Page:The Voyage Out.djvu/161

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159
THE VOYAGE OUT

you see. It attacks the rats, and through them other creatures."

"And the local authorities are not taking proper steps?" asked Mrs. Thornbury.

"That she does not say. But she describes the attitude of the educated people—who should know better—as callous in the extreme. Of course, my sister-in-law is one of those active modern women, who always takes things up, you know—the kind of woman one admires, though one does not feel, at least I do not feel—but then she has a constitution of iron."

Mrs. Elliot, brought back to the consideration of her own delicacy, here sighed.

"A very animated face," said Mrs. Thornbury, looking at Evelyn M. who had stopped near them to pin tight a scarlet flower at her breast. It would not stay, and, with a spirited gesture of impatience, she thrust it into her partner's button-hole. He was a tall melancholy youth, who received the gift as a knight might receive his lady's token.

"Very trying to the eyes," was Mrs. Elliot's next remark, after watching the yellow whirl in which so few of the whirlers had either name or character for her, for a few minutes. Bursting out of the crowd, Helen approached them, and took a vacant chair.

"May I sit by you?" she said, smiling and breathing fast, "I suppose I ought to be ashamed of myself," she went on, sitting down, "at my age."

Her beauty, now that she was flushed and animated, was more expansive than usual, and both the ladies felt the same desire to touch her.

"I am enjoying myself," she panted. Movement—isn't it amazing?"

"I have always heard that nothing comes up to dancing if one is a good dancer," said Mrs. Thornbury, looking at her with a smile.

Helen swayed slightly as if she sat on wires.

"I could dance for ever!" she said. "They ought to let themselves go more!" she exclaimed. "They ought to leap and swing. Look! How they mince!"

"Have you seen those wonderful Russian dancers?" began