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The Beckoning Fair One
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As Oleron sat by his fire that evening, pondering Miss Bengough's
prognostication that difficulties awaited him in his work, he came to the
conclusion that it would have been far better had she kept her beliefs to herself.
N man does a thing better fir having his confidence damped at the outset, and to
speak of difficulties is in a sense to make them. Speech itself becomes a
deterrent act, to which other discouragements accrete until the very event of
which warning is given is as likely as not to come to pass. He hardly confounded
her. An influence hostile to the completion of Romilly had been born.
And in some illogical, dogmatic way women seem to have, she had attached this
antagonistic influence to his new abode. Was ever anything so absurd! "You'll
never finish Romilly He moved his chair to look round the room that smiled,
positively smile, in the firelight. He too smiled, as if pity was to be entertained for
a maligned apartment. Even that slight lack of robust colour he had remarked
was not noticeable in the soft glow. The drawn chintz curtains---they had a
flowered and trellised pattern, with baskets and oaten pipes----fell in long quiet
folds to the window-seats; the rows of bindings in old bookcases took the light
richly; the last trace of sallowness had gone with the daylight; and, if the truth
must be told, it had been Elsie himself who had seemed a little out of the picture.
That reflection struck him a little, and presently he returned to it. Yes, the rom
had, quite accidentally, done Miss Bengough a disservice that afternoon. It ad, in
some subtle but unmistakable way, paced hr, marked a contrast of qualities.
Assuming for the sake of argument the slightly ridiculous proposition that the
room in which Oleron saw was characterised by a certain sparsity and lack of
vigour; so much the worse for Miss Bengough; she certainly erred on the side of
redundancy and c=general muchness. And if one must contrast abstract
qualities, Oleron inclined to the austere in taste. . .
Yes, here Oleron had made a distinct discovery; he wondered he had not made it
before. He picture Miss Bengough again as she had appeared that afternoon--
large, showy, moistly pink, with that quality of the prize bloom exuding, as it were
from here; and instantly she suffered in his thought. He even recognised now that
he had noticed something odd at the time, and that unconsciously his attitude,
even while he had been there, had been one of criticism. The mechanism of her
was a little obvious; her melting humidity was the result of analysable processes;
and behind her there had seem to lurk some dim shape emblemtic of mrtality. He
had never, during the ten years of their intimacy, dreamed for a moment of
asking her to mrry him; none the less, he now felt for the first time a thankfulness
that he had not done so . . .
Then, suddenly and swiftly, his face flamed that he should be thinking thus of his
friend. What! Elsie Bengough, with whom he had spent weeks and weeks of
afternoons--she, the good chum, on whose help he would have counted had all
the rest of the world failed him--she, whose loyalty to him would not, he knew,
swerve as long as there was breath in her--Elsie to be even in thought dissected
thus! He was an ingrate and a cad . . .