类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-09-23 14:45:23


‘But it’s all so hopeless. There’s nothing left for me. All the things we planned together—

‘Why on earth not?’ she said. ‘I sit with him alone all day in his office. Besides, I know he has a dinner-party to-morrow. I shan’t see him.’‘I’ll leave my husband to starve you over the port afterwards,’ she said.She went to the window and brought back her strip of pomegranates.

She raised her eyes to his, quite in the secret garden manner, and she smiled not as she had smiled when she left him this morning.‘I shall not have the catalogue completed. And I shall insist on paying for what you have done. I shall get an estimate of your work made and a price fixed.{190}’By the time he recognised her, he too was recognised, and half way up the climbing path they met. She was carrying her hat in her hand, and the sunlit sparks of fire in her brown bright hair, that the wind had disordered into a wildness that greatly became her and the spirit of the spring morning. Her brisk walking had kindled a glow in her cheeks, and she was a little out of breath, for she had run down the path from the crest of slope beyond. Standing a step or two above him on the steep slope their eyes were on a level; as straight as an arrow’s fight hers looked into his.

‘That won’t be necessary,’ she said. ‘Book-plates will suit any volume except duodecimos. I don’t think you have any. If so, I could cut the margin down, sir. But I should like to submit my design to you before I cut the block.’‘I had the pleasure of speaking very warmly in your favour, Sir Thomas,’ said Lord Inverbroom, at length, ‘and, of course, of voting for you. I may tell you that I am now considering, in consequence of the election, whether I shall not resign the presidency of the Club. It is an unusual proceeding to reject the president’s candidate; I think your rejection reflects upon me.’

For the first time it occurred to him that she had a voice in the matter, that it was only fair{187} to her to suggest that she should give up these visits to his house altogether. He would not be there when she went, but she understood now (indeed she had understood long ago, when she made her entry into the dinner-party) that Mrs Keeling had, so to speak, her eye on them. It was due to Norah that she should be allowed to say whether she wanted that eye taken off her.‘It really all passed off very tolerably,’ she said; ‘do you not think so, my dear? And was it not gratifying? Just as the dear Princess shook hands with me for the second time before she drove away, holding my hand quite a long time, she said, “And I hear your friends will not call you Mrs Keeling very much longer.” Was not that delicately put? How common Lady Inverbroom looked beside her, but, after all, we can’t all be princesses. I was told by the lady-in-waiting, who was a very civil sort of woman indeed, that Her Royal Highness was going to stay with the poor Inverbrooms next month. I can hardly believe that: I should not think it was at all a likely sort of thing to happen, but I felt I really ought to warn Mrs{249}—I did not quite catch her name—what a very poor sort of dinner her mistress would get, if she fared no better than we did. But we must keep our ears open next month to find out if it really does happen, though I dare say we shall be the first to know, for after to-day Lady Inverbroom could scarcely fail to ask us to dine and sleep again.’

All afternoon they worked within a few yards of each other, all afternoon his accusing conscience battered at his pride; and as she rose to go when the day’s work was over, he capitulated. He stood up also, grim and stern to the view, but beset with a shy pathetic anxiety that she would accept his regrets.‘But, my darling,’ he said, ‘it is not our fault. It happened like that. God gave us hearts, did He not, and are we just to disobey what our hearts tell us? We belong to each other. What else can we do? Are we to eat our hearts out, you on one side of the table in that hell upstairs, I on the other? Don’t tell me that is the way out!

Keeling had ten days to wait for the Saturday when he and Norah were to visit the bluebells together. He knew with that certainty of the heart which utterly transcends the soundest conclusions of reason and logic that she loved him; it seemed, too, that it was tacitly agreed between them that some confession, some mutual revelation would then take place. That was to be the hour of their own, away from the office and the typewriting, and all those things which, though they brought them together, essentially sundered them. What should be said then, what solution could possibly come out of it all, he could form no notion. He ceased even to puzzle over it. Perhaps there was no solution: perhaps this relationship was just static.

{132}Mrs Keeling was almost too superb to speak even to Lord Inverbroom in the interval after lunch, when presentations were made before the Princess drove to the station again. But she could not continue not to speak to anybody any more because of this great exaltation, and she was full of bright things as she went home with her husband.

