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Christopher and Columbus
Countess Elizabeth Von Arnim
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At the head of the table sat his mother; long, straight, and grave. She was in the seat of
authority, the one with its back to the windows and its face to the door, from whence she
could see what everybody did, especially Amanda. Having seen what Amanda did, she
then complained to Edith. She didn't complain direct to Amanda, because Amanda
could and did give notice.
Her eyes were fixed on the door. Between it and her was the table, covered with
admirable things to eat, it being supper and therefore, according to a Twist tradition
surviving from penurious days, all the food, hot and cold, sweet and salt, being brought
in together, and Amanda only attending when rung for. Half-eaten oyster patties lay on
Mrs. Twist's plate. In her glass neglected champagne had bubbled itself flat. Her hand
still held her fork, but loosely, as an object that had lost its interest, and her eyes and
ears for the last five minutes had not departed from the door.
At first she had felt mere resigned annoyance that Amanda shouldn't have answered
the bell, but she didn't wish to cast a shadow over Edward's homecoming by drawing
poor Edith's attention before him to how very badly she trained the helps, and therefore
she said nothing at the moment; then, when Edith, going in search of Amanda, had
opened the door and let in sounds of argument, she was surprised, for she knew no one
so intimately that they would be likely to call at such an hour; but when Edward too leapt
up, and went out and stayed out and failed to answer her repeated calls, she was first
astonished, then indignant, and then suddenly was overcome by a cold foreboding.
Mrs. Twist often had forebodings, and they were always cold. They seized her with
bleak fingers; and one of Edith's chief functions was to comfort and reassure her for as
long a while each time as was required to reach the stage of being able to shake them
off. Here was one, however, too icily convincing to be shaken off. It fell upon her with
the swiftness of a revelation. Something unpleasant was going to happen to her;
something perhaps worse than unpleasant,—disastrous. And something immediate.
Those excited voices out in the hall,—they were young, surely, and they were feminine.
Also they sounded most intimate with Edward. What had he been concealing from her?
What disgracefulness had penetrated through him, through the son the neighbourhood
thought so much of, into her very home? She was a widow. He was her only son.
Impossible to believe he would betray so sacred a position, that he whom she had so
lovingly and proudly welcomed a few hours before would allow his—well, she really
didn't know what to call them, but anyhow female friends of whom she had been told
nothing, to enter that place which to every decent human being is inviolable, his
mother's home. Yet Mrs. Twist did instantly believe it.
Then Edward's voice, raised and defiant—surely defiant?—came through the crack in
the door, and every word he said was quite distinct. Anna; supper; affection ... Mrs.