The car came opposite her, and she curtsied so low that recovery was impossible, and she sat down in the road. Her parasol flew out of her hand and out of her parasol flew the Union Jack. She saw a young man looking out of the window, dressed in khaki, grinning broadly, but not, so she thought, graciously, and it suddenly struck her that there was something, beside her own part in the affair, which was not as it should be. As he put his head in again there was loud laughter from the inside of the car. Mr. Wootten helped her up and the entire assembly of her friends crowded round her, hoping she was not hurt. "No, dear Major, dear Padre, not at all, thanks, " she said. "So stupid: my ankle turned. Oh, yes, the Union Jack I bought for my nephew, it's his birthday to-morrow. Thank you. I just came to see about my coke: of course I thought the Prince had arrived when you all went down to meet the 4.15. Fancy my running straight into it all! How well he looked." This was all rather lame, and Miss Mapp hailed Mrs. Poppit's appearance from the station as a welcome diversion... Mrs. Poppit was looking vexed. "I hope you saw him well, Mrs. Poppit, " said Miss Mapp, "after meeting two trains, and taking all that trouble." "Saw who?" said Mrs. Poppit with a deplorable lack both of manner and grammar. "Why"-light seemed to break on her odious countenance. "Why, you don't think that was the Prince, do you, Miss Mapp? He arrived here at one, so the station-master has just told me, and has been playing golf all afternoon." The Major looked at the Captain, and the Captain at the Major. It was months and months since they had missed their Saturday afternoon's golf. "It was the Prince of Wales who looked out of that car-window, " said Miss Mapp firmly. "Such a pleasant smile. I should know it anywhere." "The young man who got into the car at the station was no more the Prince of Wales than you are, " said Mrs. Poppit shrilly. "I was close to him as he came out: I curtsied to him before I saw." Miss Mapp instantly changed her attack: she could hardly hold her smile on to her face for rage. "How very awkward for you, " she said. "What a laugh they will all have over it this evening! Delicious!" Mrs. Poppit's face suddenly took on an expression of the tenderest solicitude. "I hope, Miss Mapp, you didn't jar yourself when you sat down in the road just now, " she said. "Not at all, thank you so much, " said Miss Mapp, hearing her heart beat in her throat...
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The body is transmuted into other forms, worms batten on it, it helps to feed the grass, and some animal consumes the grass. But as for the survival of the individual spirit of a man, show me one tittle of scientific evidence to support it. Besides, if it did survive, all the evil and malice in it must surely survive too. Why should the death of the body purge that away? It's a nightmare to contemplate such a thing, and oddly enough, unhinged people like spiritualists want to persuade us for our consolation that the nightmare is true. ("Monkeys")
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The functions of the human frame are, broadly speaking, known. They are a country, anyhow, that has been charted and mapped out. But outside that lie huge tracts of undiscovered country, which certainly exist, and the real pioneers of knowledge are those who, at the cost of being derided as credulous and superstitious, want to push on into those misty and probably perilous places. I felt that I could be of more use by setting out without compass or knapsack into the mists than by sitting in a cage like a canary and chirping about what was known. Besides, teaching is very very bad for a man who knows himself only to be a learner: you only need to be a self-conceited ass to teach.
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She's been, but she's coming back, " he said. "I expect her every minute. Ah! there she is." This was rather stupid of Stephen. He ought to have guessed that Lucia's second appearance was officially intended to be her first. He grasped that when she squeezed her way through the crowd and greeted him as if they had not met before that morning. "And dearest Adele, " she said. "What a crush! Tell me quickly, where are the caricatures of Pepino and me? I'm dying to see them; and when I see them no doubt I shall wish I was dead." The light of Luciaphilism came into Adele's intelligent eyes...
