2021-04-17 01:33:46

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ENGLISH

Is that just to be filed? she said, or is there any answer?

He paused, leaving unfinished the sentence he was dictating, and sat there silent, not daring to look at her. He still felt she despised him, and now with additional reason; he resented the fact that any one should do that, his pride choked him, and yet he was ashamed. But oh, the contrast between this very uncomfortable moment, and the comfortable evenings with Emmeline!

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Yes, sir.

"The curious feature of the revolution which established the Mikado on his throne, and made him the ruler of the whole country is thisthat[Pg 98] the movement was undertaken to prevent the very things it has brought about."

He had grown to detest the time after dinner passed in the plushy, painted drawing-room. Hitherto, in all these years of increasing prosperity, during which the conscious effort of his brain had been directed to business and money-making, he had not objected after the work of the day to pass a quiescent hour or two before his early bedtime giving half an ear to his wifes babble, which, with her brain thickened with refreshment, always reached its flood-tide of voluble incoherence now, giving half an eye to Alice with her industrious{291} needle. All the time a vague simmer of mercantile meditation gently occupied him; his mind, like some kitchen fire with the damper pushed in, kept itself just alight, smouldered and burned low, and Alices needle was but like the bars of the grate, and his wifes prattle the mild rumble of water in the boiler. It was all domestic and normal, in accordance with the general destiny of prosperous men in middle age. Indeed, he was luckier in some respects than the average, for there had always been for him his secret garden, the hortus inclusus, into which neither his family nor his business interests ever entered. Now even that had been invaded, Norahs catalogue had become to him the most precious of his books: she was like sunshine in his secret garden or like a bitter wind, something, anyhow, that got between him and his garden beds, while here in the drawing-room in the domestic hour after dinner the fact of her made itself even more insistently felt, for she turned Lady Keelings vapidities, to which hitherto he had been impervious, into an active stinging irritation, and even poor Alices industrious needle and the ever-growing pattern of Maltese crosses on Mr Silverdales slippers was like some monotonous recurring drip of water that set his nerves on edge. This was a pretty state of mind, he told himself, for a hardheaded business man of fifty, and yet even as with all the force of resolution that was in him he tried to find something{292} in his wifes remarks that could awake a relevant reasonable reply, some rebellious consciousness in his brain would only concern itself with counting on the pink clock the hours that lay between the present moment and nine oclock next morning. And then the pink clock melodiously announced on the Westminster chime that it was half past ten, and Alice put her needle into the middle of the last Maltese cross, and Lady Keeling waddled across the room and tapped the barometer, which a marble Diana held in her chaste hand, to see if the weather promised well for the bazaar to-morrow. The evening was over, and there would not be another for the next twenty-four hours.Mark my words, said his wife, Lord Inverbrooms at the bottom of it all.Then they called upon the Doctor for a contribution, original or selected, with this result:

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Its my Helper, he cried, my sly little Helper. Then pushing back his chair, he took off his evening shoes, and putting on the slippers went solemnly round the table, saying to each of his hosts and fellow-guests, May I introduce you to my slippers? But when he came to Alice he said, I think you and my slippers have met before! There was never anything so deliciously playful.... But when he had padded back to his place, Keeling saw poor Alices eye go wandering, looking at every one in turn round that festive table except{308} Master. Finally, for one half second, her eye rested on him, and Keeling, as one of those who run, could read, and his heart went out to poor Alice. She was prodigiously silly, yet that one self-revealing glance decorated her. She loved, and that distinguished and dignified her.

WORKING UP A RECKONING. WORKING UP A RECKONING.With this remark he rose and walked away. It was agreed that there was a certain air of improbability about his narrations, and Frank ventured the suggestion that the stranger would never get into trouble on account of telling too much truth.Well, talking of waste of time, observed Lady Keeling indignantly, I cant think of any worse waste than caring to know what Miss Propert said.

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Apr-17 01:33:46