类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-09-21 08:22:16


‘I saw Mrs Fyson this afternoon,’ she said, beginning gently.It had begun to snow thickly outside, and she stood for a minute or two before the fire, shaking from her cloak the frozen petals, which fizzed on the coals. Certainly she had felt a disconcertment at the moment of her entry and passage through the hall, had found fault with the ill luck that had caused her to meet the gorged galaxy from the dining-room on the one and only night when her brother had not been with her. But the encounter did not long trouble her, and like warmth coming over frozen limbs, the fact of being here alone gave her a thrill of pleasure that surprised her. She was in his secret garden all by herself, without Charles to intrude his presence, without even Keeling himself. She did not want him here now; she was surrounded with him, and presently she plunged like some ecstatic diver into the work she had come to do for him. Soon the buzz of men’s conversation drifted past the door, prominent among which was Silverdale’s expressive and high-pitched voice, and without intention she found herself listening for Keeling’s. Then the murmur was cut off by the sound of a shutting door, and she went on with her work on the catalogue cards. Faint tinkles of a piano were heard as Alice performed several little pieces, faint{136} screams as Julia Fyson sang. Keeling was there, no doubt, and still she did not want him in his bodily presence. He was more completely with her in this room empty but for herself.

Alice Keeling had arrived at that stage of convalescence after her influenza when there is dawn on the wreck, and it seems faintly possible that the world will again eventually prove to contain more than temperature thermometers and beef-tea. She was going to leave Bracebridge with her mother next day for the projected fortnight at Brighton, and had tottered up and down the gravel path round the garden this morning for half an hour to accustom herself to air and locomotion again. While she was out, she had heard the telephone bell ring inside the house, a sound that always suggested to her nowadays an entrancing possibility, and this was confirmed when Parkinson came out to tell her that Mr Silverdale would like to speak to her. At that she ceased to totter: her feet positively twinkled on their way to the little round black ear of the machine. And the entrancing possibility was confirmed. Might Mr Silverdale drop in for the cup that cheered that afternoon? And was she better? And would she promise not to be naughty and get ill again? Indeed, she was vastly better on the moment, and said down the telephone in a voice still slightly hoarse, ‘I’m not naughty: me dood,{199}’ in the baby-dialect much affected by her and Mr Silverdale.An awful spirit of raillery seized the unfortunate woman. She would say something lightly and humorously, just to show she had nothing but goodwill towards Miss Propert; it should be quite in that felicitous comedy-style which had made the business of the slippers such a success.‘I should be very much gratified and honoured,’ he said.

‘Cope, Mamma,’ she said.‘I have ascertained that there is a break in it next Midsummer on both sides, notice to be given at Lady Day. The present owner had determined to put up their rent then, and the Committee, I believe, thought that quite reasonable. But he wants cash, and has instructed me to look out for a purchaser.’

‘I do subscribe to it, you know,’ he said.

‘Aren’t you going to shake hands?’ he asked.

‘Yes; and it was true before you were born or thought of,’ continued this terrible old lady. ‘Your father didn’t marry so much beneath him either. Ah, he was in a precious small way, he was, when he came a-courting your mother.’She did not move while the song continued, her hand still rested unconsciously on his sleeve, her eyes looked straight at him, demanding his companionship in that young joy of life that thrilled her no less than the bird. It was that in the main that possessed her, and yet, for that delicate intimate moment, she had instinctively (so instinctively that she was unaware of her choice) chosen him as her companion. She wanted to listen to the lark with him (or his coat) on her finger-tips. Her whole soul was steeped in the joyful hour, and it was with him she shared it: it was theirs, not hers alone.

Mrs Goodford gave a thin little laugh like a bat’s squeak.She smiled, or he thought she smiled, and that together with her reply enraged him.

Mrs Keeling in the passionless and oyster-like conduct of her life very seldom allowed any external circumstance to annoy her, and when she found on her arrival home this morning a note beside the crocodile in the hall saying that her mother proposed to come to lunch, it did not interfere with the few minutes’ nap that she always{19} allowed herself on Sunday morning after the pomp and fatigue of public worship. But it was a fact that her husband did not much care for his mother-in-law’s presence at his table, for as Mrs Keeling said, they were apt to worry each other, and consequently Mrs Goodford’s visits usually took place on week-days when Mr Keeling was at the Stores. But it did not ever so faintly enter her head to send round to say that she would not be at home for lunch, because, in the first place, she did not care sufficiently whether Mamma came or not, and in the second place, because there was not the slightest chance of Mamma’s believing her. The most she could do was to intercept any worrying by excessive geniality, and as they all sat down she remarked, pausing before she began to cut the roast beef,—‘Well, I call that beautiful,’ she said, ‘and if you’ll let me know when the funeral is, I’ll send a wreath.’

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