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Ah, this delicious night air, ' she said, luxuriously sniffing in the coolness. 'Night air and gardening are the great tonics. There is nothing so stimulating as bare contact with rich mother earth. You are never so fresh as when you have been grubbing in the soil - black hands, black nails, and boots covered with mud.' She gave her great jovial laugh. 'I'm a glutton for air and earth, ' she said. 'Positively I look forward to death, for then I shall be buried and have the kind earth all round me. No leaden caskets for me - I have given explicit directions. But what shall I do about air? Well, I suppose one can't have everything.' ("Mrs. Amworth")
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The subject dropped, and we sat on in the dusk that was rapidly deepening into night. The door into the hall was open at our backs, and a panel of light from the lamps within was cast out to the terrace. Wandering moths, invisible in the darkness, suddenly became manifest as they fluttered into this illumination, and vanished again as they passed out of it. One moment they were there, living things with life and motion of their own, the next they quite disappeared. How inexplicable that would be, I thought, if one did not know from long familiarity, that light of the appropriate sort and strength is needed to make material objects visible. Philip must have been following precisely the same train of thought, for his voice broke in, carrying it a little further. 'Look at that moth, ' he said, 'and even while you look it has gone like a ghost, even as like a ghost it appeared. Light made it visible. And there are other sorts of light, interior psychical light which similarly makes visible the beings which people the darkness of our blindness.' ("Expiation")
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She ran her hands, butterfly fashion, over the keys. "A little morsel of Stravinski?" she said. It was in the middle of the morsel that Adele came in and found Lucia playing Stravinski to Mr. Greatorex. The position seemed to be away, away beyond her orbit altogether, and she merely waited with undiminished faith in Lucia, to see what would happen when Lucia became aware to whom she was playing... It was a longish morsel, too: more like a meal than a morsel, and it was also remarkably like a muddle. Finally, Lucia made an optimistic attempt at the double chromatic scale in divergent directions which brought it to an end, and laughed gaily. "My poor fingers, " she said. "Delicious piano, dear Adele. I love a Bechstein; that was a little morsel of Stravinski. Hectic perhaps, do you think? But so true to the modern idea: little feverish excursions: little bits of tunes, and nothing worked out. But I always say that there is something in Stravinski, if you study him. How I worked at that little piece, and I'm afraid it's far from perfect yet." Lucia played one more little run with her right hand, while she cudgelled her brain to remember where she had seen this man before, and turned round on the music-stool. She felt sure he was an artist of some kind, and she did not want to ask Adele to introduce him, for that would look as if she did not know everybody. She tried pictures next. "In Art I always think that the Stravinski school is represented by the Post-Cubists, " she said. "They give us pattern in lines, just as Stravinski gives us patterns in notes, and the modern poet patterns in words. At Sophy Alingsby's the other night we had a feast of patterns. Dear Sophy-what a curious mixture of tastes! She cares only for the ultra-primitive in music, and the ultra-modern in Art. Just before you came in, Adele, I was trying to remember the first movement of Beethoven's Moonlight, those triplets though they look easy have to be kept so level. And yet Sophy considers Beethoven a positive decadent. I ought to have taken her to Diva's little concert-Diva Dalrymple-for I assure you really that Stravinski sounded classical compared to the rest of the programme. It was very creditably played, too. Mr.-" what was his name?-"Mr Greatorex." She had actually said the word before her brain made the connection. She gave her little peal of laughter. "Ah, you wicked people, " she cried. "A plot: clearly a plot. Mr. Greatorex, how could you? Adele told you to come in here when she heard me begin my little strummings, and told you to sit down and encourage me. Don't deny it, Adele! I know it was like that. I shall tell everybody how unkind you've been, unless Mr. Greatorex sits down instantly and magically restores to life what I have just murdered." Adele denied nothing. In fact there was no time to deny anything, for Lucia positively thrust Mr. Greatorex on to the music stood, and instantly put on her rapt musical face, chin in hand, and eyes looking dreamily upwards. There was Nemesis, you would have thought, dealing thrusts at her, but Nemesis was no match for her amazing quickness. She parried and thrust again, and here-what richness of future reminiscence-was Mr. Greatorex playing Stravinski to her, before no audience but herself and Adele who really didn't count, for the only tune she liked was "Land of Hope and Glory"... Great was Lucia!
