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It was a crisp morning, with touches of frost lingering in shadowed places where the warmth of the primrose-coloured winter sunshine had not reached them, and Norah preferred walking to taking the bus that would have set her down at the corner where Alfred Street became Alfred Road. She was keenly sensitive to the suggestion of brisk sunshine or the depression of heavy weather, but the kindly vigour of this winter morning did{192} not wholly account for the exhilaration and glee of her blood. There was more than that in it: the drench of a December gale would hardly have affected her to-day. As she went, she let herself examine for the first time the conditions that for the last six weeks had caused her every morning to awake with the sense of pleasure and eager anticipation of the ensuing day. Hitherto she had diverted her mind from causes, and been contented with effects. Her office-work (that work which had begun so distastefully) pleased and interested her, her catalogue work enthralled her, and now she turned round the corner, so to speak, of herself, and asked herself why this sunshine was spread over all she did.

She made no reservation on the subject: she told herself that it was because these things were done with Keeling or for him. With equal frankness, now that she had brought herself face to face with the question, she affirmed that she was not in love with him, and as far as she could know herself at all she knew that to be true. But it was equally true that she had never met any one who so satisfied her. Never for a moment had the least hint of sentimentality entered into their day-long intercourse. He could be, and sometimes was, gruff and grim, and she accepted his grimnesses and gruffnesses because they were his. At other times he showed a comprehending consideration for her, and she welcomed his{193} comprehension and his considerateness, for exactly the same reason. She knew she would not have cared the toss of a brass farthing if Mr Silverdale had comprehended her, or a railway porter had been considerate of her. All her life she had been independent and industrious, and that had sufficed for her. She had not wanted anything from anybody except employment and a decent recompense. Her emotional life had vented itself on those beloved creatures called books, and on that divine veiled figure called Art that stood behind them, and prompted, as from behind some theatre-wing, her deft imaginative work in designing and executing the wood blocks for book-plates. In every one there is a secret fountain which pours itself out broadcast, or quietly leaks and so saves itself from bursting.

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Books and the dreams she wove into her blocks had given her that leakage, and here had her fountain thrown up its feather of sparkling waters.

She had not been without certain expression of herself in more human terms. She had for years borne patiently with a querulous mother, but her patience and care for her had been the expression of decent and filial behaviour rather than of herself. When that task was over she had gone with comradeship to her brother, with whom she had a greater affinity of tastes. But now, as she walked westwards in the snap of wintry air and the joy of wintry sun, she realised how completely{194} sisterhood and the kinship of a bookish mind accounted for her devotion to him. They were the best of friends, they lived together in the most amicable equality, in a comfortable atmosphere of courtesy and

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affection. She gave and she took, they lived and worked together equally, and that sense of ‘fairness,’ of reasonable contract between brother and sister was the root of their harmonious companionship.

And now, so she instinctively recognised, that sort of satisfaction in human intercourse had become to her childish and elementary. It was good (长沙桑拿洗浴中心nothing could be better) as far as it went, but this morning she felt as some musician might feel, if he was asked to content himself with a series of full plain common chords on the piano. Nothing could be better (as far as it went) than that uncomplicated common chord: nor (as far as it went) could anything be better than living with so amiable and understanding a brother. Only now she wanted to give, instead of to give and take: she wanted to lose the sense of fairness, to serve and not to be served.

She had the satisfaction—and that made her step the more briskly and gave the sunshine this mysterious power of exhilaration—of knowing that she was serving and supplying. She loved the knowledge that never had Keeling’s typewriting been done for him so flawlessly, that never had the details of his business, such as came{195} 长沙桑拿论坛sn within her ken, been so unerringly recorded. He might ask for the reference to the minutest point in a month-old letter, and she could always reinforce his deficient memory of it, and turn up the letter itself for confirmation of her knowledge. When days of overwhelming work had occurred, and he had suggested getting in a second typewriter to assist her, she had always, with a mixture of pride in her own efficiency, and of jealousy of a helping hand, proved herself capable of tackling any task that might be set her. Probably she could not have done it for any one else, but she could do it for him. It was easier, so she told herself, to do his work herself, than to instruct anybody else what to do. She allowed herself just that shade of self-deception, knowing all the time that there were plenty of ‘routine’ letters that any one 长沙桑拿场子推荐 else could have done as well as she. But she did not want anybody else to do them.

