The Beckoning Fair One
It piqued Oleron a little that his friend, Miss Bengough, should dismiss with a
glance the place he himself had found so singularly winning. Indeed she scarcely
lifted her eyes to it. But then she had always been more or less like that--a little
indifferent to the graces of life, careless of appearances, and perhaps a shade
more herself when she ate biscuits from a paper bag than when she dined with
greater observance of the convenances. She was an unattached journalist of
thirty-four, large, showy, fair as butter, pink as a dog-rose, reminding one of a
florist's picked specimen bloom, and given to sudden and ample movements and
moist and explosive utterances. She "pulled a better living out of the pool" (as
she expressed it) than Oleron did; and by cunningly .disguised puffs of drapers
and haberdashers she "pulled" also the greater part of her very varied wardrobe.
She left small whirlwinds of air behind her when she moved, in which her veils
and scarves fluttered and spun.
Oleron heard the flurry of her skirts on his staircase and her single loud knock at
his door when he had been a month in his new abode. Her garments brought in
the outer air, and she flung a bundle of ladies' journals down on a chair.
"Don't knock off for me," she said across a mouthful of large-headed hatpins as
she removed her hat and veil. "I didn't know whether you were straight yet, so
I've brought some sandwiches for lunch. You've got coffee, I suppose? --No,
don't get up--I'll find the kitchen-----"
"Oh, that's all right, I'll clear these things away. To tell the truth, I'm rather glad to
be interrupted," said Oleron.
He gathered his work together and put it away. She was already in the kitchen;
he heard the running of water into the kettle. He joined her, and ten minutes later
followed her back to the sitting-room with the coffee and sandwiches on a tray.
They sat down, with the tray on a small table between them.
"Well, what do you think of the new place?" Oleron asked as she poured out
"Hm! ... Anybody'd think you were going to get married, Paul."
"Oh no. But it's an improvement on some of them, isn't it?"
"Is it? I suppose it is; I don't know. I liked the last place, in spite of the black
ceiling and no watertap. How's Romilly?" Oleron thumbed his chin.
"Hm! I'm rather ashamed to tell you. The fact is, I've not got on very well with it.
But it will be all right on the night, as you used to say."
" Got any of it you care to read to me? . . ."
Oleron had long been in the habit of reading portions of his work to Miss
Bengough occasionally. Her comments were always quick and practical,
sometimes directly useful, sometimes indirectly suggestive. She, in return for his
confidence, always kept all mention of her own work sedulously from him. His,