Open main menu

Page:Tono-Bungay.djvu/210

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
202
TONO-BUNGAY

She was a thin, bright-eyed, hawk-nosed girl of thirty-odd, with prominent teeth, a high-pitched, eager voice, and a disposition to be urgently smart in her dress. Her hats were startling and various but invariably disconcerting, and she talked in a rapid, nervous flow that was hilarious rather than witty, and broken by little screams of "Oh my dear!" and "You never did!" She was the first woman I ever met who used scent. Poor old Smithie! What a harmless, kindly soul she really was, and how heartily I detested her! Out of the profits on the Persian robes she supported a sister's family of three children, she "helped" a worthless brother and overflowed in help even to her workgirls, but that didn't weigh with me in those youthfully-narrow times. It was one of the intense minor irritations of my married life that Smithie's whirlwind chatter seemed to me to have far more influence with Marion than anything I had to say. Before all things I coveted her grip upon Marion's inaccessible mind.

In the work-room at Smithie's, I gathered, they always spoke of me demurely as "A Certain Person." I was rumoured to be dreadfully "clever," and there were doubts—not altogether without justification—of the sweetness of my temper.


§2

Well, these general explanations will enable the reader to understand the distressful times we two had together when presently I began to feel on a footing with Marion and to fumble conversationally for the mind and the wonderful passion I felt, obstinately and