فصل 02

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CHAPTER TWO

Everyone was very kind to me. But it took me some time to realize that the thing I had always wanted - freedom - was mine at last. I was very poor, but free. At the same time I realized the kindness of all these people. The vicar did his best to persuade me that his wife needed someone to help her at home. Our tiny library decided to have an assistant librarian. Finally, the doctor suggested I should marry him. I was astonished. The doctor was almost forty, a round, fat little man.

‘It’s extremely kind of you,’ I said. ‘But I could never marry a man unless I loved him completely.’

He sighed. ‘But, my dear child, what will you do?’

‘Have adventures and see the world,’ I replied. ‘I’m going to London. If things happen anywhere, they’ll happen in London. I will look out for exciting opportunities and you’ll hear of me next in China or Timbuctoo.’

My next visitor was Mr Flemming, Papa’s London lawyer. He took my hands and spoke to me kindly.

‘My poor child. Your father was a very great man. But he was not good at business.’

I knew that better than Mr Flemming, but I had to listen politely while he told me that my father had only left me 87 pounds.

‘Well, well, my dear, we must see what can be done.’ He hesitated, and then said, Would you like to come to stay with us for a time?’

London! The place for things to happen.

‘It’s very kind of you,’ I said. While I’m looking for work. I must earn my living, you know?’

‘Yes, yes, my dear child. That is agreed then. My wife will be delighted to welcome you.’

I wonder if husbands know as much about their wives as they think they do.

I was a little nervous of meeting Mrs Flemming. Mr Flemming was nervous too, I realized, as we went up the stairs of the tall house in a quiet Kensington square. Mrs Flemming greeted me pleasantly enough. A large, quiet woman, she took me up to a lovely bedroom, told me that tea would be ready in a quarter of an hour, and left me. I heard her voice raised as she entered the drawing-room below.

‘Well, Henry, why on earth…’ I could not hear the rest, but a few minutes later her voice was raised again and she was much more annoyed, ‘I agree! She is very good-looking.’

It is really a very hard life. Men will not be nice to you if you are not good-looking, and women will not be nice to you if you are.

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