Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/135

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133
THE VOYAGE OUT

"And yet those little looking-glasses in hansoms have a fascination of their own," said Mrs. Thornbury. "One's features look so different when one can only see a bit of them."

"There will soon be very few hansom cabs left," said Mrs. Elliot. "And four-wheeled cabs—I assure you even at Oxford it's almost impossible to get a four-wheeled cab."

"I wonder what happens to the horses," said Susan.

"Veal pie," said Arthur.

"It's high time that horses should become extinct anyhow," said Hirst. "They're distressingly ugly, besides being vicious."

But Susan, who had been brought up to understand that the horse is the noblest of God's creatures, could not agree, and Venning thought Hirst an unspeakable ass, but was too polite not to continue the conversation.

"When they see us falling out of aeroplanes they get some of their own back, I expect," he remarked.

"You fly?" said old Mr. Thornbury, putting on his spectacles to look at him.

"I hope to, some day," said Arthur.

Here flying was discussed at length, and Mrs. Thornbury delivered an opinion which was almost a speech to the effect that it would be quite necessary in time of war, and in England we were terribly behindhand. "If I were a young fellow," she concluded, "I should certainly qualify." It was odd to look at the little elderly lady, in her grey coat and skirt, with a sandwich in her hand, her eyes lighting up with zeal as she imagined herself a young man in an aeroplane. For some reason, however, the talk did not run easily after this, and all they said was about drink and salt and the view. Suddenly Miss Allan, who was seated with her back to the mined wall, put down her sandwich, picked something off her neck, and remarked, "I'm covered with little creatures." It was true, and the discovery was very welcome. The ants were pouring down a glacier of loose earth heaped between the stones of the ruin—large brown ants with polished bodies. She held out one on the back of her hand for Helen to look at.

"Suppose they sting?" said Helen.