2021-04-18 09:36:23

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ENGLISH

Alice was not of a prevaricating or deceptive nature, but having suddenly remembered that her mother was opening a bazaar that afternoon, and would not be back for tea, she gaily hastened to forget that again, for the chance of having tea alone with Mr Silverdale must not be jeopardised by such infinitesimal proprieties. She hastened also to forget to tell her mother that he had proposed himself, and only remembered to change her dress after lunch for something more becoming. She choose with a view to brightening herself up a daring red gown, which made her, by contrast, look rather whiter than the influenza had really left her. But she did not mind that: it was obviously out of the question to look in rosy and blooming health, and the best alternative was to appear interestingly pale. She remembered also to order hot buns for tea, though the idea of eating one in her present state was provocative of a shuddering qualm, and having her mother safely off the premises, sat waiting in Mrs Keelings boudoir ready to ring for tea as soon as her visitor appeared. Punctually the sound of the front-door bell, and according to his custom, he came running across the drawing-room, tapped at the boudoir door, and peeped in, his head alone appearing.She fingered the edge of the table, and with her instinct for tidiness, put straight a couple of papers that lay there.He said they might all do what they liked, out of their work hours, but he couldnt have them encroached on. I was tempted to give him a good rap with my shepherds crook, but there was a lady present. So I appealed to her for her assistance in persuading him.

His conduct and appearance during the service had aroused her interest, for he wore a richly coloured stole and a very short surplice, had bowed{8} in the direction of the east window as he walked up the chancel, and had made a very deep obeisance somewhere in the middle of the Creed, when everybody else stood upright. Somehow there was a different atmosphere about him from that which surrounded the grim and austere Dr Inglis, something in the pale face and in a rapt expression which she easily read into his eyes, that made her mentally call him priest-like rather than clergyman-like. Like most young women in whom the destiny of old-maid is unrolling itself, Alice had a strong potentiality for furtive romance, and while the pains of hell were being enunciated to her inattentive ears, her short-sighted eyes were fixed on Mr Silverdale, and she began to think of Lord Tennysons poem of Galahad who was unmarried too.... She was so far lost in this that the rustle of the uprising congregation at the end of the sermon, reached her belatedly, and she rose in a considerable hurry, filling up the gap in this tall barrier of Keelings. She and her mother were not less than five feet ten in height, Johns inches had already outsoared them both, while her father and Hugh, each a full six feet of solid stuff, completed the substantial row. By one of Natures unkindest plans the sons were handsome, the daughter plain, but all had the self-reliant quality of size about them. A hymn followed, while the offertory, which Mr Keeling helped to collect in serge-lined open mahogany plates, was in progress,{9} and the blessing, pronounced by Mr Silverdale, who made an odd movement in the air with his right hand, brought the service to a close.Charles Propert, who presently arrived from the kitchen-passage in charge of the boy in buttons, was one of those who well knew his employers generosity, for Keeling in a blunt and shamefaced way had borne all the expense of a long illness which had incapacitated him the previous winter, not only continuing to pay him his salary as head of the book department at the stores during the weeks in which he was invalided, but taking{40} on himself all the charges for medical treatment and sea-side convalescence. He was an exceedingly well-educated man of two or three-and-thirty, and Keeling was far more at ease with him than with any other of his acquaintances, because he frankly enjoyed his society. He could have imagined himself sitting up till midnight talking to young Propert, because he had admitted him into the secret garden: Propert might indeed be described as the head gardener. Keeling nodded as the young man entered, and from under his big eyebrows observed that he was dressed entirely in black.He was silent a moment.

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The remembrance of this odious suggestion was the only thing that seemed to cloud the serenity of Mrs Keelings horizon: indeed it scarcely did that, and corresponded rather to a very slight fall in the barometer, though no signs of untoward weather were anywhere visible. She did not often think of it, but she knew that it had not (like so many more important things) entirely vanished from her mind, and when she did think of it, it produced this slight declension from weather otherwise set fair. But immediately afterwards her thistle-down reflections would flutter away to the pearl-pendant, the Inverbroom visit, and the baronetage.

I expect I see your point, she said. I will go.

I was waiting till you had finished, Mamma! she permitted herself to observe.

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I vewy sowwy, he said. I be dood to-morrow!You said that twice before, she said. And I dont believe you care a bit.

Dear lady, he said. Go on with your Protestant exhortations. I have been exhorting all afternoon, and I am so tired of my own exhortations. We will listen, and try to agree with you, wont we, Miss Alice?And a book-worm like you? he asked.The dying flame flickered up again.

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Apr-18 09:36:23