“Be careful not to slip,” said Mavis’s conductor.
“Thank you, I won’t,” replied Mavis, who was not in the least danger of losing her foothold.
“’E invented it.”
“This floor wax. It’s Poulter’s patent,” the little woman reverently informed Mavis.
“He must be rather clever!”
“Rather clever! It’s plain you’ve never met ’im.”
Mavis sat down to the piano, but did not do herself justice over the first waltz she played, owing to the faultiness of the instrument. As with many other old pianos, the keys were small; also, the treble was weak and three notes were broken in the bass.
“Try again!” said the little woman dubiously.
By this time, Mavis had mastered the piano’s peculiarities; she played her second waltz resonantly, rhythmically.
“I think you’re up to ‘Poulter’s,’” said the little woman critically, when Mavis had finished. “And what about terms?”
“What about them?” asked Mavis pleasantly.
“It’s a great honour being connected with ‘Poulter’s,’” the little woman hazarded.
“And what with the undercutting and all, on the part of those who ought to know better, it makes it ’ard to make both ends meet.”
“I’m sure it does.”
“But there! We’ll leave it to Mr Poulter.”
“That’s the best thing to do.”
“I’ll see if Mr Poulter’s finished ’is tea.”
Mavis followed the woman across the ballroom, and back to the cloak-room, where she was left alone for quite five minutes. Then the little woman put her head into the room to say:
“Mr Poulter won’t be many minutes now. ’E’s come to the cake,” at which Mavis smiled as she said:
“I can wait any time.”
Mavis already quite liked the odd little woman. She waited some minutes longer, till at last her friend excitedly re-entered to say, in the manner of one conveying information of much moment:
“Mr Poulter is reelly coming on purpose to see you.”
Mavis nerved herself for the ordeal of meeting the dancing-master.
When, a few moments later, Mr Poulter came into the room, his appearance surprised Mavis. She expected and braced herself to interview a person with greasy, flowing locks and theatrical manners; instead, she saw a well-preserved old man with one of the finest faces she had ever seen. He had a ruddy complexion, soft, kindly blue eyes, and a noble head covered with snow-white hair. His presence seemed to infect the coarsely scented air of the room with an atmosphere of refinement and unaffected kindliness. He was shabbily dressed. Directly Mavis saw him, she longed to throw her arms about his neck, to kiss him on the forehead.
He bowed to Mavis before saying: