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Arthur Stuart-Menteth Hutchinson
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 343 pages of information about If Winter Comes.

He broke off.  “Hullo, Mabel!  Hullo!  Did you get my letter?  I’m coming up.”

Mabel was in a wrapper at the head of the stairs.  He ran up.  “I’m simply filthy.  Do you mind?” He took her hand.

She said, “I never dreamt you’d be here at this hour.  How are you, Mark?  Yes, I got your letter.  But I never expected you till this evening.  It’s very annoying that nothing is ready for you.  Sarah, something is burning in the kitchen.  I shouldn’t stand there, Rebecca, with so much to be done; and I think you’ve forgotten your cap.  Miss Bright,—­oh, she’s gone.”

Just the same Mabel!  But he wasn’t going to let her be the same!  He had made up his mind to that as he had come along with eager strides from the station.  She turned to him and they exchanged their greetings and he went on, pursuing his resolution, “Look here, I’ve got a tremendous idea.  When I get through this cadet business I shall have quite a bit of leave and my Sam Browne belt.  I thought we’d go up to town and stick up at an hotel—­the Savoy or somewhere—­and have no end of a bust.  Theatres and all the rest of it.  Shall we?”

That chilly, vexed manner of hers, caused as he well knew by the uproar of his arrival, disappeared.  “Oh, I’d love to.  Yes, do let’s.  Now you want a bath, don’t you?  I’m annoyed there was all that disturbance just when I was meeting you.  I’ve been having a little trouble lately—­”

“Oh, well, never mind that now, Mabel.  Come and watch me struggle out of this pack.  Yes, look here, as soon as ever I know for certain when the course ends we’ll write for rooms at the Savoy.  I hear you have to do it weeks ahead.  We’ll spend pots of money and have no end of a time.”

She reflected his good spirits.  Ripping!  He splashed and wallowed in the bath, singing lustily one of the songs out there: 

“Ho, ho, ho, it’s a lovely war!”

VI

But the three days at home were not to go on this singing note.  They were marred by the discovery that his suspicion was well founded; she was bullying Effie.  He began to notice it at once.  Effie, with whom he had anticipated a lot of fun, was different:  not nearly so bright; subdued; her eyes, not always, but only by occasional flashes, sparkling that intense appreciation of the oddities of life that had so much attracted him in her.  Yes, dash it, Mabel was treating her in a rotten way.  Bullying.  No, it was not exactly bullying, it was snubbing, a certain acid quality always present in Mabel’s voice when she addressed her,—­that and a manner of always being what he thought of as “at her.”  The girl seemed to have an astonishing number of quite trivial duties to perform—­trivial; there certainly was no suggestion of her being imposed upon as he had always felt Miss Bypass up at the vicarage was imposed upon, but Mabel was perpetually and acidly “at her” over one trivial thing or another.  It was forever, “Miss Bright, I think you ought to be in the morning room, oughtn’t you?” “Miss Bright, I really must ask you not to leave your door open every time you come out of your room.  You know how I dislike the doors standing open.”  “Miss Bright, if you’ve finished your tea, there’s really no need for you to remain.”

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