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   Chapter 26 No.26

The Regent By Arnold Bennett Characters: 4896

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Edward Henry and Mr. Marrier worked together admirably that afternoon on the arrangements for the corner-stone-laying. And-such was the interaction of their separate enthusiasms-it soon became apparent that all London (in the only right sense of the word "all") must and would be at the ceremony. Characteristically, Mr. Marrier happened to have a list or catalogue of all London in his pocket, and Edward Henry appreciated him more than ever. But towards four o'clock Mr. Marrier annoyed and even somewhat alarmed Edward Henry by a mysterious change of mien. His assured optimism slipped away from him. He grew uneasy, darkly preoccupied, and inefficient. At last, when the clock in the room struck four, and Edward Henry failed to hear it, Mr. Marrier said:

"I'm afraid I shall have to ask you to excuse me now."


"I told you I had an appointment for tea at four."

"Did you? What is it?" Edward Henry demanded, with an employer's instinctive assumption that souls as well as brains can be bought for such sums as three pounds a week.

"I have a lady coming to tea here. That is, downstairs."

[197] "In this hotel?"


"Who is it?" Edward Henry pursued lightly, for though he appreciated Mr. Harrier, he also despised him. However, he found the grace to add: "May one ask?"

"It's Miss Elsie April."

"Do you mean to say, Marrier," complained Edward Henry, "that you've known Miss Elsie April all these months and never told me?... There aren't two, I suppose? It's the cousin or something of Rose Euclid?"

Mr. Marrier nodded. "The fact is," he said, "she and I are joint honorary organizing secretaries for the annual conference of the Azure Society. You know-it leads the New Thought movement in England."

"You never told me that, either?"

"Didn't I, sir? I didn't think it would interest you. Besides, both Miss April and I are comparatively new members."

"Oh," said Edward Henry, with all the canny provincial's conviction of his own superior shrewdness; and he repeated, so as to intensify this conviction and impress it on others, "Oh!" In the undergrowth of his mind was the thought: "How dare this man whose brains belong to me be the organizing secretary of something that I don't know anything about and don't want to know anything about?"

"Yes," said Mr. Marrier, modestly.

"I say," Edward Henry inquired warmly, with an impulsive gesture, "who is she?"

"Who is she?" repeated M

r. Marrier, blankly.

"Yes. What does she do?"

"Doesn't do anything," said Mr. Marrier. "Very good amateur actress. [198] Goes about a great deal. Her mother was on the stage. Married a wealthy wholesale corset-maker."

"Who did? Miss April?" Edward Henry had a twinge.

"No. Her mother. Both parents dead, and Miss April has an income-a considerable income."

"What do you call considerable?"

"Five or six thousand a year."

"The deuce!" murmured Edward Henry.

"May have lost a bit of it, of course," Mr. Marrier hedged. "But not much, not much!"

"Well," said Edward Henry, smiling, "what about my tea? Am I to have tea all by myself?"

"Will you come down and meet her?" Mr. Marrier's expression approached the wistful.

"Well," said Edward Henry, "it's an idea, isn't it? Why should I be the only person in London who doesn't know Miss Elsie April?"

It was ten minutes past four when they descended into the electric publicity of the Grand Babylon. Amid the music and the rattle of crockery and the gliding waiters and the large nodding hats that gathered more and more thickly round the tables, there was no sign of Elsie April.

"She may have been and gone away again," said Edward Henry, apprehensive.

"Oh, no! She wouldn't go away." Mr. Marrier was positive.

In the tone of a man with an income of two hundred pounds a week he ordered a table to be prepared for three.

At ten minutes to five he said:

"I hope she hasn't been and gone away again!"

Edward Henry began to be gloomy and resentful. The crowded and factitious gaiety of the place actually annoyed him. If Elsie April [199] had been and gone away again, he objected to such silly feminine conduct. If she was merely late, he equally objected to such unconscionable inexactitude. He blamed Mr. Marrier. He considered that he had the right to blame Mr. Marrier because he paid him three pounds a week. And he very badly wanted his tea.

Then their four eyes, which for forty minutes had scarcely left the entrance staircase, were rewarded. She came, in furs, gleaming white kid gloves, gold chains, a gold bag, and a black velvet hat.

"I'm not late, am I?" she said, after the introduction.

"No," they both replied. And they both meant it. For she was like fine weather. The forty minutes of waiting were forgotten, expunged from the records of time-just as the memory of a month of rain is obliterated by one splendid sunny day.

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