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Marcia was silent a moment. Then a sort of softer gleam came into her angry eye. "Tell me some more about her, " she said. Adele clapped her hands. "Ah, that's splendid, " she said. "You're beginning to feel kinder. What we would do without our Lucia I can't imagine. I don't know what there would be to talk about." "She's ridiculous!" said Marcia relapsing a little. "No, you mustn't feel that, " said Adele. "You mustn't laugh at her ever. You must just richly enjoy her." "She's a snob!" said Marcia, as if this was a tremendous discovery. "So am I: so are you: so are we all, " said Adele. "We all run after distinguished people like-like Alf and Marcelle. The difference between you and Lucia is entirely in her favour, for you pretend you're not a snob, and she is perfectly frank and open about it. Besides, what is a duchess like you for except to give pleasure to snobs? That's your work in the world, darling; that's why you were sent here. Don't shirk it, or when you're old you will suffer agonies of remorse. And you're a snob too. You liked having seven-or was it seventy?-Royals at your dance." "Well, tell me some more about Lucia, " said Marcia, rather struck by this ingenious presentation of the case. "Indeed I will: I long for your conversion to Luciaphilism. Now to-day there are going to be marvellous happenings...
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This was all splendid stuff for Luciaphils; it was amazing how at a first glance she recognised everybody. The gallery, too, was full of dears and darlings of a few weeks' standing, and she completed a little dinner-party for next Tuesday long before she had made the circuit. All the time she kept Stephen by her side, looked over his catalogue, put a hand on his arm to direct his attention to some picture, took a speck of alien material off his sleeve, and all the time the entranced Adele felt increasingly certain that she had plumbed the depth of the adorable situation. Her sole anxiety was as to whether Stephen would plumb it too. He might-though he didn't look like it-welcome these little tokens of intimacy as indicating something more, and when they were alone attempt to kiss her, and that would ruin the whole exquisite design. Luckily his demeanour was not that of a favoured swain; it was, on the other hand, more the demeanour of a swain who feared to be favoured, and if that shy thing took fright, the situation would be equally ruined... To think that the most perfect piece of Luciaphilism was dependent on the just perceptions of Stephen! As the three made their slow progress, listening to Lucia's brilliant identifications, Adele willed Stephen to understand; she projected a perfect torrent of suggestion towards his mind. He must, he should understand... Fervent desire, so every psychist affirms, is never barren. It conveys something of its yearning to the consciousness to which it is directed, and there began to break on the dull male mind what had been so obvious to the finer feminine sense of Adele. Once again, and in the blaze of publicity, Lucia was full of touches and tweaks, and the significance of them dawned, like some pale, austere sunrise, on his darkened senses. The situation was revealed, and he saw it was one with which he could easily deal. His gloomy apprehensions brightened, and he perceived that there would be no need, when he went to stay at Riseholme next, to lock his bedroom-door, a practice which was abhorrent to him, for fear of fire suddenly breaking out in the house. Last night he had had a miserable dream about what had happened when he failed to lock his door at The Hurst, but now he dismissed its haunting. These little intimacies of Lucia's were purely a public performance. "Lucia, we must be off, " he said loudly and confidently. "Pepino will wonder where we are.
