Beatrice meditated in the parlour-carriage on the scene which had taken place at noon between her stepfather and Paslow. Without vouchsafing the least explanation, Alpenny had crept back to his den and was there still, with the door locked as usual. Twice and thrice did Durban call him to the midday meal, but he declined to come out. Beatrice had therefore eaten alone, and was now enjoying a cup of fragrant coffee which Durban had lately brought in. At the moment, he was washing up dishes in the kitchen, to the agreeable accompaniment of a negro song, which he was whistling vigorously. The girl, as she wished to be, was entirely alone. Durban could not explain the reason for the quarrel, and Alpenny would not; so Beatrice was forced to search her own thoughts for a possible explanation. So far she had been unsuccessful. The tiny parlour was entirely white in its decorations, and looked extremely cool on this hot, close day. The walls were hung with snowy linen, the furniture was upholstered with the same, and the carpet, the curtains, the ornaments, even the cushions were all pearly white. Everything, when examined, was cheap in quality and price, but the spotlessly clean look of the room--if it could be called so--made up for the marked want of luxury. Beatrice herself wore a white muslin, with cream-hued ribbons, therefore no discordant colour broke the Arctic tone of the parlour. Only through the open door could be seen the brilliant tints of the flowers, blazing against a background of emerald foliage. The Snow Parlour was the name of this fantastic retreat, and the vicar's wife took the appellation as a personal insult. Rather should she have regarded it a compliment of the highest, as this maiden's bower was infinitely prettier than she was or ever could be. Since it was impossible to learn anything definite from Durban or his master, Beatrice was striving to possess her soul in peace until seven o'clock: at that hour she intended to meet Vivian by the Witches' Oak, and there ask him bluntly what he had said or done to make stepfather so furious. Having settled this in her own mind, she lay back in the deep chair, sipping her coffee, and allowing her thoughts to wander; they took her back over some five-and-twenty years, and into a life barren and uneventful enough. Beatrice should have been happy, for, like the oft-quoted nation, she had no history. All her life Beatrice had never known a mother's love. According to Alpenny, who supplied the information grudgingly enough, Mrs. Hedge with her one-year-old baby had married him, only to die within three months after the ceremony. Then Durban had taken charge of the child; since the miser, for monetary and other reasons, would not engage a nurse. For two years the old servant had tenderly cared for the orphan, and it was a great pain to him when Alpenny placed the little Beatrice in charge of a Brighton lady, called Miss Shallow. The spinster was in reduced circumstances, and apparently under Alpenny's thumb as regards money matters. She received the child unwillingly enough, although she feared to disobey a tyrant who could make things disagreeable for her; but later, she grew to love her charge, and behaved towards the orphan with a devotion scarcely to be expected from a nature soured by misfortune.