2021-04-17 01:07:18

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ENGLISH I am late, sir, she said. I am exceedingly sorry.

He was half disappointed, half pleased. But, wisely, he gave up the idea of conveying to her that there was anything more than business for him in her working among his books. If she understood that her handling them, her passing hours in his room, her preparing his catalogue was something so utterly different from what it would have been if any one else was doing it for him, she would have found the hint of that in what he had said. If she did notwell, it was exactly there that the disappointment came in. He pulled his chair a little nearer to the table again, where his work lay.

Mrs Keeling paid no attention to this: she hardly heard.

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No excuse necessary, my lord, said Keeling. Please take a chair.

There was a moon somewhere above the snow-clouds that already were beginning to grow thin from the burden they had discharged, and the smug villas on each side of the road were clearly visible. She had to go up the length of Alfred Road, then turn down the street that led by St Thomass Vicarage, and emerge into West Street, where she lived with her brother. Already, a fortnight ago he had ascertained the number of their house, not asking for it directly, but causing her to volunteer the information, and since then he had half a dozen times gone through the street, on his way to and from the Stores in order to take a glance at it as he passed. He had wanted to know what the house looked like; he had wanted to construct the circumstances of her life, to know the aspect of her environment, to see the front-door out of which she came to her duties as his secretary. That all concerned her, and for that reason it concerned him. He knew the house well by now: he knew from chance remarks that he had angled for that her bedroom looked into the street, that Charless looked on to an old{154} disused graveyard behind. There was the dining-room and the sitting-room in front, and a paling behind which Michaelmas daisies flourished in a thin row. She cared for flowers, but not for flowers in a six-inch bed. They rather provoked her: they were playing at being flowers. She liked them when they grew in wild woodland spaces, and were not confined between a house-wall and a row of tiled path.

Thank you so much, Mr Keeling, she said.{127} I shall be delighted to let you have the block if you feel like that about it. I will bring it back with me to-morrow, shall I?

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Then he began dictating to her something about linoleums. But Ive not done with him yet. The dear man! Ill plague his life out for him if youll only help me.He shook hands with her and Alice, just whispering to the latter, Thank you once more, and went out with his host. Through the open window of the drawing-room they could hear him whistling Oh, happy band of pilgrims, as he ran lightly along Alfred Road to be scolded by his housekeeper.Trust Hugh for not agreeing with anything he doesnt understand, she said.

Now Mrs Keeling had a very high opinion of her powers of tact and intuition. Here was a situation that promised to drive the final nail into the cheap and flimsy coffin of Mrs Fysons hopes. Mr Silverdale had come to tea all alone with Alice, and here was Alice writing him a note that required an answer not half an hour afterwards. Her intuition instantly told her that Mr Silverdale had made a proposal of marriage to Alice, and that Alice had written to him saying that he must allow her a little time to think it over. (Why Alice should not have said that, or why Alice should not have instantly accepted him, her intuition did not tell her.) But it was certain that no other grouping of surmises would fit the facts. Then her intuition having done its work, though bursting with curiosity she summoned her tact to her aid, and began to talk about the spiders web again. She was determined not to pry into her daughters heart, but wait for her daughter to open the door of it herself. Alice (and this only served to confirm Mrs Keelings conjectures) responded instantly to this tactful treatment, and began to talk so excitedly about the spiders web, and the plush monkey, and their journey to Brighton next day, that Mrs Keeling almost began to be afraid that she was feverish again. But presently this volubility died down, and she{220} sat, so Mrs Keeling rightly conjectured, listening for something. Once she was certain that she heard steps in the next room, and went to see if her father had come in: once she was almost sure that the telephone bell had rung, and wondered who it could be disturbing them at their chat over the fire. Then, without doubt, the telephone bell did ring, and on this occasion she pretended she had not heard it, but hurriedly left the room on the pretext of taking her tonic. She left the door open, and Mrs Keeling could distinctly hear her asking her tonic apparently who it was, though well aware that it was strychnine.... Then after a pause she heard her thanking her tonic ever ever so much, and she came back looking as if it had done her a great deal of good already.Kind of you, remarked Charles. My{95} sister designed and cut a book-plate for him, sir.

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Apr-17 01:07:18