As Mavis perceived how his ridiculous talk captivated Miss Jennings, it occurred to her that the vanity of women was such, that this instance of one of their number being impressed by a foolish man’s silly conversation was only typical of the manner in which the rest of the sex were fascinated.
MISS ’PETT’S APOTHEOSIS
Mavis was seriously alarmed for Miss Nippett. Her friend was so ill that she insisted upon a doctor being called in. After examining the patient, he told her that Miss Nippett was suffering from acute influenza; also, that complications were threatening. He warned Mavis of the risk of catching the disease, which, in her present condition, might have serious consequences; but she had not the heart to leave her friend to the intermittent care of the landlady. With the money that Miss Nippett instructed her to find in queer hiding-places, Mavis purchased bovril, eggs, and brandy, with which she did her best to patch up the enfeebled frame of the sick woman. Nothing that she or the doctor could do had any permanent effect; every evening, Miss Nippett’s temperature would rise with alarming persistence.
“I wonder if she’s anything on her mind that might account for it,” the doctor said to Mavis, when leaving one evening.
“I don’t see what she could have, unless—”
“I believe she worries about a matter connected with her old occupation. I’ll try and find out,” said Mavis.
“’Ow did ’e say I was?” asked Miss Nippett, as Mavis rejoined her.
“Reely I ain’t. If ’e says I’m better, ’e’d better stay away. That’s the worst of these fash’nable ‘Bush’ doctors; they make fortunes out of flattering people they’re better when they’re not.”
Mavis had more than a suspicion that Miss Nippett’s retarded convalescence was due to not having attained that position in the academy to which she believed her years of faithful service entitled her. Mavis made reference to the matter; the nature of Miss Nippett’s replies converted suspicion into certainty.
The next morning, Mavis called on Mr Poulter, whom she had not seen for two weeks, the increasing physical disabilities of her condition compelling her to give up work at the academy. She found him engaged in the invention of a new country dance for a forthcoming competition. Mavis explained her errand, but had some difficulty in convincing even kindly Mr Poulter of Miss Nippett’s ambitious leanings: in the course of years, he had come to look on his devoted accompanist very much as he regarded “Turpsichor” who stood by the front door. Mavis’s request surprised him almost as much as if he had been told that “Turpsichor” herself ached to waltz with him in the publicity of a long night.
“I don’t believe she’s very long to live,” said Mavis. “If you could make her a partner, merely in an honorary sense, it would make her last days radiantly happy.”