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   Chapter 14 FOURTEEN

Queen Lucia By E. F. Benson Characters: 30936

Updated: 2017-11-29 00:03


Georgie was very busily engaged during the first weeks of December on a water-colour sketch of Olga sitting at her piano and singing. The difficulty of it was such that at times he almost despaired of accomplishing it, for the problem of how to draw her face and her mouth wide open and yet retain the likeness seemed almost insoluble. Often he sat in front of his own looking-glass with his mouth open, and diligently drew his own face, in order to arrive at the principles of the changes of line which took place. Certainly the shape of a person's face, when his mouth was wide open altered so completely that you would have thought him quite unrecognisable, however skilfully the artist reproduced his elongated countenance, and yet Georgie could easily recognise that face in the glass as his. Forehead, eyes and cheek-bones alone retained their wonted aspect; even the nose seemed to lengthen if you opened your mouth very wide…. Then how again was he to indicate that she was singing and not yawning, or preparing for a sneeze? His most successful sketch at present looked precisely as if she was yawning, and made Georgie's jaws long to yawn too. Perhaps the shape of the mouth in the two positions was really the same, and it was only the sound that led you to suppose that an open-mouthed person was singing. But perhaps the piano would supply the necessary suggestion; Olga would not sit down at the piano merely to yawn or sneeze, for she could do that anywhere.

Then a brilliant idea struck him: he would introduce a shaded lamp standing on the piano, and then her face would be in red shadow. Naturally this entailed fresh problems with regard to light, but light seemed to present less difficulty than likeness. Besides he could make her dress, and the keys of the piano very like indeed. But when he came to painting again he despaired. There must be red shadow on her face and yellow light on her hands, and on her green dress, and presently the whole thing looked not so much like Olga singing by lamp-light, as a lobster-salad spread out in the sunlight. The more he painted, the more vividly did the lettuce leaves and the dressing and the lobster emerge from the paper. So he took away the lamp, and shut Olga's mouth, and there she would be at her piano just going to sing.

These artistic agonies had rewards which more than compensated for them, for regularly now he took his drawing-board and his paint-box across to her house, and sat with her while she practised. There were none of love's lilies low or yawning York now, for she was very busy learning her part in Lucretia, spending a solid two hours at it every morning, and Georgie began to perceive what sort of work it implied to produce the spontaneous ease with which Brunnhilde hailed the sun. More astounding even was the fact that this mere learning of notes was but the preliminary to what she called "real work." And when she had got through the mere mechanical part of it, she would have to study. Then when her practice was over, she would indulgently sit with her head in profile against a dark background, and Georgie would suck one end of his brush and bite the other, and wonder whether he would ever produce anything which he could dare to offer her. By daily poring on her face, he grew not to admire only but to adore its youth and beauty, by daily contact with her he began to see how fresh and how lovely was the mind that illuminated it.

"Georgie, I'm going to scold you," she said one day, as she took up her place against the black panel. "You're a selfish little brute. You think of nothing but your own amusement. Did that ever strike you?"

Georgie gasped with surprise. Here was he spending the whole of every morning trying to do something which would be a worthy Christmas present for her (to say nothing of the hours he had spent with his mouth open in front of his glass, and the cost of the beautiful frame which he had ordered) and yet he was supposed to be only thinking about himself. Of course Olga did not know that the picture was to be hers….

"How tarsome you are!" he said. "You're always finding fault with me.

Explain."

"Well, you're neglecting your old friends for your new one," she said. "My dear, you should never drop an old friend. For instance, when did you last play duets with Mrs Lucas?"

"Oh, not so very long ago," said Georgie.

"Quite long enough, I am sure. But I don't actually mean sitting down and thumping the piano with her. When did you last think about her and make plans for her and talk baby-language?"

"Who told you I ever did?" asked Georgie.

"Gracious! How can I possibly remember that sort of thing? I should say at a guess that everybody told me. Now poor Mrs Lucas is feeling out of it, and neglected and dethroned. It's all on my mind rather, and I'm talking to you about it, because it's largely your fault. Now we're talking quite frankly, so don't fence, and say it's mine. I know exactly what you mean, but you are perfectly wrong. Primarily, it's Mrs Lucas's fault, because she's quite the stupidest woman I ever saw, but it's partly your fault too."

She turned round.

