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They drove on a little way in silence, for Mrs Keeling’s utterance got a little choked up with pride and gratification, like a congested gutter, and in all her husband’s mental equipment there was nothing that could be responsive to these futilities. They evoked nothing whatever in him; he had not the soil from which they sprang, which Mrs Keeling had carted into her own psychical garden in such abundance since she had become Lady Mayoress. 长沙桑拿水磨 Besides, for the present there{250} was nothing real to him, not the lunch, not the public recognition, not the impending Club election, except that moment when he had fixed Norah’s glance, drawn it to himself as on an imperishable thread across the crowded rooms, when he rose to reply. He almost wished his wife would go on talking again: her babble seemed to build a wall round him, which cutting him off by its inanity from other topics that might engage him, left him alone with Norah. Very soon his wish was fully gratified.

‘How one frightens oneself

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for no reason,’ she said. ‘I declare when the Princess came up the steps, I was ready to run away. But it all passed in a moment, and by the time I had said, “Your favourite flowers, ma’am,”—did I tell you I said, “Your favourite flowers, ma’am?” and she gave me such a 长沙桑拿休闲论坛 sweet smile, I felt as if I had known her for years. There are some sorts of people with whom I feel at home at once, and that was how I felt this morning. It must be very pleasant always to go about such people, and I declare I quite envied her lady-in-waiting, though if I was she I should certainly have something done to my teeth. I must run round and see Mamma this afternoon, and I should not wonder if I paid a few calls as well, for I am sure everybody will be pining to know what the Princess said all the time we were having a talk together over our coffee. I

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must try to recollect every word of that, though{251} I am sure I shall find difficulty in doing so, for we chattered away as if we had known each other all our lives.’

‘I dare say you will recollect it very well, my dear,’ said he, ‘if you give your mind to it. And 长沙桑拿洗浴全套会所 if you cannot remember you can make it up.’

‘Well, if that isn’t a rude speech! But perhaps you’re tired, Thomas, with all this grandeur. For me, I never felt fresher in my life: it comes quite natural to me.’

‘No, I am not the least tired,’ he said. ‘As soon as I have changed my clothes, I shall go down to my office.’

‘Pray leave that for another day. I cannot bear to think of your demeaning yourself with business after what we have been doing: I do not think it is quite respectful to the Princess.’

Suddenly the babble that he had rather welcomed became intolerable. It had cut him off from the world, as if some thick swarm of flies had settled outside the window, utterly obscuring the outlook. Now, in a moment the window seemed to have been opened, and they swarmed in, buzzing about and settling on him.

‘And where should 长沙桑拿洗浴全套价格 we have been if I hadn’t demeaned myself with business?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t the new wing of the hospital and your pearl pendant, and your chatting like an old friend to a Princess all come out of my demeaning myself?{252}’

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

‘And if she does come to stay with the Inverbrooms,’ she said, ‘I have no doubt she will express a wish to take lunch with us. We must see about getting a butler, Thomas. Parkinson is a good servant, but I should not like it to be known at court that I only kept a parlour maid.’

The carriage had stopped at the Gothic porch, and Keeling got out.

‘I will promise to let you have twenty butlers on the day she lunches with us,’ he said. ‘Come, get out, Emmeline, and take care how you walk. There’s something gone to your head. It may be champagne or it may be the Princess. I suspect it’s the Princess, and you’re intoxicated. Go indoors, and sleep it off, and let me find you sober at dinner-time. Take my arm.’

‘My dear, what things you say! I am ashamed of you, though I know it’s only your fun. The carriage must wait for me. I shall pay a call or two and then take a drive through the town. I think the citizens would feel it to be my duty to do that.’

Keeling found that Norah had got back to his office when he arrived, and was busy at the typewriting of the letters he had dictated to her that morning. She was in the little room opening off his, and the door was shut, but her presence was{253} indicated by the muffled clacking of her machine. That sound was infinitely more real to him than what he thought of as ‘the flummeries’ of the day, and he was far more interested in how she would take the divulging of the donor’s name than how all the rest of the town would take it. The significance which it held for him on account of the honour that would come to him, or on account of this matter of his election to the Club, mattered nothing in comparison to how she took it. He was determined to make no allusion to it himself, he would leave it to her to state the revision of her views about his support of the hospital.

