At this time came the grand turning-point in Mary’s life, for the son 유흥사이트 of one of the partners of the firm, who acted as cashier, fell in love with the quiet, lady-like Mary Cooper, passing over beauties in dozens to do so, and, after a long course of opposition from his parents, which as usual only strengthened his passion, succeeded in so adjusting matters that Mary consented to become his wife. When the matter was settled Bet looked as if she did not know whether to cry or rejoice, and, I believe, did a little at both.

“How am I ever to fit you to go among such grand folks,” she said in manifest distress.

“You have been fitting me all my life,” said Mary, with a bright look and a soft embrace, which she had generally found effectual in banishing all objections.

“That’s all very well,” answered Bet, only half mollified; “but where is your outfit to come from? You must have dresses, and no end of things. Ten or twenty pounds would not be too much. Only think! if you went among them in your poor rags, wouldn’t they sneer at you all your life after?”

“I don’t know; I never thought of that,” was Mary’s simple rejoinder, “but so long as Herbert does not sneer at me I shall never care for any one else. He will shield me from all trouble.”

“Ay, you’re like every one else in love, you see nothing but sunshine before you,” dryly returned Bet, “but it’s possible that even he would turn round and sneer at your former poverty if I allowed him to provide your outfit, as he offered to do. ‘Nothing of the kind,’ I said, quite sharp; ‘Mary will provide all that herself.’ But though I said that to look independent, I can’t for the life of me tell where the money’s to come from. I have not one pound to rub on another.”

“Don’t distress yourself about that, mother dear,” said Mary, with another nestling kiss; “for if he cannot love me for ever without a paltry dress or two, his love isn’t worthy the name. And if his devotion is to change to sneers, all the outfits in the world would not prevent it. So just let the matter rest. I’ll take all the risk. He knows we are poor in everything but a good name, so where is the shame?”

Mary thought she had effectually settled the difficulty; but Bet continued to harp on the same theme. It was an awkward position certainly. There was Mary living in a house of one room and a closet, in a not very choice locality, and her affianced in one of the biggest villas in the Grange. The inequality of their positions cropped out painfully whenever he chanced to visit the humble home, and Bet was in such a feverish state of distress over her poverty that she would have made any sacrifice for a little temporary grandeur. As the time drew near when Mary was to leave her for another’s care, Bet’s uneasiness increased. She had rashly pledged herself to provide Mary’s outfit, and was now further from that than ever. It is difficult to analyse her feelings so as to account for all her actions; but I suppose her mind had got into such a morbid state that she was scarcely responsible for her own actions.

At this critical juncture Bet’s old friend and adviser, Mrs Colbrun, sent for her and Mary to congratulate them on the approaching event, and make some small present to the bride. What the present was I have no recollection, but it was something which led Mrs Colbrun and Mary to leave the room for a few minutes.

Bet had often been left with the free range of the whole house before with no evil result. In the room in which she was now left there stood a writing table, one drawer of which was open, showing quite a pile of bank notes and other money.

Bet fought valiantly with the temptation till Mrs Colbrun was actually crossing the lobby to re-enter the room, when the old thieving nature struggled uppermost, and Bet, with one swift movement of her hand, had possessed herself of a bunch of the notes, and concealed them with magical celerity about her person.

The remainder of her stay in the house was torture to Bet, not only on account of the fear of discovery, but because she had a conscience, and could not disguise even to herself the dastardly act she had committed in robbing a benefactor.

They got away at last, but Bet was nearly an hour at home before she ventured to bring out the notes, which she did with a shaking hand, telling Mary they were for her marriage outfit, which she had better go and purchase forthwith.

Perhaps it was the tone in which the strange request was made, or the guilty look which accompanied the offer of the money, or possibly sheer astonishment at Bet possessing such a sum, that roused Mary’s suspicions; but she had scarcely taken the notes and counted them when a chill thought fell on her heart.

“Where did you get so much money, mother dear?” she tremulously asked. “Did Mrs Colbrun give it you?”

“No, no! ask no questions, but away you go and spend it to the best advantage,” hurriedly responded Bet, in a strange voice.

Mary stared at her for a minute, then began to tremble violently, and finally sat down with the notes in her hand, and burst into tears. Thoroughly alarmed, Bet sprang up and tried to soothe the young girl, but the first words which Mary could articulate stabbed her through.

“Mother, dear,” she cried, clasping the guilty woman in her arms, and trying in vain to get a clear look into the shrinking eyes, “tell me true and plain. There was a drawer in Mrs Colbrun’s room with a pile of bank notes in it. I saw them. You didn’t—oh, mother! forgive me for the horrible thought!—but say you didn’t take them—steal them—from Mrs Colbrun.”

“I didn’t” was shaped on Bet’s lips, but the words stuck in her throat, and the guilty look on her face, and her abashed attitude as she shrank before the accusing eyes gave the lie to the husky response.

“Oh, mother, how could you?—you have ruined us!” was all Mary could utter, but after an agonised pause she sprang up with startling energy, and said—

“I must take them back! I shall never allow her to be robbed!”

“And send me to prison for ten or twenty years?” cried Bet in reproach. “No; rather throw them into the fire. That will hide all.”

“I shall not! Mother, you are mad—you are not in your senses to propose such a thing. It would be robbery just the same, whether we use the notes or not, if we do not restore them. I shall take them back, but try to give them in a way that will not criminate you. Yes, whatever happens, you must be safe.”