2021-04-14 12:29:44

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ENGLISH I am late, sir, she said. I am exceedingly sorry.Yes, my dear, and you from church. I sat in the nave, if you want to know, and came out before the sermon.So that he may have the pleasure of seeing you through another one this year, remarked Norah.

It was not only in matters of office work, of swift shorthand, of impeccable typewriting that she was of use to him. She guessed that he found in her a companionship that Mrs Keeling with her pearl-pendant and her propriety could not supply. Norah knew all about the pearl-pendant: Mrs Keeling had told her, as it wagged at her throat, that her husband had given it her on her birthday, and was it not handsome? It was tremendously handsome: there was no doubt whatever about that. But the pearl-pendant mattered to Norah exactly as much as did the cheque which she had just{197} been given. It mattered less, indeed: it did not express anything.Theres a very serious state of affairs, he said. We have a heavy deficit this last year, and unless we can find some means of raising money, we shall have to abandon the building of that new wing, which we began in the spring. Im glad to say that was not my fault, else I shouldnt have ventured to come to you, for I only became chairman a couple of months ago. Now we are going to have the honour of having you for our Mayor next year, and I wanted to consult you as to whether you thought it possible that the town would lend us a sum of money to enable us to complete this new wing, which, in my opinion, is essential for the proper establishment of the hospital. Would such a scheme have your support? The Committee is meeting, as I said, in half an hour, and, if possible, I should like to be able to tell them that some such project is, or will be, under consideration.CHAPTER III

Next moment Lord Inverbroom entered. He was small and spare and highly finished in face, and wore extraordinarily shabby clothes, of which no one, least of all himself, was conscious.

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She had his letters opened for him with her usual speed, but as she worked he could see by the soft creased line between her eyebrows, even as he{158} had seen it yesterday morning, when she was anxious about her brother, that something troubled her. To-day, however, he did not question her: she might tell him if she felt disposed, and guessing that it was connected with the events of last night, his instinct told him that it was for her to speak or be silent. Then, when she had opened the letters, she placed them by him, and without a word, took up her writing-block and pencil for the shorthand dictation. But still her brow did not clear, the smudge of shadow lay perpendicularly between her eye-brows, as fixed as if it was some soft pencil mark on the skin.The pretentious solemnity of this was not lost on Norahs sense of humour. She was rather annoyed at the whole affair, but it was absurd not to see the lighter side of it, and answer accordingly.She looked at the cheque.

You said, With Alice here too,. he said. Oblige me by telling me what you mean.Mrs Keelings party that night, which sat down very punctually at half-past seven, and would disperse at half-past ten, was of the only-a-few-friends nature. Julia Fyson, Alices bosom friend, whom she had begun to dislike very cordially, was there, with her father and mother, the former, small and depressed, the latter, large and full-blooded and of a thoroughly poisonous nature. The four Keelings were there, and the extremely ladylike young woman whom Hugh had lately led to the altar. She was a shade too lady-like,{134} if anything, and never forgot to separate her little finger from the others when she was holding a cup or glass. They were ten in all, Mr Silverdale and Dr Inglis completing the number. As was usual at the table of that generous housekeeper Mrs Keeling, there were vast quantities of nitrogenous food provided in many courses, and it was not till nine that the dining-room door was opened, on the run, by Mr Silverdale to let the ladies leave the room. He made a suitable remark to each as she passed him, and Julia Fyson and Alice, with waists and arms interlaced, stopped to talk to him as they went out. Precisely at that moment, while they were all in the Gothic hall together, the boy covered with buttons opened the front door and admitted Norah Propert. The door into the dining-room was still being held wide by Silverdale, as the interlaced young ladies answered his humorous laments over the setting of the sun now that the ladies were leaving, and through it Keeling standing at the head of the table saw Norah there. She had had but one moment for thought as the front-door was opened to her, but the light from the hall streamed full on to the step and she judged it better to come in than, having been already seen, retreat again. Without looking up she walked across to the library door while still Mrs Fyson stared, and let herself in. She heard the dining-room door opposite close again while she fumbled for the switch of{135} the electric light; she heard indistinguishable murmurs from the hall. Only one caught her ear intelligibly when Mrs Keeling said, Oh, Mr Keelings typewriter. She is cataloguing his books.

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Apr-14 12:29:44