I pay them. He has been with me a good many years, and will not let the others—that is to say, the cook and the syce, the washerman, and so on, cheat me beyond a reasonable amount. Do you, Rumzan?”
Rumzan, who was standing behind the Major's chair, in a white turban and dress, with a red and white sash round his waist, smiled.
“Rumzan not let anyone rob his master.”
“Not to any great extent, you know, Rumzan. One doesn't expect more than that.”
“It is just the same here, Miss Hannay, as it is everywhere else,” said the Doctor; “only in big establishments in England they rob you of pounds, while here they rob you of annas, which, as I have explained to you, are two pence halfpennies. The person who undertakes to put down little peculations enters upon a war in which he is sure to get the worst of it. He wastes his time, spoils his temper, makes himself and everyone around him uncomfortable, and after all he is robbed. Life is too short for it, especially in a climate like this. Of course, in time you get to understand the language; if you see anything in the bills that strikes you as showing waste you can go into the thing, but as a rule you trust entirely to your butler; if you cannot trust him, get another one. Rumzan has been with your uncle ten years, so you are fortunate. If the Major had gone home instead of me, and if you had had an entirely fresh establishment of servants to look after, the case would have been different; as it is, you will have no trouble that way.”
“Then what are my duties to be, uncle?”
“Your chief duties, my dear, are to look pleasant, which will evidently be no trouble to you; to amuse me and keep me in a good temper as far as possible; to keep on as good terms as may be with the other ladies of the station; and, what will perhaps be the most difficult part of your work, to snub and keep in order the young officers of our own and other corps.”
Isobel laughed. “That doesn't sound a very difficult programme, uncle, except the last item; I have already had a little experience that way, haven't I, Doctor? I hope I shall have the benefit of your assistance in the future, as I had aboard the ship.”
“I will do my best,” the Doctor said grimly; “but the British subaltern is pretty well impervious to snubs; he belongs to the pachydermatous family of animals; his armor of self conceit renders him invulnerable against the milder forms of raillery. However, I think you can be trusted to hold your own with him, Miss Hannay, without much assistance from the Major or myself. Your real difficulty will lie rather in your struggle against the united female forces of the station.”
“But why shall I have to struggle with them?” Isobel asked, in surprise, while her uncle broke into a laugh.
“Don't frighten her, Doctor.”
“She is not so easily frightened, Major; it is just as well that she should be prepared. Well, my dear Miss Hannay, Indian society has this peculiarity, that the women never grow old. At least,” he continued, in reply to the girl's look of surprise, “they are never conscious of growing old. At home a woman's family grows up about her, and are constant reminders that she is becoming a matron. Here the children are sent away when they get four or five years old, and do not appear on the scene again until they are grown up. Then, too, ladies are greatly in the minority, and they are accustomed to be made vastly more of than they are at home, and the consequence is that the amount of envy, hatred, jealousy, and all uncharitableness is appalling.”
“No, no, Doctor, not as bad as that,” the Major remonstrated.
“Every bit as bad as that,” the Doctor said stoutly. “I am not a woman hater, far from it; but I have felt sometimes that if John Company, in its beneficence, would pass a decree absolutely excluding the importation of white women into India it would be an unmixed blessing.”
“For shame, Doctor,” Isobel Hannay said; “and to think that I should have such a high opinion of you up to now.”
“I can't help it, my dear; my experience is that for ninety-nine out of every hundred unpleasantnesses that take place out here, women are in one way or another responsible. They get up sets and cliques, and break up what might be otherwise pleasant society into sections. Talk about caste amongst natives; it is nothing to the caste among women out here. The wife of a civilian of high rank looks down upon the wives of military men, the general's wife looks down upon a captain's, and so right through from the top to the bottom.
“It is not so among the men, or at any rate to a very much smaller extent. Of course, some men are pompous fools, but, as a rule, if two men meet, and both are gentlemen, they care nothing as to what their respective ranks may be. A man may be a lord or a doctor, a millionaire or a struggling barrister, but they meet on equal terms in society; but out here it is certainly not so among the women—they stand upon their husband's dignity in a way that would be pitiable if it were not exasperating. Of course, there are plenty of good women among them, as there are everywhere—women whom even India can't spoil; but what with exclusiveness, and with the amount of admiration and adulation they get, and what with the want of occupation for their thoughts and minds, it is very hard for them to avoid getting spoilt.”
