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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Serio-comic Governess - Chapter 11
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The Serio-comic Governess - Chapter 11 Post by :blakekr Category :Long Stories Author :Israel Zangwill Date :May 2012 Read :2873

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The Serio-comic Governess - Chapter 11

CHAPTER XI

The next morning, as she sat answering advertisements, the programme-girl knocked at the door of the bedroom and announced that Mr. Maper had called.

Eileen turned red. It was too disconcerting. Would he never take "no" for an answer? "I won't see him. I can't see him," she cried.

The girl departed and returned. "Oh, Miss O'Keeffe, he begs so for only one word."

"The word is 'no.'"

"After he's been so kind as to bring your box down!"

"Oh, has he? Then the word is 'thanks.'"

"Please, miss, would you mind giving it to him yourself?"

"Who's Irish, you or I? I won't speak to him at all, I tell you."

"But I don't like to send him away like that, when he's been so kind to mother."

"When has he been kind to your mother?"

"Those grapes you brought--"

"That was old Mr. Maper."

"So is this."

"Oh!" Eileen was quite taken aback, for once. "All right, I'll go into the parlour."

He was infinitely courteous and apologetic. He had been very anxious about her. Why had she been so unkind as to leave, and without ever a good-by to him?

"Oh, hasn't your wife told you, then?"

"She has told me you were rude, and that you left without notice, and she wants me to prosecute you. I suppose you lost your temper. You found her rather difficult."

"I found her impossible," said Eileen, frigidly.

"Yes, yes, I understand." He was flushed and unhappy. "You found her impossible to live with?"

Eileen nodded; she would have added "or to make a lady of," but he looked so purple and agitated that she charitably forbore. She was wondering whether Mrs. Maper could really have been so mean as to omit her share in the quarrel, but he went on eagerly:--

"Quite so, quite so. And what do you think it has been for me?"

She murmured inarticulate sympathy.

"Ah, if you only knew! Oh, my dear Miss O'Keeffe, while you've been in the house, it's been like heaven."

"I'm glad I've given satisfaction," she said drily.

"Then what do you give by going? I assure you the day you came to the works it was like heaven there too."

"You forget the temperature," Eileen smiled. "However, it was a very nice day, and I thank you. But I can't come back after--"

"Who asks you to come back?" he broke in. "No, I should be sorry to see you again in a menial position, you with your divine gifts of beauty and song. The idea of your getting a new place," he added with a fall into prose, "makes me feel sick."

"I value your sympathy, but it is misplaced," she replied freezingly.

"Sympathy! It isn't sympathy! It's jealousy. Oh, my dear Miss O'Keeffe!" He seized her limp hand. "Eileen! Let me help you--"

As the true significance of his visit, and of the purple agitation, dawned upon her, the grim humour of the position overbore every other feeling. Her hand still in his, she began to laugh, and no biting of her lips could do more than change the laugh into an undignified snigger. Instead of profiting by his grip of her, he dropped her hand suddenly as if a hose had been turned on his passion, and this surrender of her hand reduced Eileen to a passable gravity.

"I'm very sorry, Mr. Maper. But really, life is too horribly amusing."

"I'm very sorry it's me that affords you amusement," he said stiffly.

"No, it isn't you at all, it's just the whole thing. You've been most kind all along. And I dare say you mean to be kind now. But I don't really need any help. Your wife's threats of prosecution are ridiculous, she made my longer stay impossible. I could more justly claim a month's notice from her."

"That's what I thought. I've brought you a month's salary." He fumbled in his pocket-book.

"Don't trouble. I shall not accept it."

"You shall," he said sternly. "Or I'll prosecute you."

Eileen's laugh rang out clear. This time he laughed too.

"Now, don't you call life amusing?" she said. "Here am I to take a cheque under penalty of having to pay it."

"Well, which shall it be?"

"Such a cheque is charming." And she held out her hand. He put the cheque in it and shook both warmly. They parted, the best of friends.

"Come to me for a character, of course," he said.

"Don't you come to me," replied Eileen, with a roguish smile.

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The Serio-comic Governess - Chapter 12 The Serio-comic Governess - Chapter 12

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CHAPTER XIIEileen's next place was--as if by contrast--with a much more genteel family, and a much poorer, though it flew higher socially. It lived in a house, half in a fashionable London terrace, half in a shabby side street, and its abode was typical of its ambitions and its means. Mrs. Lee Carter drew the line clearly between herself and her governess, which was a blessing, for it meant Eileen's total exclusion from her social life, and Eileen's consequent enjoyment of her own evenings at home or abroad, as she wished. This unusual freedom compensated for the hard work of teaching
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The Serio-comic Governess - Chapter 10 The Serio-comic Governess - Chapter 10

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CHAPTER XWhile packing her big box, she had decided to try to lodge that night with a programme-girl she had got to know at the Theatre Royal, and the motive that set her pace was the desire to find her before she had started for the theatre. The girl usually hovered about Mrs. Maper's box. Once Eileen had asked her why she wasn't in evidence the week before. "Lord, miss," she said, "didn't you recognise me on the stage?" Eileen thus discovered that the girl sometimes figured as a super, when travelling companies came with sensational pieces, relying upon local talent,
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