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that came the mangling and ironing and folding, and putting away the things, so that really I'd no time for interviews; and, besides, I'd got my best dress to pieces to be cleaned, and I'm sure I haven't another fit to receive a gentleman in. But, as an answer was wanted on the spot, I fixed Thursday-yesterday, you know -- and then went on measuring for the gauze blind, intending to go to Marbrook next day to buy the stuff.
“ Well, do you know, I felt this interview on my mind very much. I couldn't think whatever was to come of it, and I'd a presentiment that something unpleasant was going to happen. You know servants are incautious sometimes, and it wasn't at all clear to me but what my maid had been opening out to Mr. Smithson's cook, as I've noticed of late that they always contrive to be scouring down the front steps together, and make a very long business of it, so much so, in fact, that I invariably have to ring the back parlour bell for Betsy before I can get her in again. And then I turned it over in my thoughts if ever I'd chanced to say anything in the course of conversation which could have been nipped up. and put about to make mischief, because, being, you know, of a chatty turn of disposition, I do slip out a good many remarks from time to time; and really, when I was saying my prayers at night, it quite disturbed my thoughts; but I committed it to Providence, and then curled my hair as nicely as I could, ready for the interview."
“On the principle of the union of church and state," said Mrs. Harcourt.
“ Exactly so; just what I say when I see the multiplication table on the back of the Assembly's Shorter Catechism. And a very good principle, too: capital thing for this country is church and state. Well, when I got up in the morning, I didn't take my hair out of paper as I generally do, because it threatened for dampness; and if you remember, Mrs. Harcourt, it did turn out very damp yesterday, and nothing takes the curl out of hair so soon. So I left the papers in, and then told the maid to light a fire in the front parlour, and get the holland covers taken off, and set the ornaments about, and make the room look as genteel as she could; for you know it was my first interview with Mr. Smithson, and I felt it necessary to rise to the dignity of the situation, and represent my position in a proper light. And I took my dear brother's portrait out of the cupboard, and hung it up in a good light, that he might see I had connections in the church. You know it has his autograph, Peter Gabbatis, underneath, so that everybody may see he belongs to my family. And then, as three o'clock drew on, I put on my second-best dress. It was so exceedingly unfortunate the other one with the green stripes was in pieces, for green suits my complexion so much better; however, I made out the difference as well as I could by a nice collar and neck riband, and then took my netting and sat down in the front room to wait for him." :
“Feeling slightly perturbed ?”
“Why, yes, Mrs. Harcourt; I can't say but what I was a little bit all-overish, and I felt my nose growing very red, as it always does when I get excited; but as I'd left the whole affair to Providence, I thought I couldn't do better than let it stay there, especially as I didn't know
what to make of it myself. Well, exactly as the clock struck three he came, and I rose to receive him with a pleasing consciousness of looking as well as circumstances would permit — though, of course, I couldn't help regretting the green stripes, and I really would have given anything to have been able to have turned round and just given a look into the chimney-glass to see my general effect; but you know that wouldn't have answered. Well, then, you know, I requested him to be seated, taking good care to. keep him a proper distance from the window, because, you see, if Miss Tim or Mrs. Sharrup had happened to have come past and seen such a thing as a widower sitting in my front parlour, it would have been all over the village directly. And then I waited to hear what was coming, feeling sure, you know, it would be some piece of unpleasantness or other connected with the scouring of the front steps. Well, we began to talk about the weather. I told him what sort of a day it was, and he told me what sort of a night it had been; and then we both expressed our opinion that the dampness would
turn out rain. After that I couldn't think of anything else to say, though in a general way I'm so very chatty, and often wish that people could talk in short-hand, that they might get more into the time. And he didn't seem as if he could think of anything either, and really it was getting very awkward. Well, at long last, when I'd netted a whole row, and felt the colour settling into the end of my nose as fast as it could go; he began to fidget about as if something was coming, and hoped I would excuse his mentioning the subject so abruptly, but it had been on his mind for some time, and he had only been waiting for a suitable opportunity of expressing it. Of course I prepared myself for something unpleasant, and began to think what I could say.”
“ And instead of that it turned out to be "
“Exactly, my dear Mrs. Harcourt, that is just what it turned out to be; the very thing, neither more nor less, but just that.”
“ And you replied of course that you preferred remaining at the bottom of the basket, as you found the place such a very comfortable one?”