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Chapter Twenty-Two

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« on: September 29, 2023, 11:14:30 am »

MISS SILVER was going out to tea. She very often went out to tea on Sundays, and although this was no very special occasion it would be quite pleasant. A friend of her niece Ethel had recently come to live in Putney. Miss Silver had invited her to tea and found her agreeable, and this was a return visit. The afternoon being exceptionally mild, she wore her summer dress, now two years old, a navy blue artificial silk upon which a number of discordant colours were scattered in what looked like an imitation of the Morse code. In deference to her idea of what was suitable, the skirt displayed no more than three or four inches of grey lisle thread stocking and black Oxford shoe. In case it should be chilly before she got back, she wore over it an old but still serviceable coat of black alpaca, and on her neat mousy hair a black straw hat with a glace ribbon bow and a kind of trail of purple pansies. The neck of the dress was filled in by a cream net chemisette with a high boned collar and securely fastened by a brooch with a heavy gold border and a centre of plaited hair. Black cotton gloves, rather a shabby handbag, and a neat umbrella completed her toilet.

As she passed through her sitting-room on the way to the door she cast an approving glance about her. It was so comfortable, so cosy. The peacock-blue curtains were wearing so well, and the carpet really hardly looked at all rubbed even when the sun came slanting in. She considered her own prosperous lot with deep thankfulness. The curtains; the carpet; the curly yellow maple chairs upholstered in the same bright shade; the writing-table with its many drawers; the steel engravings of her favourite pictures---The Soul's Awakening, The Black Brunswicker, Bubbles, and The Monarch of the Glen; the row of silver-framed photographs upon the mantelpiece---all spoke to her of the comfortable independence she had, under Providence, achieved by her own intelligent exertions.

She went down in the lift, walked a quarter of a mile, and entered a Tube station. Half a dozen people were queued up for tickets as she took her place at the end of the row and waited whilst a lady whose dyed hair had seen better days argued at length with the harassed elderly man behind the pigeonhole as to whether she could or could not get a connection for some place whose name she appeared to have forgotten. A little grey-haired man in front of Miss Silver put up his hand to his mouth and said "Balmy!" in a loud stage whisper. Behind her two women were talking about a girl called Janice. One of them had the high fluting voice of Mayfair, the other sounded elderly and rather cross.

Miss Silver listened because there wasn't anything else to do, and because the name Janice was strange to her. She wondered if she had heard it rightly. Perhaps they had said Janet. No, there it was again, and with a surname this time---Janice Meade.

The cross woman said, "I always thought her a most unreliable girl."

And the other, "Rather charming, don't you think?"

"Oh, charm---I suppose so, if you like that sort of thing! Of course everyone in the college knew you couldn't trust a word she said."

There was a high fluting laugh.

"My dear, how crushing! Poor Janice---she wasn't really a bad little thing. Too much imagination---that's all. Do you know where she is?"

"Still down at Bourne, I believe. I haven't seen her for an age."

The queue began to move forward. The voices began to talk of something else. Miss Silver made a mental note of a new and rather attractive name and proceeded on her way to tea with Ethel's friend.
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