Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/115

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113
THE VOYAGE OUT

Hewet," she continued, "do come and sit by us. I was telling my husband how much you reminded me of a dear old friend of mine—Mary Umpleby. She was a most delightful woman, I assure you. She grew roses. We used to stay with her in the old days."

"No young man likes to have it said that he resembles an elderly spinster," said Mr. Thornbury.

"On the contrary," said Mr. Hewet, "I always think it a compliment to remind people of some one else. But Miss Umpleby—why did she grow roses?"

"Ah, poor thing," said Mrs. Thornbury, "that's a long story. She had gone through dreadful sorrows. At one time I think she would have lost her senses if it hadn't been for her garden. The soil was very much against her—a blessing in disguise; she had to be up at dawn—out in all weathers. And then there are creatures that eat roses. But she triumphed. She always did. She was a brave soul." She sighed deeply but at the same time with resignation.

"I did not realise that I was monopolising the paper," said Miss Allan, coming up to them.

"We were so anxious to read about the debate," said Mrs. Thornbury, accepting it on behalf of her husband.

"One doesn't realise how interesting a debate can be until one has sons in the navy. My interests are equally balanced, though; I have sons in the army too; and one son who makes speeches at the Union—my baby!"

"Hirst would know him, I expect," said Hewet.

"Mr. Hirst has such an interesting face," said Mrs. Thornbury. "But I feel one ought to be very clever to talk to him. Well, William?" she enquired, for Mr. Thornbury grunted.

"They're making a mess of it," said Mr. Thornbury. He had reached the second column of the report, a spasmodic column, for the Irish members had been brawling three weeks ago at Westminster over a question of naval efficiency. After a disturbed paragraph or two, the column of print once more ran smoothly.

"You have read it?" Mrs. Thornbury asked Miss Allan.

"No, I am ashamed to say I have only read about the discoveries in Crete," said Miss Allan.