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CHAPTER XVII._A Girl in Ten Thousand

 Sister Kate made no objection, and Effie hurried home in a state of excitement which she could scarcely restrain. Mrs. Staunton did not expect her, and the poor girl felt her heart sink low in her breast when she saw that her unexpected arrival scarcely gave satisfaction. There was a nice white cloth on the table, and a large bunch of flowers in a pretty cut-glass jug stood in the center. An attempt at dessert again graced the board, and Effie noticed that a bottle of sherry and a bottle of port stood on the little sideboard.

She felt a sense of dismay.

"Even mother is beginning to keep things from me," she said to herself. "It is all George, of course! They did not expect me home to-day, so they are having a particularly good dinner. Is it possible that even mother would try to deceive me? Oh, dear, dear! how changed all our life is, now that father is no longer here!"

There had never been the faintest shadow of concealment about the honest doctor, and while with her husband Mrs. Staunton was the most straightforward woman imaginable; but, alas! her character was a weak one—she was now completely under George's influence, and George had learned to walk in those crooked paths which those who begin to do wrong are always tempted to follow.

He came in presently, looking particularly handsome and manly. He had on a nice new coat; and his beautifully got-up collar showed off his fresh young face to the best possible advantage.124

Mrs. Staunton called him up at once for Effie to criticise.

"Doesn't he look well in a white silk tie?" she said. "I like white ties better than colored ones for him, and they are not so expensive either, for I can wash them myself."

"I wonder all that washing does not fag you, mother," said Effie.

Before Mrs. Staunton could reply, Mrs. Robinson appeared with the dinner, and the family sat down to an excellent meal.

Effie saw quite plainly that it would be useless for her to attempt to expostulate. Mrs. Staunton, after her first start of unconcealed dismay, was very affectionate to her daughter. She told Effie that she thought she looked a little pale, and wondered whether all that nursing was not too much for her.

"No, mother, I love the work," said Effie.

"But that is not the question, my love," said Mrs. Staunton, shaking her head. "The question is this: is it undermining your health?"

"Well, in any case I should have to earn my living," said Effie. "I could not possibly afford to do nothing at home. As well earn it as a nurse as in any other way, and I love nursing beyond anything else in the world."

"You always were an obstinate dear little girl, was she not, George? But, after all, Effie——" Here Mrs. Staunton paused and looked at her son. "I think I might tell Effie?" she said, giving him a bright nod.

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