While he waited for the completion of her work, he occupied himself with businesses that demanded his scrutiny, but all the while his ear was pricked to listen to the sound of her typewriting machine, or rather to listen for the silence of its cessation, for that would mean that Norah would presently come in with the letters for his signature. There was nothing in his work that demanded a close grip of his mind, and beneath the mechanical attention that he gave it, memory like some deep-water undertow was flowing on its own course past the hidden subaqueous landscape. There was a whole stretch of scenery there out of sight of the surface of his life. Till she had come into it, there was no man who possessed less of a secret history: he had his hobby of books as all the world knew, his blameless domestic conduct, his hard{254} Puritan morality and religion, his integrity and success in money-making and keen business faculty. That was all there was to him. But now he had dived below that, yet without making any break in the surface. All that he had done and been before continued its uninterrupted course; his life beneath the deep waters did not make itself known by as much as a bubble coming to the surface.

Gradually, while still his ear was alert to catch the silence next door which would show that Norah had finished her work, his surface-faculties moved more slowly and drowsily. The page he was reading, concerning some estimate, lay long unturned before him, and his eye ceased to travel along the lines that no longer conveyed any meaning to him. It was not the ceremony of to-day that occupied him, nor the moment when all Bracebridge knew that it was he who had made this munificent gift. Those things formed but the vaguest of backgrounds, in which too a veiled hatred of his wife was mingled: in front of that grey mist was the sunlit windy down, the skylark, the tufts of blue-bell foliage, and the companionship which gave them all their significance. And how significant, he now asked himself, were these same things to his companion? Did they mean anything to her because of him? True, she had silently and unconsciously taken him into her confidence when they listened together{255} to the sky-lost song, but would not anybody else, her brother for instance, have done just as well? Did her heart want him? He had no answer to that.

And what, if it was possible to introduce the hard angles of practical issues into these suffused dimnesses, was to be the end or even the continuation of this critical yet completely uneventful history? All the conduct, the habit, the traditions of his life were in utter discord with it. If he looked at it, even as far as it had gone, in the hard dry light which hitherto had guided him in his life, he could hardly think it credible that it was the case of Thomas Keeling which was under his scrutiny. But even more unconjecturable was the outcome. He could see no path of any sort ahead. If by some chance momentous revelation he knew that she wanted him with that quality of wanting which was his, what would happen? His whole reasonable and upright self revolted from the idea of clandestine intrigue, and with hardly 长沙桑拿哪里好玩 less emphasis did it reject the idea of an honest, open, and deplorable break-up of his well-earned reputation and respectability. He could not really contemplate either course, but of the two the first was a shade the farther away from the confines of possibility. And if some similar revelation told him that he was nothing to Norah beyond a kind, just employer with certain tastes and perceptions akin to her own? There was no path{256} there either: he could not see how to proceed…. But he experienced no sense of self-censure in having got himself into this impossible place. It had not been his fault: only those who were quite ignorant of the nature of love could blame him for loving. A fish who did not need the air might as well say to a drowning man, ‘It is quite unnecessary to breathe; you have only to make a determined 长沙桑拿哪里便宜 effort, and convince yourself that you needn’t breathe. Look at me: I don’t breathe, and I swim about in the utmost comfort. It is very wrong to breathe!’

Then suddenly all surmise and speculation was expunged from his mind, for no longer the clack of the typewriting machine came from next door. He heard the stir of a chair pushed back, and the rattle of a door handle. Norah was coming; who was of greater concern than all his thoughts about her…. And he was going to give her no quarter: she would have to introduce the subject of her feelings with regard to his niggardly hospital-subscription herself. He knew something of her pride from the affair of the book-plate, and he longed to see her take that armour off.

He looked rather grimly at his watch.

‘You are rather late,’ he said.

Apparently the breast-plate was not 长沙桑拿哪里最好 to be taken off just yet. She answered him as she had not answered him for many weeks.{257}

‘I am afraid I am, sir,’ she said. ‘But you kindly invited me to go to the luncheon and the opening of the new wing. I have been working ever since.’

He delighted in her, in the astonishing irony of her calling him ‘sir’ again. He had deserved it too, for he had spoken to her with the old office manner.

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