George Moore.

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drink tea and talk of their work.

It is now eleven o'clock in the morning. Alice enters her drawing-room.
You see her: a tall, spare woman with kind eyes, who carries her arms
stiffly. She has just finished her housekeeping, she puts down her
basket of keys, and with all the beautiful movement of the young mother
she takes up the crawling mass of white frock, kisses her son and
settles his blue sash. And when she has talked to him for a few minutes
she rings the bell for nurse; then she sits down to write. As usual, her
pen runs on without a perceptible pause. Words come to her easily, but
she has not finished the opening paragraph of the article she is writing
when the sound of rapid footsteps attracts her attention, and Olive
bursts into the room.

'Oh, Alice, how do you do? I couldn't stop at home any longer, I am sick
of it.'

'Couldn't stop at home any longer, Olive; what do you mean?'

'If you won't take me in, say so, and I'll go.'

'My dear Olive, I shall be delighted to have you with me; but why can't
you stop at home any longer - surely there is no harm in my asking?'

'Oh, I don't know; don't ask me; I am so miserable at home; I can't tell
you how unhappy I am. I know I shall never be married, and the perpetual
trying to make up matches is sickening. Mamma will insist on riches,
position, and all that sort of thing - those kind of men don't want to
get married - I am sick of going out; I won't go out any more. We never
missed a tennis-party last year; we used to go sometimes ten miles to
them, so eager was mamma after Captain Gibbon, and it did not come off;
and then the whole country laughs.'

'And who is Captain Gibbon? I never heard of him before.'

'No, you don't know him: he was not in Galway in your time.'

'And Captain Hibbert! Have you heard from him since he went out to
India?'

'Yes, once; he wrote to me to say that he hoped to see me when he came
home.'

'And when will that be?'

'Oh, I don't know; when people go out to India one never expects to see
them again.'

Seeing how sore the wound was, Alice did not attempt to probe it, but
strove rather to lead Olive's thoughts away from it, and gradually the
sisters lapsed into talking of their acquaintances and friends, and of
how life had dealt with them.

'And May, what is she doing?'

'She met with a bad accident, and has not been out hunting lately. She
was riding a pounding match with Mrs. Manly across country: May's horse
came to grief at a big wall, and broke several of her ribs. They say she
has given up riding - now she does nothing but paint. You remember how
well she used to paint at school.'

'And the Brennans?'

'Oh, they go up to the Shelbourne every year, but none of them are
married; and I am afraid that they must be very hard up, for their land
is very highly let, and the tenants are paying no rent at all
now - Ireland is worse than ever; we shall all be ruined, and they say
Home Rule is certain. But I am sick of the subject.'

Then the Duffys, the Honourable Miss Gores, and the many other families
of unmarried girls - the poor muslin martyrs, whose sufferings were the
theme of this book, were again passed in review; their failures
sometimes jeeringly alluded to by Olive, but always listened to
pityingly by Alice - and, talking thus of their past life, the sisters
leant over the spring fire that burnt out in the grate. At the end of a
long silence Alice said:

'Well, dear, I hope you have come to live with us, or at any rate to pay
us a long visit.'





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Online LibraryGeorge MooreMuslin → online text (page 23 of 23)