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Unformatted text preview: round the lake and then
back through the pinewoods. It really was
A waiter came out and received orders for tea. Mrs. Rice went on, her needles
"Elsie had a letter from her husband.
She mayn't come down to tea."
"Her husband ?" Harold was surprised.
"Do you know, I always thought she was
Mrs. Rice shot him a sharp glance. She
"Oh no, Elsie isn't a widow." She added
with emphasis: "Unfortunately!"
Harold was startled.
Mrs. Rice, nodding her head grimly,
"Drink is responsible for a lot of unhappiness, Mr. Waring."
"Does he drink ?"
"Yes. And a good many other things as
well. He's insanely jealous and has a singularly
violent temper." She sighed. "It's a
difficult world, Mr. Waring. I'm devoted
to Elsie, she's my only child -- and to see
her unhappy isn't an easy thing to bear.55
Harold said with real emotion:
"She's such a gentle creature.55 "A little too gentle, perhaps.55
"You mean --55
Mrs. Rice said slowly:
"A happy creature is more arrogant.
Elsie's gentleness comes, I think, from
a sense of defeat. Life has been too much
Harold said with some slight hesitation:
"How--did she come to marry this
husband of hers ?55
Mrs. Rice answered:
"Philip Clayton was a very attractive
person. He had (still has) great charm, he
had a certain amount of money--and
there was no one to advise us of his real
character. I had been a widow for many
years. Two women, living alone, are not
the best judges of a man's character.55
Harold said thoughtfully:
"No, that's true.55
He felt a wave of indignation and pity
sweep over him. Elsie Clayton could not
be more than twenty-five at the most. He
recalled the clear friendliness of her blue
eyes, the soft droop of her mouth. He realised, suddenly, that his interest in her
went a little beyond friendship.
And she was tied to a brute. .. .
That evening, Harold joined mother and
daughter after dinner. Elsie Clayton was
wearing a soft dull pink dress. Her eyelids,
he noticed, were red. She had been crying.
Airs. Rice said briskly:
"I've found out who your two harpies
are, Mr. Waring. Polish ladies — of very
good family, so the concierge says."
Harold looked across the room to where
the Polish ladies were sitting. Elsie said
"Those two women over there? With
the henna-dyed hair? They look rather
horrible somehow — I don't know why."
Harold said triumphantly:
"That's just what I thought."
Mrs. Rice said with a laugh:
"I think you are both being absurd. You
can't possibly tell what people are like just
by looking at them." Elsie laughed.
"I suppose one can't. All the same /
think they're vultures!5'
'Ticking out dead men's eyes!35 said
"Oh, don't," cried Elsie.
Harold said quickly:
Mrs. Rice said with a smile:
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