"Come, Georgie, let's have it out," she said. "I'm perfectly powerless to do anything, because she detests me, and you've got to help her and help me, and drop your selfishness. Before I came here, she used to run you all, and give you treats like going to her tableaux and listening to her stupid old Moonlight Sonata, and talking seven words of Italian. And then I came along with no earthly intention except to enjoy my holidays, and she got it into her head that I was trying to run the place instead of her. Isn't that so? Just say 'yes.'"

"Yes," said Georgie.

"Well, that puts me in an odious position and a helpless position. I did my best to be nice to her; I went to her house until she ceased to ask me, and asked her here for everything that I thought would amuse her, until she ceased to come. I took no notice of her rudeness which was remarkable, or of her absurd patronising airs, which didn't hurt me in the smallest degree. But Georgie, she would continue to make such a dreadful ass of herself, and think it was my fault. Was it my fault that she didn't know the Spanish quartette when she heard it, or that she didn't know a word of Italian, when she pretended she did, or that the other day (it was the last time I saw her, when you played your Debussy to us at Aunt Jane's) she talked to me about inverted fifths?"

Olga suddenly burst out laughing, and Georgie assumed the Riseholme face of intense curiosity.

"You must tell me all about that," he said, "and I'll tell you the rest which you don't know."

Olga succumbed too, and began to talk in Aunt Jane's voice, for she had adopted her as an aunt.

"Well, it was last Monday week" she said "or was it Sunday? No it couldn't have been Sunday because I don't have anybody to tea that day, as Elizabeth goes over to Jacob's and spends the afternoon with Atkinson, or the other way about, which doesn't signify, as the point is that Elizabeth should be free. So it was Monday, and Aunt Jane-it's me talking again-had the tea-party at which you played Poisson d'Or. And when it was finished, Mrs Lucas gave a great sigh, and said 'Poor Georgino! Wasting his time over that rubbish,' though she knew quite well that I had given it to you. And so I said, 'Would you call it rubbish, do you think?' and she said 'Quite. Every rule of music is violated. Don't those inverted fifths make you wince, Miss Bracely?'"

Olga laughed again, and spoke in her own voice.

"Oh, Georgie, she is an ass," she said. "What she meant I suppose was consecutive fifths; you can't invert a fifth. So I said (I really meant it as a joke), 'Of course there is that, but you must forgive Debussy that for the sake of that wonderful passage of submerged tenths!' And she took it quite gravely and shook her head, and said she was afraid she was a purist. What happened next? That's all I know."

"Directly afterwards," said Georgie, "she brought the music to me, and asked me to show her where the passage of tenths came. I didn't know, but I found some tenths, and she brightened up and said 'Yes, it is true; those submerged tenths are very impressive.' Then I suggested that the submerged tenth was not a musical expression, but referred to a section of the population. On which she said no more, but when she went away she asked me to send her some book on 'Harmony.' I daresay she is looking for the submerged tenth still."

Olga lit a cigarette and became grave again.

"Well, it can't go on," she said. "We can't have the poor thing feeling angry and out of it. Then there was Mrs Quantock absolutely refusing to let her see the Princess."

"That was her own fault," said Georgie. "It was because she was so greedy about the Guru."

"That makes it all the bitterer. And I can't do anything, because she blames me for it all. I would ask her and her Peppino here every night, and listen to her dreary tunes every evening, and let her have it all her own way, if it would do any good. But things have gone too far; she wouldn't come. It has all happened without my noticing it. I never added it all up as it went along, and I hate it."

Georgie thought of the spiritualistic truths.

"If you're an incarnation," he said in a sudden glow of admiration, "you're the incarnation of an angel. How you can forgive her odious manners to you--"

"My dear, shut up," said Olga. "We've got to do something. Now how would it be if you gave a nice party on Christmas night, and asked her at once? Ask her to help you in getting it up; make it clear she's going to run it."

"All right. You'll come, won't you?"

"Certainly I will not. Perhaps I will come in after dinner with Goosie or some one of that sort. Don't you see it would spoil it all if I were at dinner? You must rather pointedly leave me out. Give her a nice expensive refined Christmas present too. You might give her that picture you're doing of me-No, I suppose she wouldn't like that. But just comfort her and make her feel you can't get on without her. You've been her right hand all these years. Make her give her tableaux again. And then I think you must ask me in afterwards. I long to see her and Peppino as Brunnhilde and Siegfried. Just attend to her, Georgie, and buck her up. Promise me you will. And do it as if your heart was in it, otherwise it's no good."

