UNCLE MAX BREAKS THE ICE
Uncle Max was one of those men who like to take their own way about things; he never hurried himself, or allowed other people’s impatience to get the better of him. ’There is a time for everything, as Solomon says,’ was his favourite speech when any one reproached him with procrastination; ’depend upon it, the best work is done slowly. What is the use of so much hurry? When death comes we shall be sure to leave something unfinished.’
So for two whole days he just chatted commonplaces with Aunt Philippa, rallied Sara, who loved a joke, and talked politics with Uncle Brian, and never mentioned one word about my scheme; if I looked anxiously at him he pretended to misunderstand my meaning, and, in fact, behaved from morning to night in a most provoking way.
At last I could bear it no longer, and one wet afternoon, when I knew he was in the drawing-room, making believe to write his letters, but in reality getting a deal of amusement out of Sara’s sprightly conversation, for she was never silent for two minutes if she could help it, I shut myself up in my own room, and would not go near him. I knew he would ask where Ursula was every half-hour, and would soon guess that I was out of humour about something; and possibly in an hour or two his conscience would prick him, and he would feel that I deserved reparation.
This little piece of ill-tempered artifice bore excellent fruit, for before I had nearly finished the piece of plain sewing I had set myself as a sort of penance, there was a tap at the door, and Sara came in, looking very excited, with her bright eyes full of wonder.
’Oh, Ursula, there is such a fuss downstairs! Uncle Max has been telling us all about your absurd scheme. Mother is as cross as possible; she is so angry, and yet half crying at the same time.’
‘And Uncle Brian,’ I exclaimed eagerly,—’what does he say?’
’Oh, you know father’s way. He just smiled as though the whole thing were beneath his notice, and went on reading his paper, and when mother appealed to him he said, coolly, that it was none of his business or hers either if Ursula chose to make a fool of herself; she had the right to do so,—something like that, you know.’
‘How very pleasant!’ I remarked satirically, for I hated the way Uncle Brian put down his foot on things that displeased him. I preferred Aunt Philippa’s voluble arguments to that.
‘To make things worse,’ went on Sara cheerfully, ’Mrs. Fullerton and Lesbia have come in, and mother and Mrs. Fullerton are trying which can talk the faster. Lesbia asked for you, and then did not speak another word. What shall you do, Ursula, dear?’
‘I shall just go down and ask Aunt Philippa for a cup of tea,’ I returned coolly, folding up my work. Sara looked half frightened at my boldness, and then she began to laugh.