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A shrunken sallow old lady, dressed in rusty ill-shaped black and adorned with an evidently false 'front' of fair hair, sat in a tiny flat whose windows overlooked Hyde Park from south to north. She was listening to a tall loose-built dark young man who walked restlessly about the little room as he jerked out his thoughts and challenged the expression of hers. She had known him since he was a baby, had brought him up from childhood, had always served him, always believed in him, never liked him, never offered her love nor conciliated his. His father even, her only brother Raphael Quisanté, she had not loved; but she had respected Raphael. Alexander—Sandro, as she alone of all the world called him—she neither loved nor respected; him she only admired and believed in. He knew his aunt's feelings well enough; she was his ally, not his friend; kinship bound them, not affection; for his brain's sake and their common blood she was his servant, his heart she left alone.

Thus aware of the truth, he felt no obligation towards her, not even when, as now, he came to ask money of her; what else should she do with her money, where else lay either her duty or her inclination? She did not love him, but he was her one interest, the only tie that united her with the living moving world and the alluring future years, more precious to her since she could see so few of them.

"I don't mean to make myself uncomfortable," said Miss Quisanté. "How much do you want?" He stopped and turned round quickly with a gleam of eagerness in his eyes, as though he had a vision of much wealth. "No, no," she added with a surly chuckle, "the least you'll take is the most I'll give."

"I owe money."

"Who to?" she asked, setting her cap uncompromisingly straight. "Jews?"

"No. Dick Benyon."

"That money you'll never pay. I shan't consider that."

The young man's eyes rested on her in a long sombre glance; he seemed annoyed but not indignant, like a lawyer whose formal plea is brushed aside somewhat contemptuously by an impatient truth-loving judge.

"You've got five hundred a year or thereabouts," she went on, "and no wife."

He threw himself into a chair; his face broke into a sudden smile, curiously attractive, although neither sweet nor markedly sincere. "Exactly," he said. "No wife. Well, shall I get one with five hundred a year?" He laughed a little. "An election any fine day would leave me penniless," he added.

"There's Dick Benyon," observed the old lady.

"They talk about that too much already," said Quisanté.

"Come, Sandro, you're not sensitive."

"And Lady Richard hates me. Besides if you want to impress fools, you must respect their prejudices. Give me a thousand a year; for the present, you know."

He asked nearly half the old lady's income; she sighed in relief. "Very well, a thousand a year," she said. "Make a good show with it. Live handsomely. It'll pay you to live handsomely."

A genuine unmistakable surprise showed itself on his face; now there was even the indignation which a reference to non-payment of debts had failed to elicit....