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On the doorstep Adele met Tony Limpsfield. She hurried him into her motor, and told the chauffeur not to drive on. "News!" she said. "Lucia's going to have a lover." "No!" said Tony in the Riseholme manner "But I tell you she is. He's with her now." "They won't want me then, " said Tony. "And yet she asked me to come at half-past five." "Nonsense, my dear. They will want you, both of them... Oh Tony, don't you see? It's a stunt." Tony assumed the rapt expression of Luciaphils receiving intelligence. "Tell me all about it, " he said. "I'm sure I'm right, " said she. "Her poppet came in just now, and she held his hand as women do, and made him draw his chair up to her, and said he scolded her. I'm not sure that he knows yet. But I saw that he guessed something was up. I wonder if he's clever enough to do it properly... I wish she had chosen you, Tony, you'd have done it perfectly. They have got-don't you understand?-to have the appearance of being lovers, everyone must think they are lovers, while all the time there's nothing at all of any sort in it. It's a stunt: it's a play: it's a glory." "But perhaps there is something in it, " said Tony. "I really think I had better not go in." "Tony, trust me. Lucia has no more idea of keeping a real lover than of keeping a chimpanzee. She's as chaste as snow, a kiss would scorch her. Besides, she hasn't time. She asked Stephen there in order to show him to me, and to show him to you. It's the most wonderful plan; and it's wonderful of me to have understood it so quickly. You must go in: there's nothing private of any kind: indeed, she thirsts for publicity." Her confidence inspired confidence, and Tony was naturally consumed with curiosity. He got out, told Adele's chauffeur to drive on, and went upstairs. Stephen was no longer sitting in the chair next to Lucia, but on the sofa at the other side of the tea-table. This rather looked as if Adele was right: it was consistent anyhow with their being lovers in public, but certainly not lovers in private. "Dear Lord Tony, " said Lucia-this appellation was a halfway house between Lord Limpsfield and Tony, and she left out the "Lord" except to him-"how nice of you to drop in. You have just missed Adele. Stephen, you know Lord Limpsfield?" Lucia gave him his tea, and presently getting up, reseated herself negligently on the sofa beside Stephen. She was a shade too close at first, and edged slightly away. "Wonderful play of Tchekov's the other day, " she said. "Such a strange, unhappy atmosphere. We came out, didn't we, Stephen, feeling as if we had been in some remote dream. I saw you there, Lord Tony, with Adele who had been lunching with me." Tony knew that: was not that the birthday of the Luciaphils?
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This little colloquy in Adele's box was really the foundation of the secret society of the Luciaphils, and the membership of the Luciaphils began swiftly to increase. Aggie Sandeman was scarcely eligible, for complete goodwill towards Lucia was a sine qua non of membership, and there was in her mind a certain asperity when she thought that it was she who had given Lucia her gambit, and that already she was beginning to be relegated to second circles in Lucia's scale of social precedence. It was true that she had been asked to dine to meet Marcelle Periscope, but the party to meet Alf and his flute was clearly the smarter of the two. Adele, however, and Tony Limpsfield were real members, so too, when she came up a few days later, was Olga. Marcia Whitby was another who greedily followed her career, and such as these, whenever they met, gave eager news to each other about it. There was, of course, another camp, consisting of those whom Lucia bombarded with pleasant invitations, but who (at present) firmly refused them. They professed not to know her and not to take the slightest interest in her, which showed, as Adele said, a deplorable narrowness of mind. Types and striking characters like Lucia, who pursued undaunted and indefatigable their aim in life, were rare, and when they occurred should be studied with reverent affection... Sometimes one of the old and original members of the Luciaphils discovered others, and if when Lucia's name was mentioned an eager and a kindly light shone in their eyes, and they said in a hushed whisper "Did you hear who was there on Thursday?" they thus disclosed themselves as Luciaphils... All this was gradual, but the movement went steadily on, keeping pace with her astonishing career, for the days were few on which some gratifying achievement was not recorded in the veracious columns of Hermione.
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The news that she had gone of course now spread rapidly, and by lunch time Riseholme had made up its mind what to do, and that was hermetically to close its lips for ever on the subject of Lucia. You might think what you pleased, for it was a free country, but silence was best. But this counsel of perfection was not easy to practice next day when the evening paper came. There, for all the world to read were two quite long paragraphs, in "Five o'clock Chit-Chat, " over the renowned signature of Hermione, entirely about Lucia and 25 Brompton Square, and there for all the world to see was the reproduction of one of her most elegant photographs, in which she gazed dreamily outwards and a little upwards, with her fingers still pressed on the last chord of (probably) the Moonlight Sonata... She had come up, so Hermione told countless readers, from her Elizabethan country seat at Riseholme (where she was a neighbour of Miss Olga Bracely) and was settling for the season in the beautiful little house in Brompton Square, which was the freehold property of her husband, and had just come to him on the death of his aunt. It was a veritable treasure house of exquisite furniture, with a charming music-room where Lucia had given Hermione a cup of tea from her marvellous Worcester tea service... (At this point Daisy, whose hands were trembling with passion, exclaimed in a