Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/160

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fans, handkerchiefs, and brooches deposited in their laps by flushed maidens. Occasionally they exchanged comments.

"Miss Warrington does look happy," said Mrs. Elliot; they both smiled; they both sighed.

"He has a great deal of character," said Mrs. Thombury, alluding to Arthur.

"And character is what one wants," said Mrs. Elliot. "Now that young man is clever enough," she added, nodding at Hirst, who came past with Miss Allan on his arm.

"He does not look strong," said Mrs. Thombury. "His complexion is not good.—Shall I tear it off?" she asked, for Rachel had stopped, conscious of a long strip trailing behind her.

"I hope you are enjoying yourselves?" Hewet asked the ladies.

"This is a very familiar position for me!" smiled Mrs. Thombury. "I have brought out five daughters—and they all loved dancing! You love it too. Miss Vinrace?" she asked, looking at Rachel with maternal eyes. "I know I did when I was your age. How I used to beg my mother to let me stay—and now I sympathise with the poor mothers—but I sympathise with the daughters too!"

She smiled sympathetically, and at the same time looked rather keenly at Rachel.

"They seem to find a great deal to say to each other," said Mrs. Elliot, looking significantly at the backs of the couple as they turned away. "Did you notice at the picnic? He was the only person who could make her utter."

"Her father is a very interesting man," said Mrs. Thornbury. "He has one of the largest shipping businesses in Hull. He made a very able reply, you remember, to Mr. Asquith at the last election. It is so interesting to find that a man of his experience is a strong Protectionist."

She would have liked to discuss politics, which interested her more than personalities, but Mrs. Elliot would only talk about the Empire in a less abstract form.

"I hear there are dreadful accounts from England about the rats," she said. "A sister-in-law, who lives at Norwich, tells me it has been quite unsafe to order poultry. The plague—