Georgie began packing up his paint-box. This was not the plan he had hoped for on Christmas Day, but if Olga wished this, it had got to be done.

"Well, I'll do my best," he said.

"Thanks ever so much. You're a darling. And how is your planchette getting on? I've been lazy about my crystal, but I get so tired of my own nose."

"Planchette would write nothing but a few names," said Georgie, omitting the fact that Olga's was the most frequent. "I think I shall drop it."

This was but reasonable, for since Riseholme had some new and absorbing excitement every few weeks, to say nothing of the current excitement of daily life, it followed that even the most thrilling pursuits could not hold the stage for very long. Still, the interest in spiritualism had died down with the rapidity of the seed on stony ground.

"Even Mrs Quantock seems to have cooled," said Olga. "She and her husband were here last night, and they looked rather bored when I suggested table-turning. I wonder if anything has happened to put her off it?"

"What do you think could have?" asked Georgie with Riseholme alacrity.

"Georgie, do you really believe in the Princess and Pocky?" she asked.

Georgie looked round to see that there was no one within hearing.

"I did at the time," he said, "at least I think I did. But it seems less likely now. Who was the Princess anyway? Why didn't we ever hear of her before? I believe Mrs Quantock met her in the train or something."

"So do I," said Olga. "But not a word. It makes Aunt Jane and Uncle Jacob completely happy to believe in it all. Their lines of life are enormous, and they won't die till they're over a hundred. Now go and see Mrs Lucas, and if she doesn't ask you to lunch you can come back here."

Georgie put down his picture and painting-apparatus at his house, and went on to Lucia's, definitely conscious that though he did not want to have her to dinner on Christmas Day, or go back to his duets and his A. D. C. duties, there was a spice and savour in so doing that came entirely from the fact that Olga wished him to, that by this service he was pleasing her. In itself it was distasteful, in itself it tended to cut him off from her, if he had to devote his time to Lucia, but he still delighted in doing it.

"I believe I am falling in love with her this time," said Georgie to himself…. "She's wonderful; she's big; she's--"

At that moment his thoughts were violently diverted, for Robert Quantock came out of his house in a tremendous hurry, merely scowling at Georgie, and positively trotted across the Green in the direction of the news-agent's. Instantly Georgie recollected that he had seen him there already this morning before his visit to Olga, buying a new twopenny paper in a yellow cover called "Todd's News." They had had a few words of genial conversation, and what could have happened in the last two hours that made Robert merely gnash his teeth at Georgie now, and make a second visit to the paper-shop?

It was impossible not to linger a moment and see what Robert did when he got to the paper-shop, and with the aid of his spectacles Georgie perceived that he presently loaded himself with a whole packet of papers in yellow covers, presumably "Todd's News." Flesh and blood could not resist the cravings of curiosity, and making a detour, so as to avoid being gnashed at again by Robert, who was coming rapidly back in his direction, he strolled round to the paper-shop and asked for a copy of "Todd's News." Instantly the bright December morning grew dark with mystery, for the proprietor told him that Mr Quantock has bought every copy he possessed of it. No further information could be obtained, except that he had bought a copy of every other daily paper as well.

Georgie could make nothing of it whatever, and having observed Robert hurry into his house again, went on his errand to Lucia. Had he seen what Robert did when he got home, it is doubtful if he could have avoided breaking into the house and snatching a copy of "Todd's News" from him….

Robert went to his study, and locked the door. He drew out from under his blotting-pad the first copy of "Todd's News" that he bought earlier in the morning, and put it with the rest. Then with a furrowed brow he turned to the police-reports in the "Times" and after looking at them laid the paper down. He did the same to the "Daily Telegraph," the "Daily Mail," the "Morning Post," the "Daily Chronicle." Finally (this was the last of the daily papers) he perused "The Daily Mirror," tore it in shreds, and said "Damn."

