In the handsome parlour of Cressingham Abbey, commonly called White-Ladies, on a dull afternoon in January, 1712, sat Madam and her granddaughter, Rhoda, sipping tea. Madam—and nothing else, her dependants would have thought it an impertinence to call her Mrs Furnival. Never was Empress of all the Russias more despotic in her wide domain than Madam in her narrow one. As to Mr Furnival—for there had been such a person, though it was a good while since—he was a mere appendage to Madam’s greatness—useful in the way of collecting rents and seeing to repairs, and capable of being put away when done with. He was a little, meek, unobtrusive man, fully (and happily) convinced of his own insignificance, and ready to sink himself in his superb wife as he might receive orders. He had been required to change his name as a condition of alliance with the heiress of Cressingham, and had done so with as much readiness as he would in similar circumstances have changed his coat. It was about fourteen years since this humble individual had ceased to be the head servant of Madam; and it was Madam’s wont to hint, when she condescended to refer to him at all, that her marriage with him had been the one occasion in her life wherein she had failed to act with her usual infallibility.