Page:Out of due time, Ward, 1906.djvu/35

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OUT OF DUE TIME.

dark, rambling hall, and then she stopped, put down the pail, and shrieked, "Jacques, Jacques!" A small, olive complexioned, nondescript man came from behind the tapestry in a far dim corner. "This is all the milk the stupid cows have given me, take it and boil it tout de suite, then take up Miss Fairfax's boxes to the yellow room—I don't know why yellow," she went on, turning to me, "it is a hideous magenta—affreuse!;" she spoke very stiffly, and I felt horribly embarrassed. Then she moved on and I followed her. She lifted a heavy piece of tapestry and held it back for me a moment, and I passed under it murmuring "thank you". I never felt a more glacial manner than hers. We were now in a low, narrow passage. She opened a door, and a flood of rosy light burst into the darkness. At the same moment there was a crash of chords from a piano. The sound was somehow familiar, and most pleasant to me as I followed her into the room. It was also low, and roofed and panelled in old oak, and there were many flowers in it.

"What is the use of staying indoors in such weather?" said Mademoiselle d'Etranges, now in a quite human tone.

"What is the use of milking the cows when somebody else could do it better?" answered a man's deep voice. Mr. George Sutcliffe rose and came from the piano as he spoke. He was as surprised to see me as I was to see him, and I fear that owing to my sense of loneliness I gave him a beaming, too glowing smile of relief. I was certainly not a woman of the world. His very usual, very polite greeting felt a little flat after the warmth of mine.

"So you know her," commented our hostess.

"Yes, we met, but some time ago, isn't it?" said Mr. Sutcliffe.

"And then only for two days," I answered, and to my unutterable disgust I began to blush. Something in Marcelle's black eyes seemed to say, "Dear me, how English!" She lit herself a cigarette, and then looked down at her bare feet.