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It was but a few months ago that Mr Keeling, taking advantage of a break in the lease of his own house, and the undoubted bargain that he had secured in this more spacious residence, had bought the freehold of ‘The Cedars,’ and had given the furnishing and embellishment of it (naming the total sum not to be exceeded) into the hands of his wife and the head of the furnishing department in his stores. The Gothic porch, already there, had suggested a ‘scheme’ to the artistic Mr Bowman, and from it you walked into a large square hall of an amazing kind. On the floor were red encaustic tiles with blue fleurs-de-lis, and the walls and ceiling were covered with the most expensive and deeply-moulded Lincrusta-Walton paper of Tudor design with alternate crowns and portcullises. It was clearly inconvenient that visitors should be able to look in through the window that opened on the ‘carriage-sweep’; so Mr Bowman had arranged that it should not open at all, but be filled with sham{15} bottle-bottoms impervious to the eye. In front of it stood a large pitch-pine table to hold the clothings and impedimenta of out-of-doors, and on each side of it were chairs of Gothic design. The fireplace, also new, had modern Dutch tiles in it, and a high battlemented mantel-shelf, with turrets at the corners. For hats there was a mahogany hat-rack with chamois-horns tipped with brass instead of pegs, and on the Lincrusta-Walton walls were trophies of spears and battle-axes and swords. Mr Bowman would have left the hall thus in classic severity, but his partner in decoration here intervened, and insisted on its being made more home-like. To secure this she added a second table on which stood a small stuffed crocodile rampant holding in his outstretched forelegs a copper tray for visitors’ calling cards. Mrs Keeling was very much pleased with this, considering it so quaint, and when her friends called, it often served as the header-board from which they leaped into the sea of conversation. The grate of the fire-place, empty of fuel, in this midsummer weather, was filled with multitudinous strips of polychromatic paper with gilt threads among it, which streamed from some fixed point up in the chimney, and suggested that a lady with a skirt covered with ribbons had stuck in the chimney, her head and body being invisible. By the fireplace Mrs Keeling had placed a painted wheelbarrow with a gilt spade, containing fuchsias in{16} pots, and among the trophies of arms had inserted various Polynesian aprons of shells and leather thongs brought back by her father from his voyages; these the outraged Mr Bowman sarcastically allowed ‘added colour’ about which there was no doubt whatever. Beyond this hall lay a farther inner one, out of which ascended the main staircase furnished (here again could be traced Mr Bowman’s chaste finger) with a grandfather’s clock, and reproductions of cane-backed Jacobean chairs. From this opened a big drawing-room giving on the lawn at the back, and communicating at one end with Mrs Keeling’s ‘boudoir.’ These rooms, as being more exclusively feminine, were inspired in the matter of their decoration by Mrs Keeling’s unaided taste; about them nothing need be said beyond the fact that it would take any one a considerable time to ascertain whether they contained a greater number of mirrors framed in plush and painted with lilies, or of draped pictures standing at angles on easels. Saddlebag chairs, damask curtains, Landseer prints, and a Brussels carpet were the chief characteristics of the dining-room.He knew this to be a sound and sensible plan, but he did not in the least wish to assent to it. In the first place, it would look as if he{160} acknowledged some basis of reason in his wife’s attitude the evening before; in the second place, he would no longer have those half-hours after dinner in his library with Norah and her brother. He knew that they had become the pearl of the day to him.

It was nearly a month since the Sunday afternoon when he had held conference with the two Properts here. He had gone back to his office on the following Monday morning, feeling that he had shown a human side to Norah. She had done the same to him: she had talked to ‘Mr{116} Keeling’; not to ‘sir’; there was some kind of communication between them other than orders from an employer to an employed, and obedience, swift and deft from the employed to the employer. When he arrived at the office, punctual to nine o’clock, with a large post awaiting his perusal, he had found she had not yet come, and had prepared a little friendly speech to her on the lines of Mr Keeling. She arrived not five minutes afterwards, and he had consciously enjoyed the sound of her steps running along the passage, from the lift. But when she entered she had no trace of the previous afternoon.




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