« ZurückWeiter »
again as long as I live. To think, you know, that any one should take the trouble to come and pick me out, after I'd lain so long at the bottom of the basket that all the bloom had got rubbed off me in a manner, and nobody would have supposed there'd been a bit of taste left in me worth speaking of ! — it's providential, it really is. But then, Mrs. Harcourt, I always said the fruit that had lain longest in the basketthe old residents, you understand - should have the first chance, especially with a widower; don't you think so, now?”.
Mrs. Harcourt did think so, and expressed an opinion to that effect; whereupon Miss Gabbatis felt drawn out to offer a little more circumstantial information as to the origin and progress of the change in her prospects.
“ You see, Mrs. Harcourt, having as I said lain so long at the bottom of the basket, I had quite made up my mind to stay there altogether; and lately, when anybody came my way who was likely to be wanting a little fruitin a figurative sense, you know — I haven't thought it worth while to come forward and
see if there was any chance of getting off; because, you see, my dear Mrs. Harcourt, the Braeton basket is so heaped up with fruit, it really is, and the apples at the top have such nice rosy cheeks and look so round and plump, that really when any Adams go past they just pick one off that comes handy, and never trouble themselves to see if there are any lying underneath that they might get cheap. And, in fact, with being there so long, and getting accustomed to the situation, I began to think the bottom of the basket was a very comfortable place, and I didn't care much whether I ever was asked to leave it or not.”
“ That is a very convenient frame of mind to cultivate, especially in Braeton, where there is so much fruit to sell and so few people to buy. But I dare say, Miss Gabbatis, it was just because you had made up your mind to your position that you were invited to change it."
“ Very likely; things go so much by contraries now-a-days, and when people make up their minds to anything, it's a pretty sure sign they'll have to take them to pieces again before long.
At least that's been my experience. But to return to the subject. You know I've always made it a point, a very sharp point, never to offer anything more than civility to Mr. Smithson since he came, on account of his being a widower, and me an unmarried female with a position to sustain ; although I'm sure, to tell the truth, I often felt very much drawn out to run across and have a little chat with him of an evening; because you see we have lived so handy, and really, poor man, he looked so lonely sitting there in the bow-window, and had such a sinking-in at his chest, with just nothing else but getting no exercise in the way of talking. I always say, Mrs. Harcourt, a little bit of chat is the finest thing in the world for anybody that's delicate; it stretches the lungs nicely, you know. I don't think for my own part I should ever have been reared up to years of discretion if it hadn't been for having a conversational tendency--it kept my chest always supplied with fresh air; and I'm sure, if Mr. Smithson reaps no other benefit from his second marriage, it will be quite a con sideration to have some one who will keep his
internal economy nicely aired by means of a bit of chat now and then."
That's a new view of the subject, and ought to be very conducive to second marriages; but I want to know, Miss Gabbatis, how it came about ?”
“Of course, and that's just what I came to tell you. I said to myself, as soon as ever he was safely out of the house, “Well, I must go and get a cup of tea with Mrs. Harcourt on the strength of this. As I was telling you before, you know, there's never been anything but civility between us on account of my position as an unmarried female, and I was so very much afraid of any reports getting about—as we live so near together, you see — that really I felt quite twittery whenever I met Mr. Smithson, and I was turning it over in my own mind whether it wouldn't be better to give over sitting so much in that little parlour of mine, and live entirely to the back, to disarm suspicion, you know, if such a thing should happen to exist in the village. And I had just fixed to measure the width of my upstairs windows, and get some black gauze blinds made, because you see they're so very near to Mr. Smith
son's, on the opposite side, and I couldn't slip upstairs on a sudden to tidy my front hair without running the risk of being overlooked ; and that, you know, isn't a pleasant thing to meditate upon for an unmarried female in my position, is it now, Mrs. Harcourt ?”
“ Not exactly, but we haven't come to the kernel of the matter yet.”
“ We're not very far from it though, if you'll only let me come to it like a crab, sideways. You know I always was remarkable for little flying discussions when I'm telling anything, and I like to put things shipshape as I go along. Well, then, as I was going to say, I was reared up at my front bedroom window, measuring it for a black gauze blind, when I heard a knock at the door, and my maid brought me up a note from Mr. Smithson, requesting the favour of an interview at my earliest convenience, and saying that the bearer would wait for an answer. Well, you see, it was rather inconvenient, for I happen to have been very much taken up with odds and ends this week. Last Tuesday, when the note came, was our fortnight's wash; then, of course, after