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    时间:<2020-07-11 16:15:05 作者:Gj异世系统王JdV 浏览量:9777

    I forget. I dont think I saw.】【

    Keeling looked at him with perfectly blank eyes.Then, while still the industrious press-cutters had not yet come to the end of those appetising morsels, the packets on her breakfast table swelled{261} in size again, and she was privileged to read over and over again that the honour of a baronetcy had been conferred on her husband. She did not mind how often she read this; all the London papers reproduced the gratifying intelligence, and though the wording in most of these was absolutely identical, repetition never caused the sweet savour to cloy on her palate. She was like a girl revelling in chocolate-drops; though they all tasted precisely alike, each tasted delicious, and she felt she could go on eating them for ever. Even better than those stately clippings from the great London luminaries were the more detailed coruscations of the local press. They gave biographies of her husband, magnanimously suppressing the fish-shop, and dwelling only on the enterprise which had made and the success which had crowned the Stores, and many (these were the sweetest of all) gave details about herself and her parentage and the number of her children. She was not habitually a great reader, only using books as a soporific till they tumbled from her drowsy grasp, but now she became a wakeful and enthusiastic student. The whole range of literature, since the days of primeval epics, had never roused in her one tithe of the emotion that those clippings afforded.It was a crisp morning, with touches of frost lingering in shadowed places where the warmth of the primrose-coloured winter sunshine had not reached them, and Norah preferred walking to taking the bus that would have set her down at the corner where Alfred Street became Alfred Road. She was keenly sensitive to the suggestion of brisk sunshine or the depression of heavy weather, but the kindly vigour of this winter morning did{192} not wholly account for the exhilaration and glee of her blood. There was more than that in it: the drench of a December gale would hardly have affected her to-day. As she went, she let herself examine for the first time the conditions that for the last six weeks had caused her every morning to awake with the sense of pleasure and eager anticipation of the ensuing day. Hitherto she had diverted her mind from causes, and been contented with effects. Her office-work (that work which had begun so distastefully) pleased and interested her, her catalogue work enthralled her, and now she turned round the corner, so to speak, of herself, and asked herself why this sunshine was spread over all she did.

    I suppose that is bigger than my fathers, Miss Propert.

    I think so. As you said to me the other day, sir, good work is always cheap in comparison with bad work.Did you ask for any more invitations? said Keeling, as his wife paused for breath.

    Decidedly there was something here that Mrs Keeling did not wholly comprehend, and when she did not comprehend she called it being kept in the dark. She comprehended, however, that Norah was exceedingly good-looking, and that there was a certain air about her, which she supposed came from reading books. Simultaneously she remembered Mrs Fyson asking her who it was who had come in and passed into Mr Keelings library; and on being informed that lady had said, How very odd, and at once changed the subject. Instantly she began to consider if it was very odd. But for the present she determined that nothing should mar the perfect behaviour of the Mayoress.Outwardly the days passed precisely as usual. They had made their appointment, and no further allusion or reminder was necessary. Each evening brought nearer the hour of azure in that hollow among the empty downs, and he desired neither to shorten nor to lengthen out the days that separated him from it. But to him everything, except that moment, regular but rarely recurring, when her eye sought his with need and love in it,{298} seemed dream-like and unsubstantial. Nothing had power either to vex or please him. He was, as always, busy all day, and transacted his own or municipal business with all his usual thoroughness and acute judgment. But it all went on outside him; the terra-cotta cupolas which his industry had reared in the market-place were as unreal as the new system of drainage in the lower part of the town, which he had exerted all his influence to get carried through the obdurate conservatism that pointed to the low-death rate of Bracebridge under the old conditions. He got his way; all his life he had been accustomed to dominate and command and organise. Then when his days work was done, and he returned home for dinner and the ensuing hours, which lately had been so intolerable, he found they irritated him no longer, and the fatuous drip of his wifes conversation was no more to him than some gutter that discharged not into his house but into the street outside. Simply he cared nothing for it, nor, when his failure to get elected to the County Club occurred to him, did he care: it appeared to have happened, but it must have happened to some stranger. Sometimes, before the pink clock announced that it was half-past ten, he would leave the drawing-room and go to his library, to see whether in his books there was to be found anything that stimulated his reactions {299}towards life. But they had no message: they were dumb or he was deaf. Even the catalogue showed no sign of life: it was Norahs work, of course, but it was not Norah.Ah, I knew I had guessed, she said. And perhaps Miss Properts right, for it is always best to be friendly with everybody even if they do behave shabbily. I have always found Miss Propert very sensible and well-behaved, and if she and her brother are coming to see your books on Sunday afternoon, Thomas, and you like to bring them in to tea, you will find me most civil and pleasant to them both. There! And now I think Alice and I will be getting to bed. Dear me, its after eleven already. Time flies so, when you are enjoying yourself.

    She could not improve on that either for silliness or pathetic sincerity, and unable to contemplate the delay which the post would entail, she gave it to the boy covered with buttons to carry it at once by hand to the Vicarage and wait for an answer. That would take half an hour: there were thirty delicious minutes of suspense, for though she did not doubt the purport of his answer, it was thrilling to have to wait for it.{217}From the mere habit of pawing, he laid his hand on hers.

    Norah brought him over the typed letter.

    Oh, I hope so, said Alice, extending her long neck over her embroidery.Perhaps you would tell me something about him, he said.

    He took it up.

    He let her out into the snow, and felt that fire went with her; then returned to the drawing-room where he found unquestionable ice. Little sour wreaths of mist were already afloat in Mrs Keelings mind, which, though not yet condensed into actual thought, were chilling down to it in that narrow receptacle. Alice took her embroidery, and went upstairs, but his wife sat rather upright by the fire, looking at the evening paper which she held upside down. She meant to behave with perfect propriety again, but wished him to begin, so as to launch her propriety on a fair and even keel.

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