loud and injured voice, "The very day she arrived!") Mrs. Lucas (one of the Warwickshire Smythes by birth) was, as all the world knew, a most accomplished musician and Shakespearean scholar, and had made Riseholme a centre of culture and art. But nobody would suspect the blue stocking in the brilliant, beautiful and witty hostess whose presence would lend an added gaiety to the London season. Daisy was beginning to feel physically unwell. She hurried over the few remaining lines, and then ejaculating "Witty! Beautiful!" sent de Vere across to Georgie's with the paper, bidding him to return it, as she hadn't finished with it. But she thought he ought to know... Georgie read it through, and with admirable self restraint, sent Foljambe back with it and a message of thanks-nothing more-to Mrs. Quantock for the loan of it. Daisy, by this time feeling better, memorised the whole of it. Life under the new conditions was not easy, for a mere glance at the paper might send any true Riseholmite into a paroxysm of chattering rage or a deep disgusted melancholy. The Times again recorded the fact that Mr. and Mrs. Philip Lucas had arrived at 25 Brompton Square, there was another terrible paragraph headed 'Dinner, ' stating that Mrs. Sandeman entertained the following to dinner. There was an Ambassador, a Marquis, a Countess (dowager), two Viscounts with wives, a Baronet, a quantity of Honourables and Knights, and Mr. and Mrs. Philip Lucas. Every single person except Mr. and Mrs. Philip Lucas had a title. The list was too much for Mrs. Boucher, who, reading it at breakfast, suddenly exclaimed: "I didn't think it of them. And it's a poor consolation to know that they must have gone in last." Then she hermetically sealed her lips again on this painful subject, and when she had finished her breakfast (her appetite had quite gone) she looked up every member of that degrading party in Colonel Boucher's "Who's Who.
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It was getting very clear then (and during this week Riseholme naturally thought of nothing else) that Lucia designed a longer residence in the garish metropolis than she had admitted. Since she chose to give no information on the subject, mere pride and scorn of vulgar curiosity forebade anyone to ask her, though of course it was quite proper (indeed a matter of duty) to probe the matter to the bottom by every other means in your power, and as these bits of evidence pieced themselves together, Riseholme began to take a very gloomy view of Lucia's real nature. On the whole it was felt that Mrs. Boucher, when she paused in her bath-chair as it was being wheeled round the green, nodding her head very emphatically, and bawling into Mrs. Antrobus's ear-trumpet, reflected public opinion. "She's deserting Riseholme and all her friends, " said Mrs. Boucher, "that's what she's doing. She means to cut a dash in London, and lead London by the nose. There'll be fashionable parties, you'll see, there'll be paragraphs, and then when the season's over she'll come back and swagger about them. For my part I shall take no interest in them. Perhaps she'll bring down some of her smart friends for a Saturday till Monday. There'll be Dukes and Duchesses at The Hurst. That's what she's meaning to do, I tell you, and I don't care who hears it." That was lucky, as anyone within the radius of a quarter of a mile could have heard it.
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Miss Mapp had experienced a cruel disappointment last night, though the triumph of this morning had done something to soothe it, for Major Benjy's window had certainly been lit up to a very late hour, and so it was clear that he had not been able, twice in succession, to tear himself away from his diaries, or whatever else detained him, and go to bed at a proper time. Captain Puffin, however, had not sat up late; indeed he must have gone to bed quite unusually early, for his window was dark by half-past nine. To-night, again the position was reversed, and it seemed that Major Benjy was "good" and Captain Puffin was "bad". On the whole, then, there was cause for thankfulness, and as she added a tin of biscuits and two jars of Bovril to her prudent stores, she found herself a conscious sceptic about those Roman roads. Diaries (perhaps) were a little different, for egoism was a more potent force than arche¦ology, and for her part she now definitely believed that Roman roads spelt some form of drink. She was sorry to believe it, but it was her duty to believe something of the kind, and she really did not know what else to believe. She did not go so far as mentally to accuse him of drunkenness, but considering the way he absorbed red-currant fool, it was clear that he was no foe to alcohol and probably watered the Roman roads with it. With her vivid imagination she pictured him- Miss Mapp recalled herself from this melancholy reflection and put up her hand just in time to save a bottle of Bovril which she had put on the top shelf in front of the sack of flour from tumbling to the ground. With the latest additions she had made to her larder, it required considerable ingenuity to fit all the tins and packages in, and for a while she diverted her mind from Captain Puffin's drinking to her own eating. But by careful packing and balancing she managed to stow everything away with sufficient economy of space to allow her to shut the door, and then put the card-table in place again. It was then late, and with a fond look at her sweet flowers sleeping in the moonlight, she went to bed. Captain Puffin's sitting-room was still alight, and even as she deplored this, his shadow in profile crossed the blind. Shadows were queer things-she could make a beautiful shadow-rabbit on the wall by a dexterous interlacement of fingers and thumbs-and certainly this shadow, in the momentary glance she had of it, appeared to have a large moustache. She could make nothing whatever out of that, except to suppose that just as fingers and thumbs became a rabbit, so his nose became a moustache, for he could not have grown one since he came back from golf...
