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Bliss and Other Stories


This seemed to me so amazingly in the picture, so exactly the gesture and cry that one would expect (though I couldn't have imagined it) to be wrung out of an Englishwoman faced with a great crisis, that I was almost tempted to hold up my hand and protest.

" No ! No ! Enough. Enough. Let us leave off there. At the word—tea. For really, really, you've filled your greediest subscriber so full that he will burst if he has to swallow another word"

It even pulled Dick up. Like someone who has been unconscious for a long long time he turned slowly to Mouse and slowly looked at her with his tired, haggard eyes, and murmured with the echo of his dreamy voice : " Yes. That's a good idea." And then: " You must be tired, Mouse. Sit down."

She sat down in a chair with lace tabs on the arms ; he leaned against the bed, and I established myself on a straight-backed chair, crossed my legs and brushed some imaginary dust off the knees of my trousers. (The Parisian at his ease.)

There came a tiny pause. Then he said : " Won't you take off your coat, Mouse ? "

" No, thanks. Not just now."

Were they going to ask me ? Or should I hold page 104 up my hand and call out in a baby voice: " It's my turn to be asked."

No, I shouldn't. They didn't ask me.

The pause became a silence. A real silence.

"... Come, my Parisian fox-terrier ! Amuse these sad English ! It's no wonder they are such a nation for dogs."

But, after ail—why should I ? It was not my "job," as they would say. Nevertheless, I made a vivacious little bound at Mouse.

" What a pity it is that you did not arrive by daylight. There is such a charming view from these two windows. You know, the hotel is on a corner and each window looks down an immensely long, straight street."

" Yes," said she.

" Not that that sounds very charming," I laughed. " But there is so much animation—so many absurd little boys on bicycles and people hanging out of windows and—oh, well, you'll see for yourself in the morning. . . . Very amusing. Very animated."

" Oh, yes," said she.

If the pale, sweaty garçon had not come in at that moment, carrying the tea-tray high on one hand as if the cups were cannon-balls and he a heavy weight lifter on the cinema. . . .

He managed to lower it on to a round table.

" Bring the table over here," said Mouse. The page 105 waiter seemed to be the only person she cared to speak to. She took her hands out of her muff, drew off her gloves and flung back the old-fashioned cape.

" Do you take milk and sugar ? "

" No milk, thank you, and no sugar."

I went over for mine like a little gentleman. She poured out another cup.

" That's for Dick."

And the faithful fox-terrier carried it across to him and laid it at his feet, as it were.

" Oh, thanks," said Dick.

And then I went back to my chair and she sank back in hers.

But Dick was off again. He stared wildly at the cup of tea for a moment, glanced round him, put it down on the bed-table, caught up his hat and stammered at full gallop : " Oh, by the way, do you mind posting a letter for me ? I want to get it off by to-night's post. I must. It's very urgent. . . ." Feeling her eyes on him, he flung: " It's to my mother." To me : "I won't be long. I've got everything I want. But it must go off to-night You don't mind ? It ... it won't take any time."

" Of course I'll post it. Delighted."

" Won't you drink your tea first ? " suggested Mouse softly.

. . . Tea ? Tea ? Yes, of course. Tea. . . . A cup of tea on the bed-table. ... In his racing page 106dream he flashed the brightest, most charming smile at his little hostess.

" No, thanks. Not just now."

And still hoping it would not be any trouble to me he went out of the room and closed the door, and we heard him cross the passage.