“Well, I hope I shan't get spoilt, Doctor; and I hope, if you see that I am getting spoilt, you will make a point of telling me so at once.”
The Doctor grunted. “Theoretically, people are always ready to receive good advice, Miss Hannay; practically they are always offended by it. However, in your case I will risk it, and I am bound to say that hitherto you have proved yourself more amenable in that way than most young women I have come across.”
“And now, if we have done, we will go out on the veranda,” the Major said. “I am sure the Doctor must be dying for a cheroot.”
“The Doctor has smoked pretty continuously since we left Allahabad,” Isobel said. “He wanted to sit up with the driver, but, of course, I would not have that. I had got pretty well accustomed to smoke coming out, and even if I had not been I would much rather have been almost suffocated than have been in there by myself. I thought a dozen times the vehicle was going to upset, and what with the bumping and the shouting and the cracking of the whip—especially when the horses wouldn't start, which was generally the case at first—I should have been frightened out of my life had I been alone. It seemed to me that something dreadful was always going to happen.”
“You can take it easy this morning, Isobel,” the Major said, when they were comfortably seated in the bamboo lounges in the veranda. “You want have any callers today, as it will be known you traveled all night. People will imagine that you want a quiet day before you are on show.”
“What a horrid expression, uncle!”
“Well, my dear, it represents the truth. The arrival of a fresh lady from England, especially of a 'spin,' which is short for spinster or unmarried woman, is an event of some importance in an Indian station. Not, of course, so much in a place like this, because this is the center of a large district, but in a small station it is an event of the first importance. The men are anxious to see what a newcomer is like for herself; the women, to look at her dresses and see the latest fashions from home, and also to ascertain whether she is likely to turn out a formidable rival. However, today you can enjoy quiet; tomorrow you must attire yourself in your most becoming costume, and I will trot you round.”
“Trot me round, uncle?”
“Yes, my dear. In India the order of procedure is reversed, and newcomers call in the first place upon residents.”
“What a very unpleasant custom, uncle; especially as some of the residents may not want to know them.”
“Well, everyone must know everyone else in a station, my dear, though they may not wish to be intimate. So, about half past one tomorrow we will start.”
“What, in the heat of the day, uncle?”
“Yes, my dear. That is another of the inscrutable freaks of Indian fashion. The hours for calling are from about half past twelve to half past two, just in the hottest hours. I don't pretend to account for it.”
“How many ladies are there in the regiment?”
“There is the Colonel's wife, Mrs. Cromarty. She has two grown up red headed girls,” replied the Doctor. “She is a distant relation—a second cousin—of some Scotch lord or other, and, on the strength of that and her husband's colonelcy, gives herself prodigious airs. Three of the captains are married. Mrs. Doolan is a merry little Irish woman. You will like her. She has two or three children. She is a general favorite in the regiment.
“Mrs. Rintoul—I suppose she is here still, Major, and unchanged? Ah, I thought so. She is a washed-out woman, without a spark of energy in her composition.-' She believes that she is a chronic invalid, and sends for me on an average once a week. But there is nothing really the matter with her, if she would but only believe it. Mrs. Roberts—”
“Don't be ill natured, Doctor,” the Major broke in. “Mrs. Roberts, my dear, is a good-looking woman, and a general flirt. I don't think there is any harm in her whatever. Mrs. Prothero, the Adjutant's wife, has only been out here eighteen months, and is a pretty little woman, and in all respects nice.-There is only one other, Mrs. Scarsdale; she came out six months ago. She is a quiet young woman, with, I should say, plenty of common sense: I should think you will like her. That completes the regimental list.”
“Well, that is not so very formidable. Anyhow, it is a. comfort that we shall have no one here today.”
“You will have the whole regiment here in a few minutes, Isobel, but they will be coming to see the Doctor, not you; if it hadn't been that they knew you were under his charge everyone would have come down to meet him when he arrived. But if you feel tired, as I am sure you must be after your journey, there is no reason why you shouldn't go and lie down quietly for a few hours.”
“I will stop here, uncle; it will be much less embarrassing to see them all for the first time when they come to see Dr. Wade and I am quite a secondary consideration, than if they had to come specially to call on me.”
“Well, I agree with you there, my dear. Ah! here come Doolan and Prothero.”