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Weak and trembling from passion, Major Flint found that after a few tottering steps in the direction of Tilling he would be totally unable to get there unless fortified by some strong stimulant, and turned back to the club-house to obtain it. He always went dead-lame when beaten at golf, while Captain Puffin was lame in any circumstances, and the two, no longer on speaking terms, hobbled into the club-house, one after the other, each unconscious of the other's presence. Summoning his last remaining strength Major Flint roared for whisky, and was told that, according to regulation, he could not be served until six. There was lemonade and stone ginger-beer. You might as well have offered a man-eating tiger bread and milk. Even the threat that he would instantly resign his membership unless provided with drink produced no effect on a polite steward, and he sat down to recover as best he might with an old volume of Punch. This seemed to do him little good. His forced abstemiousness was rendered the more intolerable by the fact that Captain Puffin, hobbling in immediately afterwards, fetched from his locker a large flask of the required elixir, and proceeded to mix himself a long, strong tumblerful. After the Major's rudeness in the matter of the half-crown, it was impossible for any sailor of spirit to take the first step towards reconciliation. Thirst is a great leveller. By the time the refreshed Puffin had penetrated half-way down his glass, the Major found it impossible to be proud and proper any longer. He hated saying he was sorry (no man more) and he wouldn't have been sorry if he had been able to get a drink. He twirled his moustache a great many times and cleared his throat-it wanted more than that to clear it-and capitulated. "Upon my word, Puffin, I'm ashamed of myself for-ha!-for not taking my defeat better, " he said. "A man's no business to let a game ruffle him." Puffin gave his alto cackling laugh. "Oh, that's all right, Major, " he said. "I know it's awfully hard to lose like a gentleman." He let this sink in, then added: "Have a drink, old chap?" Major Flint flew to his feet. "Well, thank ye, thank ye, " he said. "Now where's that soda water you offered me just now?" he shouted to the steward. The speed and completeness of the reconciliation was in no way remarkable, for when two men quarrel whenever they meet, it follows that they make it up again with corresponding frequency, else there could be no fresh quarrels at all. This one had been a shade more acute than most, and the drop into amity again was a shade more precipitous.
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The Major's laughter boomed out again. "And I never kept a diary in my life!" he cried. "Why there's enough cream in this situation to make a dishful of meringues. You and I, you know, the students of Tilling! The serious-minded students who do a hard day's work when all the pretty ladies have gone to bed. Often and often has old-I mean has that fine woman, Miss Mapp, told me that I work too hard at night! Recommended me to get earlier to bed, and do my work between six and eight in the morning! Six and eight in the morning! That's a queer time of day to recommend an old campaigner to be awake at! Often she's talked to you, too, I bet my hat, about sitting up late and exhausting the nervous faculties." Major Flint choked and laughed and inhaled tobacco smoke till he got purple in the face. "And you sitting up one side of the street, " he gasped, "pretending to be interested in Roman roads, and me on the other pulling a long face over my diaries, and neither of us with a Roman road or a diary to our names. Let's have an end to such unsociable arrangements, old friend; you lining your Roman roads and the bottle to lay the dust over to me one night, and I'll bring my diaries and my peg over to you the next. Never drink alone-one of my maxims in life-if you can find someone to drink with you. And there were you within a few yards of me all the time sitting by your old solitary self, and there was I sitting by my old solitary self, and we each thought the other a serious-minded old buffer, busy on his life-work. I'm blessed if I ever heard of two such pompous old frauds as you and I, Captain! What a sight of hypocrisy there is in the world, to be sure! No offence-mind: I'm as bad as you, and you're as bad as me, and we're both as bad as each other. But no more solitary confinement of an evening for Benjamin Flint, as long as you're agreeable.
