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A lame horse, a run of bad luck on the turf, your servants rob you; what's that in comparison with- ah! well, least said soonest mended, I suppose.”
“Not at all,” interrupts his wife, sharply. “Now you have favoured us with so much, we should like to hear the rest."
Fortunately at this juncture the servant appears with lunch. Guy seats himself obediently at the table, with a glass of claret and a biscuit, while Mrs. Vivian regales him with a dozen little scandals fresh from home. The door opens again, and some one comes in quietly—some one whose eyes meet Guy's as he rises. She impresses him, even at that first glance, not that she is beautiful, but there is a nameless grace, a perfect ease, an elegance about her that instinctively attract him. .“ Milly ! this is my old friend Guy Wentworth—you have often heard me speak of
him ? Mrs. Scarlett, Sir Guy Wentworth."
She smiles at him, and says, “I have often heard of you.” And Guy thinks, What a charming voice!
Mrs. Scarlett takes the chair Mr. Vivian has placed for her, and begins to eat. Guy is divided between a desire to look at her, and the feeling that it is not usual or polite to stare at people when they are eating. -"I am afraid I'm rather late,” she says.
"Time was made for slaves," responds Mr. Vivian. “Surely no man would be so unreasonable as to expect a lady to take count of time during a shopping expedition ? ”,
“I feel the rebuke." “No rebuke intended, I assure you. I am only too charmed to think you are amused. But seriously, I wonder now how many years of her life a woman spends in shopping ?”
“ Years ! how absurd you are, Charles !" Mrs. Vivian interrupts.
“Not at all absurd—if the average of people who live to seventy sleep twentythree years, and eat for eight, it is not difficult to imagine that a woman may get through a considerable number at her milliner's and haberdasher's.”
"Well, and if we do, a very good thing too !-it makes time seem wonderfully short; and how on earth should we get through it if we didn't amuse ourselves in some way." • “Improving your mind !" with a dash of sarcasm.
“Unfortunately, as you say, I have no mind to improve,” retorts Mrs. Vivian. : "I am not at all sure that men are so totally indifferent to dress,” says Mrs. Scarlett, coming to therescue ;“though I wouldn't for an instant accuse you of such lightness” (with a comic little glance at Mr. Vivian, who prides himself upon not giving in to
modern innovations). “You see, men have so little scope for fancy in their present dress; but, in the good old times, when they were allowed to wear silks and velvets and laces, to paint their faces and put on patches, I daresay they thought almost as much about dress as we do."
"I like to see ladies nicely dressed,” says Guy, feeling a desire to be on Mrs. Scarlett's side, whatever turn the discussion may take.
“So do all sensible men,” she answers, smiling at him. : “Oh, nicely-dressed is another matter. But what do you mean by nicely ?-because a woman may be nicely dressed in a cotton
"A woman might, not a lady," maintains Guy. “Silk and lace and velvet are proper wear for ladies” (after a surreptitious glance at Mrs. Scarlett's costume, which is.composed of all three).
“Then you get from nice to extravagant!"
“No, not extravagant,” says Guy, warming to his argument. “I'll change my sentence if I must, and say I like to see a lady handsomely dressed.”
"And I say that women think too much about dress, and spend a great deal too much money upon it. No man thinks any the better of them for it-only a few fools who like to encourage them in their vanity !".
“Do you admit the soft impeachment, Sir Guy ?” asks Mrs. Scarlett, lifting her long lids and looking at him with smiling eyes.
Guy feels an enormous magnetic attraction towards her—he would like to sit and stare at her without saying a word. He is so entranced at meeting her eyes that he almost forgets to answer for a moment. She is obliged to say, “Do you ?” again, and drop her eyes, while the faintest trace of colour mounts to her cheek.