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“But he probably wasn’t!” she screamed. “Mine wasn’t, he was the wicked https://www.sungjimedi.com one, you know, and did awful things. Much worse than Mrs. Osborne’s probably ever dreamed of. Mrs. Osborne’s great-grandfather would certainly have cut mine, if he had had the chance——”

“He wouldn’t have had the chance,” remarked May. “And also Mrs. Osborne herself would cut nobody, who would—would lend lustre to her house. Oh, Dora, let’s stop. It isn’t any good. You are a democrat, and a radical and a socialist, and really it doesn’t matter.{38} Besides I haven’t seen you for—oh, well, nearly twenty-four hours. What has happened?”

Dora got up.

“I don’t think I can stop,” she said. “Because I want to know what you really think about certain things. Two heads are better than one, you know, even when mine is one of them. Oh, by the way, Austell has let Grote to the Osbornes. They have taken it for seven years from the end of July. It was mother’s doing I think. I—oh, May, you may call me a radical and a socialist and anything else you choose, but I can’t quite see Mrs. Osborne there. She’ll fill it with plush. I know she will. After all, I expect mother is right. I suppose it is better to pay some of your debts, and have other people putting plush monkeys into your house than go on as Austell has been doing. I expect I should be just the same if he was my son instead of my brother. It doesn’t seem to matter much what one’s brother does, as long as he doesn’t wear his hair long, or cheat at cards. But I daresay it’s different if he’s your son.”

Dora gave a great sigh, and was silent. In spite of that series of statements which had led May Thurston, quite reasonably, to call her a radical and a socialist, there was some feeling within her, rather more intimate, rather more herself, that made her dislike the idea of the Osbornes living in Grote, which had always been her home. The Austell finances, especially for the past two or three years, had been precarious, and though her mother had a jointure that would enable her and Dora to live quite comfortably in her house in Eaton Place, and at the little bungalow at Deal, it had been necessary before{39} now to let the house in Eaton Place during the months of the season, and live at Deal, and to let the bungalow at Deal (it was of the more spacious sort) during August and September, and encamp, so to speak, in a corner of Grote. For Jim Austell, her brother, it could not be denied, was not a person who could possibly be described as dependable. His mother had made the most prolonged attempt to describe him as such, but without success, and she had at length seen the futility of clinging to Grote, a huge Jacobean mansion with an enormous park. In the latter, being of sandy soil, a public golf links had been started, which brought in £192 a year, while neighbouring farmers grazed their beasts on other portions. The total receipts, however, about paid for the flower beds and the trimming of the exquisite bank of rhododendrons that grew round the lake, and after a year or so of trial, the scheme had been pronounced financially unsound, and for the last six months the place had been in search of a tenant. Austell had hoped that his well-known skill at bridge and his knowledge of horses might save him from the extremity of letting it. In this he had been disappointed; they had but contributed to the speed at which it was necessary to do so.

All this, which was part of the habitual environment of Dora’s mind, part of the data under which she lived, passed through it or was presented to it, like a familiar picture, in the space of the sigh that concluded her last speech. It was no longer any use thinking about these things; Grote had been let to the Osbornes, the bungalow at Deal had also been let for August, and till September she and her mother were going to “live in their boxes.{40}” After all, they had done that, as everybody else had, often before, and for much longer periods than one month, but it was the first time that they had been compelled to live in their boxes with no house (except Eaton Place in August) to flee unto. And, at this moment the change struck Dora. For week after week before now, she had stayed with friends, knowing (though not thinking of it) that all the time there was home behind it all. True, now that Grote had been let, it would have been possible to live in the bungalow at Deal, but the latter had been let while the former was still uncertain, and Dora suddenly felt a sense of homelessness that was not quite comfortable. In two weeks from now they went to the Thurstons, then there were three more visits, then, no doubt, if they chose, many more visits, but there was nothing behind; there was no home. Meantime, the Osbornes grabbed homes wherever they chose, they built a palace in Park Lane, they took Grote from her own impecunious family, and as Mrs. Osborne had told her mother last night, Mr. O. had a fancy for a bit of stalking for self and friends in the autumn, and had taken a little box up in Sutherland. She, however, was going to settle down at Grote at the end of the season, and did not intend to go North. There had been badinage over this, it appeared, between her and Mr. O.; and he threatened her with an action for divorce on the grounds of desertion. And Dora felt much less socialistic and far more inclined to agree with May on the iniquity of common people having all they wanted simply because they invented a button. If only she could invent a button.

Dora, as has already been seen, was apt to be slightly{41} discursive. She had one of those effervescent minds to which every topic as it comes on the board instantly suggests another, and in half a dozen sentences she was apt to speak of half a dozen totally different things, each in turn being swiftly abandoned for some fresh and more absorbing topic which each opened up. She had begun a moment before with telling May that she wanted her advice, and before that was asked or offered, before indeed, the subject on which it was desired was so much as mentioned, she had darted away afresh, poising, dragon-fly fashion, in the direction of Grote, and the letting of it to the Osbornes. The Osbornes indeed had been the connecting link, and now she went straight back via the Osbornes to the point from which she had started.

“Yes, I want your advice May,” she repeated, “or I think I do. It’s quite serious, at least it’s beginning to be quite serious, and there are so many dreadfully funny things connected with it. Yes, Mr. Osborne has asked leave to call upon mother this afternoon at six, and it’s half-past five now. Oh, dear, oh, dear! I suppose he found out in a book that that sort of thing was done a hundred years ago, and he wishes to be correct. The Osbornes are absolutely correct if you think of it. Every one went in to supper in the right order last night, which never happens at any other house I have ever been to, and where does he get those extraordinary good looks from? Oh, I don’t mean Mr. Osborne. How can you be so silly—but him. Yes, I’m telling it all very clearly, aren’t I, so I hope you understand. Perhaps Mrs. Osborne was a beauty once, you can’t tell.”

That May perfectly understood this extraordinary{42} farrago of observations said less for her powers of perspicacity than might have been supposed, for Dora was not alluding to any new thing, but to a subject that had often before been mentioned between them. And Dora went on, still discursively but intelligibly.

“It’s coming to the crisis, you see,” she said. “Mr. Osborne’s call on mother is of a formal nature. He is going to ask permission for Claude to pay his addresses to me. He will use those very words, unless mother says ‘yes’ before he gets so far. And then I shall have to make up my mind. At least I’m not sure that I shall; I believe it’s made up already. And yet I can’t be sure. May, I feel just like a silly sentimental girl in an impossible feuilleton. He thrills me, isn’t it awful? But he does. Thrills! I don’t believe any boy was ever so good-looking. And then suddenly in the middle of my thrill, it all stops with a jerk, just because he says that somebody is a very ‘handsome lady.’ Why shouldn’t he say ‘handsome lady’? He said he thought mother was such a handsome lady, and I nearly groaned out loud. And then I looked at him again or something, and I didn’t care what he said. And he’s nice too. I know he’s nice, and he’s got excellent manners, and always gets up when a lady, handsome or not, comes into the room, instead of lounging in his chair as Austell does and all other young men nowadays except a few like Claude who aren’t exactly our sort. And he’s kind and he’s good. Am I in love with him? For heaven’s sake, tell me.”
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