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309
OUR PROGRESS

"Oriental type?"

"Oh! Like a burst hareem! . . . Bragging of possessions. . . . They feel you. They feel your clothes, George, to see if they are good!"

I soothed her as well as I could. "They are Good, aren't they?" I said.

"It's the old pawnshop in their blood," she said, drinking tea; and then in infinite disgust, "They run their hands over your clothes—they paw you."

I had a moment of doubt whether perhaps she had not been discovered in possession of unsuspected forgeries. I don't know. After that my eyes were quickened, and I began to see for myself women running their hands over other women's furs, scrutinizing their lace, even demanding to handle jewellery, appraising, envying, testing. They have a kind of etiquette. The woman who feels says, "What beautiful sables!" "What lovely lace!" The woman felt admits proudly: "It's Real, you know," or disavows pretension modestly and hastily, "It's not Good." In each other's houses they peer at the pictures, handle the selvage of hangings, look at the bottoms of china. . . .

I wonder if it is the old pawnshop in the blood.

I doubt if Lady Drew and the Olympians did that sort of thing, but there I may be only clinging to another of my former illusions about aristocracy and the State. Perhaps always possessions have been Booty, and never anywhere has there been such a thing as house and furnishings native and natural to the women and men who made use of them. . . .


§6

For me, at least, it marked an epoch in my uncle's career when I learnt one day that he had "shopped"