ruffley and sunshadey. Three ladies and the curate played croquet with a general immense gravity broken by occasional loud cries of feigned distress from the curate. "Oh! Whacking me about again! Augh!"
The dominant social fact that afternoon was Mrs. Hogberry; she took up a certain position commanding the croquet and went on, as my aunt said to me in an incidental aside, "like an old Roundabout." She talked of the way in which Beckenham society was getting mixed, and turned on to a touching letter she had recently received from her former nurse at Little Gossdean. Followed a loud account of Little Gossdean and how much she and her eight sisters had been looked up to there." My poor mother was quite a little Queen there," she said. "And such nice Common People! People say the country labourers are getting disrespectful nowadays. It isn't so—not if they're properly treated. Here of course in Beckenham it's different. I don't call the people we get here a Poor—they're certainly not a proper Poor. They're Masses. I always tell Mr. Bugshoot they're Masses, and ought to be treated as such." . . .
Dim memories of Mrs. Mackridge floated through my mind as I listened to her. . . .
I was whirled on this roundabout for a bit, and then had the fortune to fall off into a tête-à-tête with a lady whom my aunt introduced as Mrs. Mumble—but then she introduced everybody to me as Mumble that afternoon, either by way of humour or necessity.
That must have been one of my earliest essays in the art of polite conversation, and I remember that I began by criticizing the local railway service, and that at the third sentence or thereabouts Mrs. Mumble said