2Qa

2Qa

"Well then, Paris. She can buy new frocks."

"Agnes doesn't care for new frocks. Such simple tastes she has, wanting to help the poor. Rubbish, I call it."

"Why, when her husband helps Lord Garvington?" asked Mrs. Belgrove artlessly.

Lady Garvington frowned. "What horrid things you say."

"I only repeat what every one is saying."

"Well, I'm sure I don't care," cried Lady Garvington recklessly, and rose to depart on some vague errand. "I'm only in the world to look after dinners and breakfasts. Clara Greeby's a cat making all this fuss about—"

"Hush! There she is."

Lady Garvington fluttered round, and drifted towards Miss Greeby, who had just stepped out on to the terrace. The banker's daughter was in a tailor-made gown with a man's cap and a man's gloves, and a man's boots—at least, as Mrs. Belgrove thought, they looked like that—and carried a very masculine stick, more like a bludgeon than a cane. With her ruddy complexion and ruddy hair, and piercing blue eyes, and magnificent figure—for she really had a splendid figure in spite of Mrs. Belgrove's depreciation—she looked like a gigantic Norse goddess. With a flashing display of white teeth, she came along swinging her stick, or whirling her shillalah, as Mrs. Belgrove put it, and seemed the embodiment of coarse, vigorous health.

"Taking a sun-bath?" she inquired brusquely and in a loud baritone voice. "Very wise of you two elderly things. I am going for a walk."

Mrs. Belgrove was disagreeable in her turn. "Going to the Abbot's Wood?"

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"How clever of you to guess," Miss Greeby smiled and nodded. "Yes, I'm going to look up Lambert"; she always spoke of her male friends in this hearty fashion. "He ought to be here enjoying himself instead of living like a hermit in the wilds."

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"He's painting pictures," put in Lady Garvington. "Do hermits paint?"

"No. Only society women do that," said Miss Greeby cheerfully, and Mrs. Belgrove's faded eyes flashed. She knew that the remark was meant for her, and snapped back. "Are you going to have your fortune told by the gypsies, dear?" she inquired amiably. "They might tell you about your marriage."

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"Oh, I daresay, and if you ask they will prophesy your funeral."

"I am in perfect health, Miss Greeby."

"So I should think, since your cheeks are so red."