类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-09-25 10:01:30


‘I won’t hush. You did all those things, and what was a girl to make of them except what I made of them? I put the natural construction on them. And you know it.’

‘Yes, my dear lady, I did. “Ho! Every one that thirsteth!” That was the drink I had for them. Dear lads! They were too tipsy to kneel, but there were tears in the eyes of one of them, before they had been with me five minutes.’Alice guessed what he meant in a moment.This was slightly too daring an experiment for Alice, but she resolved to have a try in her bedroom that night.

‘All alone with you?’ said Mrs Keeling archly. ‘Well I’m sure! What did you talk about? or is it stupid of me to ask that?’It was this undoubtedly which had occurred in the domestic history of Keeling’s house. He had been infatuated with Emmeline’s prettiness at a time when as a young man of sternly moral principles and strong physical needs, the only possible course was to take a wife, while Emmeline, to tell the truth, had no voice in the matter at all. Certainly she had liked him, but of love in any ardent, compelling sense, she had never, in the forty-seven years of her existence, shown the smallest symptom in any direction whatever, and it was not likely that she was going to develop the malady now. She had supposed (and her mother quite certainly had supposed too) that she was going to marry somebody sometime, and when this strong and splendidly handsome young man insisted that she was going to marry him, she had really done little more than conclude that he must be right, especially when her mother agreed with him. Events had proved that as far as her part of the matter was concerned, she had{36} acted extremely wisely, for, since anything which might ever so indulgently be classed under the broad heading of romance, was foreign to her nature, she had secured the highest prize that life conceivably held for her in enjoying years of complete and bovine content. When she wanted a thing very much indeed, such as driving home after church on Sunday morning instead of walking, she generally got it, and probably the acutest of her trials were when John had the measles, or her husband and mother worried each other. But being almost devoid of imagination she had never thought that John was going to die of the measles or that her husband was going to cut off his annual Christmas present to her mother. Things as uncomfortable as that never really came near her; she seemed to be as little liable to either sorrow or joy as if when a baby she had been inoculated with some spiritual serum that rendered her permanently immune. She was fond of her children, her card-bearing crocodile in the hall, her husband, her comfort, and she quite looked forward to being Lady Mayoress next year. There would always be sufficient strawberries and iced coffee at her garden parties; her husband need not be under any apprehension that she would not have proper provision made. Dreadful scenes had occurred this year, when Mrs Alington gave her last garden-party, and two of her guests had been seen almost pulling the last strawberry in half.{37}‘Just Norah,’ he said.

An awful, an ill-inspired notion came into poor Mrs Keeling’s head. She determined on light good-humoured banter. Her intentions were excellent, her performance deplorable.‘Blow evensong!’ said Alice ecstatically. ‘Wasn’t that delicious of him. And the Pope, too; the thin end of the Pope. But how could father be so rude as to begin dictating about linoleum?’

Never had the clear glance lasted so long. He expanded and throve in it.‘So we’ll have no more talk of stale fish at my table,’ he said.

It was late: a long day’s work was behind him, another lay in front of him, and he went out turning the key in the lock. He hung it on one of the chamois-horns tipped with brass, that formed the hat-rack.‘Oh, Mr Keeling,’ she said. ‘You will surely be able to see them for yourself.’He went to his library and gave a more detailed perusal to what Lord Inverbroom had to say. It was a disagreeable letter to read, and he felt that the writing of it had been disagreeable to its author. It informed him that since Lord Inverbroom had put his name up for election into the County Club, he had become aware that there were a considerable number of members who would certainly vote against his election. Lord Inverbroom had spoken to various of these, but had not succeeded in mitigating their opposition and was afraid that his candidate would certainly not be elected. In these circumstances did Mr Keeling wish him to withdraw his name or not? He would be entirely guided by his wishes. He added a very simple and sincere expression of his regret at the course events had taken.

Mr Keeling regarded his wife with a faint twinkle lurking behind his gray eyes.Her successor, a rasping young woman with strong knuckles, proved herself very efficient, and before long she retired to the small room adjoining with her sheaf of shorthand notes. Her typewriting machine was already installed there, and soon the clack of the keys proclaimed her a swift worker. For a few minutes only the sound worried him: there was a new touch, a new note, (one that meant nothing to him except that it told him that his work was going forward) to get accustomed to. But very soon he was absorbed in the mass of affairs which his new venture brought with it. There was twelve years’ work before him: here he was in the first hour of it. It stretched endlessly away, but he gave no attention to the enormous perspective. All he desired was to attend to the immediate foreground; he would progress inch by inch, detail by detail, till the perspective began to grow. He would look neither forwards nor backwards.

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‘Yes; he usually comes with me in the evening,’ said Norah, ‘but he is in bed with a very bad cold.’

‘But it is to be so,’ he cried. ‘There’s no other{313} way out. We’ve found each other: do you think I am going to let us lose each other? There is no other way.’




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