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  ― 263 ―

(xiv)

No secretary, pallid from five months' voyaging under hatches, was despatched by the Assignment Board to the house in Woolloomooloo. Whether Flusky's refusal to take gentlemen stumped them, whether among the combmakers and dancing masters was none who could handle a pen, Winter's place was not filled; and Miss Milly, coming in to the map-room of an evening with tea, was accustomed to find the master deep in papers, moving lips as he slowly and heavily ciphered.

“It's too bad, Mr. Flusky, as if you hadn't got enough work of your own, with this new school and all.”

“I'm not much of a screever. What's that, tea?”

It was tea every night, and every night he asked the same question. Miss Milly poured a cupful as he liked it, strong, with plenty of sugar.

“Isn't there any writing you'd like to pass on to me?”

“You got your own work, plenty of it.”

“It's not work so much as keeping an eye——” She sat down; another nightly custom. “But of an evening like this I've nothing to do. What's a pair of hands for only to work? Of course there's some thinks different.”

It was as near as she could come to a hit at Lady Henrietta and S. Quaife, idling out their afternoons over poetry, or stitches on canvas no use but to frame. As though Flusky had understood her true meaning—and yet it was his nightly question, invariable as that about the tea—he asked:




  ― 264 ―

“Ladyship all right?”

“Well, Mr. Flusky, you seen and heard her yourself at dinner-time.” But she had something of her own to add. “She's not taking what the doctor said she should take.”

He swallowed his tea, frowning, and put down the cup near her to be refilled.

“You know my views, so to speak. It's not for me to force brandy down anyone's throat, without it's a matter of life and death. Still, I got to speak for myself. She'll be getting the horrors, we'll have her howling round the house like a kangaroo dog, and it's me that'll have to settle with her, not that bit of a girl, and not you neither.”

Miss Milly checked and went on, holding the filled cup out to him:

“Mr. Flusky, what's this girl here for? Ladyship's sick, and I'm paid to put up with her, whatsoever she may do. But there's a thing I won't put up with. Immorality I won't put up with. That you know. And, if I make no mistake, we've got some more of that young man's leavings here.”

Flusky with an impatient movement of his big hand tried to possess the saucer; she held to it, a frail bridge. He took up the cup without it, and walked away to the end of the room. She followed.

“Why, that young Adare before he left, it seems he had this girl's petticoat off of her. I heard them laughing, her and Ladyship; a petticoat, fancy that!” She halted the upward lift of her voice. “Wait on Ladyship,


  ― 265 ―
yes; she's your wife, Mr. Flusky. Wait on Mister Adare's leavings, no. Dead though he may be.”

She was ineffectual and knew it, standing with a blue saucer shaking in her hand, addressing a back that would not turn. She caught at self-control, knowing that to play her old card was to throw up the game, and spoke in another tone:

“Excuse me. I was going to say, come what may, I'd never make trouble for you.”

“Ah,” said he to the map's sterile white spaces, and turning, put down his cup upon the saucer which she automatically held to take it.

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