He sat for a while in thought, trying to recollect if anybody in Riseholme except Colonel Boucher took in the "Daily Mirror." But he felt morally certain that no one did, and letting himself out of his study, and again locking the door after him, he went into the street, and saw at a glance that the Colonel was employed in whirling Mrs Weston round the Green. Instead of joining them he hurried to the C

olonel's house and, for there was no time for half-measures, fixed Atkinson with his eye, and said he would like to write a note to Colonel Boucher. He was shown into his sitting-room, and saw the "Daily Mirror" lying open on the table. As soon as he was left alone, he stuffed it into his pocket, told Atkinson he would speak to the Colonel instead, and intercepted the path of the bath-chair. He was nearly run over, but stood his ground, and in a perfectly firm voice asked the Colonel if there was any news in the morning papers. With the Colonel's decided negative ringing joyfully in his ears, he went home again, and locked himself for the second time into his study.

There is a luxury, when some fell danger has been averted by promptness and presence of mind, in living through the moments of that danger again, and Robert opened "Todd's News," for that gave the fuller account, and read over the paragraph in the police news headed "Bogus Russian Princess." But now he gloated over the lines which had made him shudder before when he read how Marie Lowenstein, of 15, Gerald Street, Charing Cross Road, calling herself Princess Popoffski, had been brought up at the Bow Street Police Court for fraudulently professing to tell fortunes and produce materialised spirits at a seance in her flat. Sordid details followed: a detective who had been there seized an apparition by the throat, and turned on the electric light. It was the woman Popoffski's throat that he held, and her secretary, Hezekiah Schwarz, was discovered under the table detaching an electric hammer. A fine was inflicted….

A moment's mental debate was sufficient to determine Robert not to tell his wife. It was true that she had produced Popoffski, but then he had praised and applauded her for that; he, no less than she, had been convinced of Popoffski's integrity, high rank and marvellous psychic powers, and together they had soared to a pinnacle of unexampled greatness in the Riseholme world. Besides poor Daisy would be simply flattened out if she knew that Popoffski was no better than the Guru. He glanced at the pile of papers, and at the fire place….

It had been a cold morning, clear and frosty, and a good blaze prospered in the grate. Out of each copy, of "Todd's News" he tore the page on which were printed the police reports, and fed the fire with them. Page after page he put upon it; never had so much paper been devoted to one grate. Up the chimney they flew in sheets of flame; sometimes he was afraid he had set it on fire, and he had to pause, shielding his scorched face, until the hollow rumbling had died down. With the page from two copies of the "Daily Mirror" the holocaust was over, and he unlocked the door again. No one in Riseholme knew but he, and no one should ever know. Riseholme had been electrified by spiritualism, and even now the seances had been cheap at the price.

The debris of all these papers he caused to be removed by the housemaid, and this was hardly done when his wife came in from the Green.

"I thought there was a chimney on fire, Robert," she said. "You would have liked it to be the kitchen-chimney as you said the other day."

"Stuff and nonsense, my dear," said he. "Lunch-time, isn't it?"

"Yes. Ah, there's the post. None for me, and two for you."

She looked at him narrowly as he took his letters. Perhaps their subconscious minds (according to her dear friend's theory) held communication, but only the faintest unintelligible ripple of that appeared on the surface.

"I haven't heard from my Princess since she went away," she remarked.

Robert gave a slight start; he was a little off his guard from the reaction after his anxiety.

"Indeed!" he said. "Have you written to her?"

She appeared to try to remember.

"Well, I really don't believe I have," she said. "That is remiss of me.

I must send her a long budget one of these days."

This time he looked narrowly at her. Had she a secret, he wondered, as well as he? What could it be?…

Georgie found his mission none too easy, and it was only the thought that it was a labour of love, or something very like it, that enabled him to persevere. Even then for the first few minutes he thought it might prove love's labour's lost, so bright and unreal was Lucia.

He had half crossed Shakespeare's garden, and had clearly seen her standing at the window of the music-room, when she stole away, and next moment the strains of some slow movement, played very loud, drowned the bell on the mermaid's tail so completely that he wondered whether it had rung at all. As a matter of fact, Lucia and Peppino were in the midst of a most serious conversation when Georgie came through the gate, which was concerned with deciding what was to be done. A party at The Hurst sometime during Christmas week was as regular as the festival itself, but this year everything was so unusual. Who were to be asked in the first place? Certainly not Mrs Weston, for she had talked Italian to Lucia in a manner impossible to misinterpret, and probably, so said Lucia with great acidity, she would be playing children's games with her promesso. It was equally impossible to ask Miss Bracely and her husband, for relations were already severed on account of the Spanish quartette and Signer Cortese, and as for the Quantocks, did Peppino expect Lucia to ask Mrs Quantock again ever? Then there was Georgie, who had become so different and strange, and … Well here was Georgie. Hastily she sat down at the piano, and Peppino closed his eyes for the slow movement.

