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CHAPTER XX._A Girl in Ten Thousand

 Just at this moment the door was opened, and the Squire came in. He was of different stuff from his wife. When he saw Effie, his face beamed with pleasure, and he held out a big, hearty hand.

"Miss Staunton!" he exclaimed. "Why, this is a pleasure! Oh, you must not run away; you must sit down and tell me all about yourself—I've been longing to hear about you. How is your brother in the City, and your mother? I do hope she is a little better. And all those other lads and lasses? Sit down, my clear child, I insist on it—I have lots of things to say to you."

Mrs. Harvey, who was standing near the mantelpiece, came gently forward when the Squire began to speak. She looked at Effie with new interest. Her face was long and pale, she had no color in her lips, her light hair was very fashionably dressed. She wore a dress of the latest mode, and her thin fingers were loaded with rings, which flashed and shone whenever she moved her hand.

Effie hated those flashing rings—she turned her head so that she need not see them.

Mrs. Harvey began to talk in a high falsetto voice to her husband.

"Do you know, my dear," she exclaimed, "that Miss Staunton has just been so kind? She came here to offer her services for Freda; but you know153 dear Freda is getting on so capitally at the kindergarten, that—— Why, what in the world is the matter, Walter?"

"Matter!" exclaimed the Squire in his hearty voice. "Why, that we won't be such fools as to reject Miss Staunton's offer. I was told only a few minutes ago that that kindergarten is simply full of whooping-cough and measles—children sickening with them and going home almost every day. I was going to say that Freda must be moved."

"Oh, I should think so, indeed," said Mrs. Harvey. "Whooping-cough and measles! how terrible! and I never had whooping-cough—why, I shouldn't be able to go out for the whole season. I do hope and trust the dear child hasn't contracted the infection. Dear Miss Staunton, of course you'll come. It is exactly what we'd like best. How soon can you come?—to-morrow?—to-night?"

"Neither to-morrow nor to-night," said Effie. "But if you really wish for me, and if we agree as regards terms, the day after to-morrow."

"What do you mean by saying if we agree as to terms?" asked Mrs. Harvey.

"I want a big salary," said Effie, looking up bravely at the two, who were watching her with half-amused, half-anxious expression. "I want to come to you, and to leave the work which I love best, because I hope you may be induced to give me an exceptional salary. I want the money because my mother and my—my young brothers and sisters are almost—at least they will be, if I don't get it, almost starving."

Effie spoke in jerks. She had the greatest difficulty in keeping back her emotion. It was dreadful to have to plead with these rich people—these people who knew nothing whatever of her sore need—to whom money was so plentiful as to have lost its154 freshness, its desirability, its charm. It was awful to look into their faces—to see the blank, non-comprehending stare which came into Mrs. Harvey's pretty blue eyes, and to notice the puzzled expression on the Squire's face.

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