A light trap drove into the inclosure and drew up in front of the veranda, and two officers jumped down,-whilst the syce, who had been standing on a step behind, ran to the horse's head. They hailed the Doctor, as he stepped out from the veranda, with a shout.
“Glad to see you back, Doctor. The regiment has not seemed like itself without you.”
“We have been just pining without you, Doctor,” Captain Doolan said; “and the ladies would have got up a deputation to meet you on your arrival, only I told them that it would be too much for your modesty.”
“Well, it is a good thing that someone has a little of that quality in the regiment, Doolan,” the Doctor said, as he shook hands heartily with them both. “It is very little of it that fell to the share of Ireland when it was served out.”
As they dropped the Doctor's hand the Major said, “Now, gentlemen, let me introduce you to my niece.” The introductions were made, and the whole party took chairs on the veranda.
“Do you object to smoking, Miss Hannay; perhaps you have not got accustomed to it yet? I see the Doctor is-smoking; but then he is a privileged person, altogether beyond rule.”
“I rather like it in the open air,” Isobel said. “No doubt I shall get accustomed to it indoors before long.”
In a few minutes four or five more of the officers arrived, and Isobel sat an amused listener to the talk; taking but little part in it herself, but gathering a good deal of information as to the people at the station from the answers given to the Doctor's inquiries. It was very much like the conversation on board ship, except that the topics of conversation were wider and more numerous, and there was a community of interest wanting on board a ship. In half an hour, however, the increasing warmth and her sleepless night began to tell upon her, and her uncle, seeing that she was beginning to look fagged, said, “The best thing that you can do, Isobel, is to go indoors for a bit, and have a good nap. At five o'clock I will take you round for a drive, and show you the sights of Cawnpore.”
“I do feel sleepy,” she said, “though it sounds rude to say so.”
“Not at all,” the Doctor put in; “if any of these young fellows had made the journey out from Allahabad in that wretched gharry, they would have turned into bed as soon as they arrived, and would not have got up till the first mess bugle sounded, and very likely would have slept on until next morning.
“Now,” he went on, when Isobel had disappeared, “we will adjourn with you to the mess-house. That young lady would have very small chance of getting to sleep with all this racket here. Doolan's voice alone would banish sleep anywhere within a distance of a hundred yards.”
“I will join you there later, Doctor,” the Major said. “I have got a couple of hours' work in the orderly-room. Rumzan, don't let my niece be disturbed, but if she wakes and rings the bell send up a message by the woman that I-shall not be back until four.”
The Major walked across to the orderly room, while the rest, mounting their buggies, drove to the mess-house, which was a quarter of a mile away.
“I should think Miss Hannay will prove a valuable addition to our circle, Doctor,” the Adjutant said. “I don't know why, but I gathered from what the Major said that his niece was very young. He spoke of her as if she were quite a child.”
“She is a very nice, sensible young woman,” the Doctor said; “clever and bright, and, as you can see for your-selves, pretty, and yet no nonsense about her. I only hope that she won't get spoilt here; nineteen out of twenty young women do get spoilt within six months of their arrival in India, but I think she will be one of the exceptions.”
“I should have liked to have seen the Doctor doing chaperon,” Captain Doolan laughed; “he would have been a brave man who would have attempted even the faintest flirtation with anyone under his charge.”
“That is your opinion, is it, Doolan?” the Doctor said sharply. “I should have thought that even your common sense would have told you that anyone who has had the misfortune to see as much of womankind as I have would have been aware that any endeavor to check a flirtation for which they are inclined would be of all others the way to induce them to go in for it headlong. You are a married man yourself, and ought to know that. A woman is a good deal like a spirited horse; let her have her head, and, though she may for a time make the pace pretty fast, she will go straight, and settle down to her collar in time, whereas if you keep a tight curb she will fret and fidget, and as likely as not make a bolt for it. I can assure you that my duties were of The most nominal description. There were the usual number of hollow pated lads on board, who buzzed in their usual feeble way round Miss Hannay, and were one after another duly snubbed. Miss Hannay has plenty of spirits, and a considerable sense of humor, and I think that she enjoyed the voyage thoroughly. And now let us talk of something else.”
After an hour's chat the Doctor started on his round of calls upon the ladies; the Major had not come in from the orderly room, and, after the Doctor left, Isobel Hannay was again the topic of conversation.