The opening of the door was lost on Lucia, and Peppino's eyes were closed. Consequently Georgie sat down on the nearest chair, and waited. At the end Peppino sighed, and he sighed too.

"Who is that?" said Lucia sharply. "Why is it you, Georgie? What a stranger. Aren't you? Any news?"

This was all delivered in the coldest of tones, and Lucia snatched a morsel of wax off Eb.

"I've heard none," said Georgie in great discomfort. "I just dropped in."

Lucia fixed Peppino with a glance. If she had shouted at the top of her voice she could not have conveyed more unmistakably that she was going to manage this situation.

"Ah, that is very pleasant," she said. "Peppino and I have been so busy lately that we have seen nobody. We are quite country-cousins, and so the town-mouse must spare us a little cheese. How is dear Miss Bracely now?"

"Very well," said Georgie. "I saw her this morning."

Lucia gave a sigh of relief.

"That is good," she said. "Peppino, do you hear? Miss Bracely is quite well. Not overtired with practising that new opera? Lucy Grecian, was it? Oh, how silly I am! Lucretia; that was it, by that extraordinary Neapolitan. Yes. And what next? Our good Mrs Weston, now! Still thinking about her nice young man? Making orange-flower wreaths, and choosing bridesmaids? How naughty I am! Yes. And then dear Daisy? How is she? Still entertaining princesses? I look in the Court Circular every morning to see if Princess Pop-Pop-Popoff isn't it? if Princess Popoff has popped off to see her cousin the Czar again. Dear me!"

The amount of malice, envy and all uncharitableness which Lucia managed to put into this quite unrehearsed speech was positively amazing. She had not thought it over beforehand for a moment; it came out with the august spontaneity of lightning leaping from a cloud. Not till that moment had Georgie guessed at a tithe of all that Olga had felt so certain about, and a double emotion took hold of him. He was immensely sorry for Lucia, never having conjectured how she must have suffered before she attained to so superb a sourness, and he adored the intuition that had guessed it and wanted to sweeten it.

The outburst was not quite over yet, though Lucia felt distinctly better.

"And you, Georgie," she said, "though I'm sure we are such strangers that I ought to call you Mr Pillson, what have you been doing? Playing Miss Bracely's accompaniments, and sewing wedding-dresses all day, and raising spooks all night? Yes."

Lucia had caught this "Yes" from Lady Ambermere, having found it peculiarly obnoxious. You laid down a proposition, or asked a question, and then confirmed it yourself.

"And Mr Cortese," she said, "is he still roaring out his marvellous English and Italian? Yes. What a full life you lead, Georgie. I suppose you have no time for your painting now."

This was not a bow drawn at a venture, for she had seen Georgie come out of Old Place with his paint-box and drawing-board, but this direct attack on him did not lessen the power of the "sweet charity" which had sent him here. He blew the bugle to rally all the good-nature for which he was capable.

"No, I have been painting lately," he said, "at least I have been trying to. I'm doing a little sketch of Miss Bracely at her piano, which I want to give her on Christmas Day. But it's so difficult. I wish I had brought it round to ask your advice, but you would only have screamed with laughter at it. It's a dreadful failure: much worse than those I gave you for your birthdays. Fancy your keeping them still in your lovely music-room. Send them to the pantry, and I'll do something better for you next."

Lucia, try as she might, could not help being rather touched by that.

There they all were: "Golden Autumn Woodland," "Bleak December,"

"Yellow Daffodils," and "Roses of Summer."…

"Or have them blacked over by the boot-boy," she said. "Take them down,

Georgie, and let me send them to be blacked."

This was much better: there was playfulness behind the sarcasm now, which peeped out from it. He made the most of that.

"We'll do that presently," he said. "Just now I want to engage you and Peppino to dine with me on Christmas Day. Now don't be tarsome and say you're engaged. But one can never tell with you."

"A party?" asked Lucia suspiciously.

"Well, I thought we would have just one of our old evenings together again," said Georgie, feeling himself remarkably clever. "We'll have the Quantocks, shan't we, and Colonel and Mrs Colonel, and you and Peppino, and me, and Mrs Rumbold? That'll make eight, which is more than Foljambe likes, but she must lump it. Mr Rumbold is always singing carols all Christmas evening with the choir, and she will be alone."

