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The Hand of Ethelberta

17. Ethelberta's House
After such successes as these, Christopher could not forego
the seductive intention of calling upon the poetess and
romancer, at her now established town residence in
Exonbury Crescent. One wintry afternoon he reached the
door--now for the third time--and gave a knock which had in
it every tender refinement that could be thrown into the
somewhat antagonistic vehicle of noise. Turning his face
down the street he waited restlessly on the step. There was
a strange light in the atmosphere: the glass of the street-
lamps, the varnished back of a passing cab, a milk-woman's
cans, and a row of church-windows glared in his eyes like
new-rubbed copper; and on looking the other way he beheld
a bloody sun hanging among the chimneys at the upper end,
as a danger-lamp to warn him off.
By this time the door was opened, and before him stood
Ethelberta's young brother Joey, thickly populated with little
buttons, the remainder of him consisting of invisible green.
'Ah, Joseph,' said Christopher, instantly recognizing the boy.
'What, are you here in office? Is your--'
Joey lifted his forefinger and spread his mouth in a genial
manner, as if to signify particular friendliness mingled with
general caution.
'Yes, sir, Mrs. Petherwin is my mistress. I'll see if she is at
home, sir,' he replied, raising his shoulders and winking a
wink of strategic meanings by way of finish--all which signs
showed, if evidence were wanted, how effectually this
pleasant young page understood, though quite fresh from
Wessex, the duties of his peculiar position. Mr. Julian was
shown to the drawing-room, and there he found Ethelberta
alone.
She gave him a hand so cool and still that Christopher, much
as he desired the contact, was literally ashamed to let her
 
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