“She is out and out the prettiest girl in the station,” the Adjutant said to some of the officers who had not seen her. “She will make quite a sensation; and there are five or six ladies in the station, whose names I need hardly mention, who will not be very pleased at her coming. She is thoroughly in good form, too; nothing in the slightest degree fast or noisy about her. She is quiet and self-possessed. I fancy she will be able to hold her own against any of them. Clever? I should say 'certainly'; but, of course, that is from her face rather than from anything she said. I expect half the unmarried men in the station will be going wild over her. You need not look so interested, Wilson; the matter is of no more personal interest to you than if I were describing a new comet. Nothing less than a big civilian is likely to carry off such a prize, so I warn you beforehand you had better not be losing your heart to her.”
“Well, you know, Prothero, subalterns do manage to get wives sometimes.”
There was a laugh.
“That is true enough, Wilson; but then, you see, I married at home; besides, I am adjutant, which sounds a lot better than subaltern.”
“That may go for a good deal in the regiment,” Wilson retorted, “but I doubt if there are many women that know the difference between an adjutant and a quartermaster. They know about colonels, majors, captains, and even subalterns; but if you were to say that you were an adjutant they would be simply mystified, though they might understand if you said bandmaster. But I fancy sergeant major would sound ever so much more imposing.”
“Wilson, if you are disrespectful, I shall discover tomorrow, on parade, that No. 3 Company wants a couple of hours' extra drill badly, and then you will feel how grievous a mistake it is to cheek an adjutant.”
The report of those who had called at the Major's was so favorable that curiosity was quite roused as to the new-comer, and when the Major drove round with her the next day everyone was at home, and the verdict on the part of the ladies was generally favorable, but was by no means so unqualified as that of the gentlemen.
Mrs. Cromarty admitted that she was nice looking; but was critical as to her carriage and manner. She would be admired by young officers, no doubt, but there was too much life and animation about her, and although she would not exactly say that she stooped, she was likely to do so in time.
“She will be nothing remarkable when her freshness has worn off a little.”
In this opinion the Misses Cromarty thoroughly assented. They had never been accused of stooping, and, indeed, were almost painfully upright, and were certainly not particularly admired by subalterns.
Mrs. Doolan was charmed with her, and told her she hoped that they would be great friends.
“This is a very pleasant life out here, my dear,” she said, “if one does but take it in the right way. There is a great deal of tittle tattle in the Indian stations, and some quarreling; but, you know, it takes two to make a quarrel, and I make it a point never to quarrel with anyone. It is too hot for it. Then, you see, I have the advantage of being Irish, and, for some reason or other that I don't understand we can say pretty nearly what we like. People don't take us seriously, you know; so I keep in with them all.”
Mrs. Rintoul received her visitors on the sofa. “It is quite refreshing to see a face straight from England, Miss Hannay. I only hope that you may keep your bright color and healthy looks. Some people do. Not their color, but their health. Unfortunately I am not one of them. I do not know what it is to have a day's health. The climate completely oppresses me, and I am fit for nothing. You would hardly believe that I was as strong and healthy as you are when I first came out. You came out with Dr. Wade—a clever man—I have a very high opinion of his talent, but my case is beyond him. It is a sad annoyance to him that it is so, and he is continually trying to make me believe that there is nothing the matter with me, as if my looks did not speak for themselves.”
Mrs. Rintoul afterwards told her husband she could hardly say that she liked Miss Hannay.
“She is distressingly brisk and healthy, and I should say, my dear, not of a sympathetic nature, which is always a pity in a young woman.”
After this somewhat depressing visit, the call upon Mrs. Roberts was a refreshing one. She received her very cordially.
“I like you, Miss Hannay,” she said, when, after a quarter of an hour's lively talk, the Major and his niece got up to go. “I always say what I think, and it is very good natured of me to say so, for I don't disguise from myself that you will put my nose out of joint.”
“I don't want to put anyone's nose out of joint,” Isobel laughed.
“You will do it, whether you want to or not,” Mrs. Roberts said; “my husband as much as told me so last night, and I was prepared not to like you, but I see that I shall not be able to help doing so. Major Hannay, you have dealt me a heavy blow, but I forgive you.”
When the round of visits was finished the Major said, “Well, Isobel, what do you think of the ladies of the regiment?”
“I think they are all very nice, uncle. I fancy I shall like Mrs. Doolan and Mrs. Scarsdale best; I won't give any opinion yet about Mrs. Cromarty.”

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