类型:奇幻地区:莫桑比克剧发布:2020-08-07 00:26:49


Secretly he wondered at the obtuseness of this man, who had thought such a scheme within the wildest range of possibilities. For himself he would not have lent a sixpence either of his own or of public money on such an enterprise. Yet he knew that Lord Inverbroom had been a Foreign Secretary of outstanding eminence, diplomatic, large-viewed, one who had earned the well-merited confidence of the public. Without doubt he had great qualities, but they did not appear to embrace the smallest perception on the subject of business.‘Ah, yes, and left her room lit,’ he said, joking with him out of sheer happiness.

Late that night he was sitting alone in his library. The evening had passed precisely as it always did when he and his wife and Alice were by themselves. Lady Keeling had been neither more nor less fatuous than usual, Alice, the slippers being off her mind, had played a couple of games of backgammon with him, and had shown herself as futile an adversary as ever.‘Well, indeed! You are much too kind to them after what they did to you, Thomas. I am sorry you did that; they deserved a good slap to serve them out.’

‘I know; it is wicked of me,’ she said. ‘But I so much wanted to get on with my work. You are back early, aren’t you?’‘Poor parson knows kind friends are thinking{205} for him,’ he said. ‘He knows it too well perhaps: he is so selfish that he leaves his happiness in the hands of others, and doesn’t bother about it himself.’

‘How pleased the herald angels will be!’ he answered.

It is said that a man’s conduct is coloured and inspired by his religion, but it is equally true to say of another and more numerous class that their religion is coloured and inspired by their conduct. {2}Certainly that was the case with Mr Keeling. His life did not so much spring out of his religion, as his religion out of his life; and what he felt every Sunday morning and evening in church was the fruit, the stern honey distilled, so to speak, from the mental and moral integrity which had pervaded him from Monday till Saturday inclusive. All the week the bees collected that store of provender which was transmuted into the frame of mind which was equivalent in him to religion. It did not in the smallest degree enter into his week-day life: his week-day life secreted it, and he found it very well expressed for him in the sermon of Dr Inglis and the fiercer of King David’s psalms. The uprightness, honesty, and industry which he demanded from himself he demanded also from others; but it was not his religion that inspired those excellent qualities. They inspired it.Keeling nodded to Charles.{94}

A certain measure of relief came to poor Alice at this moment, for she observed that everybody had finished the meat-course, and she and Hugh (who had at present escaped the lash of his grandmother’s tongue) and John hastily got up and began changing their elders’ plates, and removing dishes. This was the custom of Sunday lunch at Mrs Keeling’s, and a Sabbatarian design of saving the servants trouble lay at the back of it. The detail of which it took no account was that it gave Hugh and Alice and John three times as much trouble as it would have given the servants, for they made endless collisions with each other as they went round the table; two of them simultaneously tried to drag the roast beef away in opposite directions, and the gravy spoon, tipped up by John’s elbow, careered through the air with a comet-tail of congealed meat-juice behind it. Ominous sounds of side-slip from heaped plates and knives came from the dinner wagon, where the used china was piled, and some five minutes of arduous work, filled with bumpings and crashings and occasional spurts of suppressed laughter from John, who, like a true wit, was delighted with his own swift and disconcerting reply to his Granny, were needful to effect the changes required for the discussion of plum tart and that strange form of refreshment known as{23} ‘cold shape.’ During these resonant minutes further conversation between the elders was impossible, but Mrs Goodford was not wasting her time, but saving up, storing her forces, reviewing her future topics.He looked at her, and saw that her face seemed flushed. That, no doubt, was owing to the heat of the room where she had been working. He pushed a ledger and a pile of typewritten sheets towards her.At the door he turned back again. Once more she had beaten him.

‘Take that on account, please,’ he said. ‘If you want to be business-like, give me a receipt. And I advise you to spend some of it on a little holiday.’

He was aware that she was intending to exercise the dead-weight somewhere. It was not many weeks ago that she had brought it into play regarding Mr Silverdale and his Romish practices, when she had refused to leave his church for the simpler rites of the Cathedral. He had yielded there, because he did not really care whether she and Alice chose to attend a milliner-church or not. They might if they liked: it did not seriously matter. But the dead-weight, if she was{143} intending to exercise it over the question of Norah, mattered very much.

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For the first time, now that his wife so lavishly applauded his action, Keeling began to be not so satisfied with it. The fact that it commended itself to her type of mind, was an argument against it: her praise disgusted him: it was at least as impertinent as Norah’s disapprobation.For another half-hour the two worked on at their separate tables. The girl never once raised her eyes from her task, but sat with one hand following down the list of names and figures, while with the other she entered them in their{81} due places in the ledger. But her employer more than once looked up at her, and noted, as he had noted before, the decision and quickness of her hands, and, as he had not noted before, the distinction of her profile. She was remarkably like her handsome brother; she was also like the picture of one of the Rhine-maidens in an illustrated edition of the Rheinegold. But he gave less thought to that than to the fact that he had evidently secured an efficient secretary.‘Well, I’m glad to hear you speak like that, dear,’ she said, ‘because the last time you mentioned Julia’s name was to tell me that you didn’t want to hear it mentioned again. Mrs Fyson, too, I dare say she is a very well-meaning woman, though she does go about saying that all sorts of things are happening without any grounds except that she wants them to.{222}’




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