Mr. Thomas was a member of the drapery firm, a man of fifty, ugly and austere. At this description the listeners giggled and uttered exclamations.
‘Was he a swell?’ asked one.
’Shouldn’t wonder if he was. You can trust Miss M. to keep her eyes open. She’s one of the sly and quiet ‘uns.’
‘Oh, is she?’ murmured another enviously. ’She’s just one of those as gets made a fool of—that’s my opinion.’
The point was argued for some minutes. It led to talk about Miss Eade, who was treated with frank contempt because of her ill-disguised pursuit of a mere counter-man. These other damsels had, at present, more exalted views, for they were all younger than Miss Eade.
Just before one o’clock, when silence had reigned for a quarter of an hour, there entered with much bustle the last occupant of the bedroom. She was a young woman with a morally unenviable reputation, though some of her colleagues certainly envied her. Money came to her with remarkable readiness whenever she had need of it. As usual, she began to talk very loud, at first with innocent vulgarity; exciting a little laughter, she became anecdotic and very scandalous. It took her a long time to disrobe, and when the candle was out, she still had her richest story to relate—of point so Rabelaisian that one or two voices made themselves heard in serious protest. The gifted anecdotist replied with a long laugh, then cried, ‘Good-night, young ladies!’ and sank peacefully to slumber.
As for Monica, she saw the white dawn peep at the window, and closed her tear-stained eyes only when the life of a new week had begun noisily in Walworth Road.
A CAMP OF THE RESERVE
In consequence of letters exchanged during the week, next Sunday brought the three Miss Maddens to Queen’s Road to lunch with Miss Barfoot. Alice had recovered from her cold, but was still ailing, and took rather a gloomy view of the situation she had lately reviewed with such courage. Virginia maintained her enthusiastic faith in Miss Nunn, and was prepared to reverence Miss Barfoot with hardly less fervour. Both of them found it difficult to understand their young sister, who, in her letters, had betrayed distaste for the change of career proposed to her. They were received with the utmost kindness, and all greatly enjoyed their afternoon, for not even Monica’s prejudice against a house, which in her own mind she had stigmatized as ‘an old-maid factory,’ could resist the charm of the hostess.