She was passing through the disused graveyard of the Cathedral where the clipped hedge of hornbeam bounded the asphalt path. The browned leaves still clung to the trees, and she suddenly remembered how she had passed down this path with Charles, and had said how distasteful it was to work for a cad. Her own words to hang on the air, even as the leaves still clung to the hedge, and she tried in vain to remember the mood in which those words were{196} green as the hornbeam leaves had then been, instead of being brown and lifeless. Lifeless they were, there was no vitality in them. They but clung to her memory, as the brown leaves to the hedge. She was scarcely ashamed of them: she only wondered at them, just as, in parenthesis of her thought, 长沙桑拿攻略 she wondered at the clothed twigs, when all the other trees had shed their foliage. They were not evergreen: they were just dead.

She came out, by this short cut across the Cathedral close, where the motor-bus would have taken her, and saw the row of separated houses stretch westward in Alfred Road. A quarter of a mile away was The Cedars, with the delightful big library, and the abominable residuum of the house. Very likely she would see Mrs Keeling, or Miss Keeling….

It was not only in matters of office work, of swift shorthand, of impeccable typewriting that she was of use to him. She guessed that he found in her a companionship that Mrs Keeling with her pearl-pendant and her propriety could not supply. Norah knew all about the pearl-pendant: Mrs Keeling had told her, as it wagged at her throat, that her husband had given it her on her birthday, and was it not handsome? It was tremendously handsome: there was no doubt whatever about that. But the pearl-pendant mattered to Norah exactly as much as did the cheque which she had just{197} been given. It mattered less, indeed: it did not express anything.

She faced the conclusion that her vague exhilaration of thought had brought her to. She did not only serve him in his office: she served him here in The Cedars. Neither Mrs Keeling nor his daughter could make his book-catalogue for him. Irrespective of their inability, he would not have allowed them to attempt it. But she could do it: he gave her access to his library and a free hand to do as she liked there.

She turned in at the gate and went up the drive to the Gothic porch. He gave her more than that: he gave her his need of her. He had expressed that when he had said her catalogue work was a pure matter of business. What he meant and what she understood was that it was not.

The boy covered with buttons opened the door to her. She hoped that Mrs Keeling would not be richly crossing the Gothic hall. She wanted only to get quietly into the library and go on with letter M. Letter M implied a quantity of cardboard slips.

She wanted to be left alone in the library, working for him. It did not matter whether he paid her for her work or not. She only wanted to go on working for him.

CHAPTER VII
Alice Keeling had arrived at that stage of convalescence after her influenza when there is dawn on the wreck, and it seems faintly possible that the world will again eventually prove to contain more than temperature thermometers and beef-tea. She was going to leave Bracebridge with her mother next day for the projected fortnight at Brighton, and had tottered up and down the gravel path round the garden this morning for half an hour to accustom herself to air and locomotion again. While she was out, she had heard the telephone bell ring inside the house, a sound that always suggested to her nowadays an entrancing possibility, and this was confirmed when Parkinson came out to tell her that Mr Silverdale would like to speak to her. At that she ceased to totter: her feet positively twinkled on their way to the little round black ear of the machine. And the entrancing possibility was confirmed. Might Mr Silverdale drop in for the cup that cheered that afternoon? And was she better? And would she promise not to be naughty and get ill again? Indeed, she was vastly better on the moment, and said down the telephone in a voice still slightly hoarse, ‘I’m not naughty: me dood,{199}’ in the baby-dialect much affected by her and Mr Silverdale.

Alice was not of a prevaricating or deceptive nature, but having suddenly remembered that her mother was opening a bazaar that afternoon, and would not be back for tea, she gaily hastened to forget that again, for the chance of having tea alone with Mr Silverdale must not be jeopardised by such infinitesimal proprieties. She hastened also to forget to tell her mother that he had proposed himself, and only remembered to change her dress after lunch for something more becoming. She choose with a view to brightening herself up a daring red gown, which made her, by contrast, look rather whiter than the influenza had really left her. But she did not mind that: it was obviously out of the question to look in rosy and blooming health, and the best alternative was to appear interestingly pale. She remembered also to order hot buns for tea, though the idea of eating one in her present state was provocative of a shuddering qualm, and having her mother safely off the premises, sat waiting in Mrs Keeling’s boudoir ready to ring for tea as soon as her visitor appeared. Punctually the sound of the front-door bell, and according to his custom, he came running across the drawing-room, tapped at the boudoir door, and peeped in, his head alone appearing.

‘May me come in?’ he said. ‘And how are us?{200}’

He took her hand and playfully pretended to feel her pulse.

‘Now this is doctor’s orders,’ he said. ‘You are to sit cosily by the fire, and talk to any poor parson who comes to see you. The dose is to be taken at exactly half-past four!’

He sat down on the hearth-rug in front of her chair, and looked round the room.

‘This is the pleasantest club I know,’ he said. ‘And where’s the president?’

Alice guessed what he meant in a moment.