He walked towards the door and turned.
“I’ll leave it to the first person who does something for me without expecting any return.... By the way, what do I owe you?”
And Peter Reid went away exceeding sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
“It is the only set of the kind I ever met with in which you are neither led nor driven, but actually fall, and that imperceptibly into literary topics; and I attribute it to this, that in that house literature is not a treat for company upon invitation days, but is actually the daily bread of the family.”—Written of Maria Edgeworth’s home.
Pamela Reston stood in Bella Bathgate’s parlour and surveyed it disconsolately.
It was papered in a trying shade of terra-cotta and the walls were embellished by enlarged photographs of the Bathgate family—decent, well-living people, but plain-headed to a degree. Linoleum covered the floor. A round table with a red-and-green cloth occupied the middle of the room, and two arm-chairs and six small chairs stood about stiffly like sentinels. Pamela had tried them all and found each one more unyielding than the next. The mantelshelf, painted to look like some uncommon kind of marble, supported two tall glass jars bright blue and adorned with white raised flowers, which contained bunches of dried grasses ("silver shekels” Miss Bathgate called them), rather dusty and tired-looking. A mahogany sideboard stood against one wall and was heavily laden with vases and photographs. Hard lace curtains tinted a deep cream shaded the bow-window.
“This is grim,” said Pamela to herself. “Something must be done. First of all, I must get them to send me some rugs—they will cover this awful floor—and half a dozen cushions and some curtains and bits of embroidery and some table linen and sheets and things. Idiot that I was not to bring them with me!... And what could I do to the walls? I don’t know how far one may go with landladies, but I hardly think one could ask them to repaper walls to each stray lodger’s liking.”
Miss Bathgate had not so far shown herself much inclined for conversation. She had met her lodger on the doorstep the night before, had uttered a few words of greeting, and had then confined herself to warning the man to watch the walls when he carried up the trunks, and to wondering aloud what anyone could want with so much luggage, and where in the world it was to find room. She had been asked to have dinner ready, and at eight o’clock Pamela had come down to the sitting-room to find a coarse cloth folded in two and spread on one-half of the round table. A knife, a fork, a spoon lay on the cloth, flanked on one side by an enormous cruet and on the other by four large spoons, laid crosswise, and a thick tumbler. An aspidistra in a pot completed the table decorations.
The dinner consisted of stewed steak, with turnip and carrots, and a large dish of potatoes, followed by a rice pudding made without eggs and a glass dish of prunes.