"Ah, those carols" said Lucia, wincing.

"I know: I will provide you with little wads of cotton-wool. Do come and we'll have just a party of eight. I've asked no one yet and perhaps nobody will come. I want you and Peppino, and the rest may come or stop away. Do say you approve."

Lucia could not yield at once. She had to press her fingers to her forehead.

"So kind of you, Georgie," she said, "but I must think. Are we doing anything on Christmas night, carrissimo? Where's your engagement-book? Go and consult it."

This was a grand manoeuvre, for hardly had Peppino left the room when she started up with a little scream and ran after him.

"Me so stupid," she cried. "Me put it in smoking-room, and poor caro will look for it ever so long. Back in minute, Georgino."

Naturally this was perfectly clear to Georgie. She wanted to have a short private consultation with Peppino, and he waited rather hopefully for their return, for Peppino, he felt sure, was bored with this Achilles-attitude of sitting sulking in the tent. They came back wreathed in smiles, and instantly embarked on the question of what to do after dinner. No romps: certainly not, but why not the tableaux again? The question was still under debate when they went in to lunch. It was settled affirmatively during the macaroni, and Lucia said that they all wanted to work her to death, and so get rid of her. They had thought-she and Peppino-of having a little holiday on the Riviera, but anyhow they would put if off till after Christmas. Georgie's mouth was full of crashing toast at the moment, and he could only shake his head. But as soon as the toast could be swallowed, he made the usual reply with great fervour.

Georgie was hardly at all complacent when he walked home afterwards, and thought how extremely good-natured he had been, for he could not but feel that this marvellous forbearance was a sort of mistletoe growth on him, quite foreign really to his nature. Never before had Lucia showed so shrewish and venomous a temper; he had not thought her capable of it. For the gracious queen, there was substituted a snarling fish-wife, but then as Georgie calmly pursued the pacific mission of comfort to which Olga had ordained him, how the fish-wife's wrinkles had been smoothed out, and the asps withered from her tongue. Had his imagination ever pictured Lucia saying such things to him, it would have supplied him with no sequel but a complete severance of relations between them. Instead of that he had consulted her and truckled to her: truckled: yes, he had truckled, and he was astonished at himself. Why had he truckled? And the beautiful mouth and kindly eyes of Olga supplied the answer. Certainly he must drop in at once, and tell her the result of the mission. Perhaps she would reward him by calling him a darling again. Really he deserved that she should say something nice to him.

It was a day of surprises for Georgie. He found Olga at home, and recounted, without loving any of the substance, the sarcasms of Lucia, and his own amazing tact and forbearance. He did not comment, he just narrated the facts in the vivid Riseholme manner, and waited for his reward.

Olga looked at him a moment in silence: then she deliberately wiped her eyes.

"Oh, poor Mrs Lucas" she said. "She must have been miserable to have behaved like that! I am so sorry. Now what else can you do, Georgie, to make her feel better?"

"I think I've done everything that could have been required of me," said Georgie. "It was all I could do to keep my temper at all. I will give my party at Christmas, because I promised you I would."

"Oh, but it's ten days to Christmas yet," said Olga. "Can't you paint her portrait, and give it her for a present. Oh, I think you could, playing the Moonlight-Sonata."

Georgie felt terribly inclined to be offended and tell Olga that she was tired of him: or to be dignified and say he was unusually busy. Never had he shown such forbearance towards downright rudeness as he had shown to Lucia, and though he had shown that for Olga's sake, she seemed to be without a single spark of gratitude, but continued to urge her request.

"Do paint a little picture of her," she repeated. "She would love it, and make it young and interesting. Think over it, anyhow: perhaps you'll think of something better than that. And now won't you go and secure all your guests for Christmas at once?"

Georgie turned to leave the room, but just as he got to the door she spoke again:

"I think you're a brick," she said.

Somehow this undemonstrative expression of approval began to glow in Georgie's heart as he walked home. Apparently she took it for granted that he was going to behave with all the perfect tact and good-temper that he had shown. It did not surprise her in the least, she had almost forgotten to indicate that she had noticed it at all. And that, as he thought about it, seemed a far deeper compliment than if she had told him how wonderful he was. She took it for granted, no more nor less, that he would be kind and pleasant, whatever Lucia said. He had not fallen short of her standard….

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