Page:Out of due time, Ward, 1906.djvu/36

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26
OUT OF DUE TIME.

"I must change them," she said.

"The sooner the better," said Mr. Sutcliffe severely; "but why, since this new fancy, do you go barefoot out-of-doors and wear shoes indoors?"

"Why, because of needles,—cows don't drop needles," retorted Mademoiselle d'Etranges as she left the room. Mr. George Sutcliffe looked at her retreating back with the sun-bonnet hanging over her shoulder and then at me, and smiled and almost winked. "But you are too tired to enjoy any of it yet," he said. "By this time she has probably forgotten all about us, and the main fact is that you must have some tea. Tea is by no means easy to get here. It's of no use ringing any bell, but I will make a try at finding somebody." He disappeared; the result of his researches was the appearance of a large, motherly, delightful North-country woman with a sun-bonnet on her head exactly like that worn by Mademoiselle d'Etranges. This charming person took me up to the yellow room, where everything was magenta, but so faded as to be harmless. Ah, the joy of stretching myself on that old, four-post bedstead, and the relief of shutting my eyes! A quarter of an hour later the man I had seen in the hall looked in with the faintest premonitory knock, bearing a tray of tea in a gigantic silver teapot and a wonderful Sèvres cup and saucer. It proved to be so disgusting a beverage that I could not force myself to drink it, so I emptied the cup into the ivy outside my window. Happily there was a caraffe of gloriously cold water and some essence of orange flower on a side table. After half an hour, in which I realised that I had been tired into a splitting headache, I got up and began to unpack. What on earth should I put on? What would be appropriate to a bare-footed hostess in a sun-bonnet? Just as I had chosen my plainest tea-gown there came a knock at the door, and in answer to my "come in" there appeared a tall dark lady, most beautifully dressed in yellow satin, altogether en grand tenue, and until she