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Luck ever attends the bold and constructive thinker: the apple, for instance, fell from the tree precisely when Newton's mind was groping after the law of gravity, and as Diva stepped into her grocer's to begin her morning's shopping (for she had been occupied with roses ever since breakfast) the attendant was at the telephone at the back of the shop. He spoke in a lucid telephone-voice. "We've only two of the big tins of corned beef, " he said; and there was a pause, during which, to a psychic, Diva's ears might have seemed to grow as pointed with attention as a satyr's. But she could only hear little hollow quacks from the other end. "Tongue as well. Very good. I'll send them up at once, " he added, and came forward into the shop. "Good morning, " said Diva. Her voice was tremulous with anxiety and investigation. "Got any big tins of corned beef? The ones that contain six pounds." "Very sorry, ma'am. We've only got two, and they've just been ordered." "A small pot of ginger then, please, " said Diva recklessly. "Will you send it round immediately?" "Yes, ma'am. The boy's just going out." That was luck. Diva hurried into the street, and was absorbed by the headlines of the news outside the stationer's. This was a favourite place for observation, for you appeared to be quite taken up by the topics of the day, and kept an oblique eye on the true object of your scrutiny...
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Miss Mapp moved towards the screen. "What a delicious big screen, " she said. "Yes, but don't go behind it, Mapp, " said Irene, "or you'll see my model undressing." Miss Mapp retreated from it precipitately, as from a wasp's nest, and examined some of the studies on the wall, for it was more than probable from the unfinished picture on the easel that Adam lurked behind the delicious screen. Terrible though it all was, she was conscious of an unbridled curiosity to know who Adam was. It was dreadful to think that there could be any man in Tilling so depraved as to stand to be looked at with so little on... Irene strolled round the walls with her. "Studies of Lucy, " she said. "I see, dear, " said Miss Mapp. "How clever! Legs and things! But when you have your bridge-party, won't you perhaps cover some of them up, or turn them to the wall? We should all be looking at your pictures instead of attending to our cards. And if you were thinking of asking the Padre, you know... " They were approaching the corner of the room where the screen stood, when a movement there as if Adam had hit it with his elbow made Miss Mapp turn round. The screen fell flat on the ground and within a yard of her stood Mr. Hopkins, the proprietor of the fish-shop just up the street. Often and often had Miss Mapp had pleasant little conversations with him, with a view to bringing down the price of flounders. He had little bathing-drawers on... "Hullo, Hopkins, are you ready, " said Irene. "You know Miss Mapp, don't you?" Miss Mapp had not imagined that Time and Eternity combined could hold so embarrassing a moment. She did not know where to look, but wherever she looked, it should not be at Hopkins. But (wherever she looked) she could not be unaware that Hopkins raised his large bare arm and touched the place where his cap would have been, if he had had one. "Good morning, Hopkins, " she said. "Well, Irene darling, I must be trotting, and leave you to your-" she hardly knew what to call it-"to your work." She tripped from the room, which seemed to be entirely full of unclothed limbs, and redder than one of Mr. Hopkins's boiled lobsters hurried down the street. She felt that she could never face him again, but would be obliged to go to the establishment in the High Street where Irene dealt, when it was fish she wanted from a fish-shop... Her head was in a whirl at the brazenness of mankind, especially womankind. How had Irene started the overtures that led to this? Had she just said to Hopkins one morning: "Will you come to my studio and take off all your clothes?" If Irene had not been such a wonderful mimic, she would certainly have felt it her duty to go straight to the Padre, and, pulling down her veil, confide to him the whole sad story. But as that was out of the question, she went into Twemlow's and ordered four pounds of dried apricots.
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