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HOME > Inspiring Novel > The Spoils of Poynton > CHAPTER XI
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 The sense of her adversary's dryness, which was ominous1 of something she couldn't read, made Fleda, before complying, linger a little on the terrace; she felt the need moreover of taking breath after such a flight into the cold air of denial. When at last she rejoined Mrs. Gereth she found her erect2 before the drawing-room fire. Their tea had been set out in the same quarter, and the mistress of the house, for whom the preparation of it was in general a high and undelegated function, was in an attitude to which the hissing3 urn4 made no appeal. This omission5, for Fleda, was such a further sign of something to come that, to disguise her apprehension6, she immediately and without an apology took the duty in hand; only, however, to be promptly7 reminded that she was performing it confusedly and not counting the journeys of the little silver shovel8 she emptied into the pot. "Not five, my dear—the usual three," said her hostess, with the same dryness; watching her then in silence while she clumsily corrected her mistake. The tea took some minutes to draw, and Mrs. Gereth availed herself of them suddenly to exclaim: "You haven't yet told me, you know, how it is you propose to 'make' me!"  
"Give everything back?" Fleda looked into the pot again and uttered her question with a briskness9 that she felt to be a little overdone10. "Why, by putting the question well before you; by being so eloquent11 that I shall persuade you, shall act upon you; by making you sorry for having gone so far," she said boldly; "by simply and earnestly asking it of you, in short; and by reminding you at the same time that it's the first thing I ever have so asked. Oh, you've done things for me—endless and beautiful things," she exclaimed; "but you've done them all from your own generous impulse. I've never so much as hinted to you to lend me a postage-stamp."
"Give me a cup of tea," said Mrs. Gereth. A moment later, taking the cup, she replied: "No, you've never asked me for a postage-stamp."
"That gives me a pull!" Fleda returned, smiling.
"Puts you in the situation of expecting that I shall do this thing just simply to oblige you?"
The girl hesitated. "You said a while ago that for me you would do it."
"For you, but not for your eloquence12. Do you understand what I mean by the difference?" Mrs. Gereth asked as she stood stirring her tea.
Fleda, to postpone13 answering, looked round, while she drank it, at the beautiful room. "I don't in the least like, you know, your having taken so much. It was a great shock to me, on my arrival here, to find you had done so."
"Give me some more tea," said Mrs. Gereth; and there was a moment's silence as Fleda poured out another cup. "If you were shocked, my dear, I'm bound to say you concealed14 your shock."
"I know I did. I was afraid to show it."
Mrs. Gereth drank off her second cup. "And you're not afraid now?"
"No, I'm not afraid now."
"What has made the difference?"
"I've pulled myself together." Fleda paused; then she added: "And I've seen Mr. Owen."
"You've seen Mr. Owen"—Mrs. Gereth concurred15. She put down her cup and sank into a chair, in which she leaned back, resting her head and gazing at her young friend. "Yes, I did tell you a while ago that for you I'd do it. But you haven't told me yet what you'll do in return."
Fleda thought an instant. "Anything in the wide world you may require."
"Oh, 'anything' is nothing at all! That's too easily said." Mrs. Gereth, reclining more completely, closed her eyes with an air of disgust, an air indeed of inviting16 slumber17.
Fleda looked at her quiet face, which the appearance of slumber always made particularly handsome; she noted18 how much the ordeal19 of the last few weeks had added to its indications of age. "Well then, try me with something. What is it you demand?"
At this, opening her eyes, Mrs. Gereth sprang straight up. "Get him away from her!"
Fleda marveled: her companion had in an instant become young again. "Away from Mona? How in the world—?"
"By not looking like a fool!" cried Mrs. Gereth very sharply. She kissed her, however, on the spot, to make up for this roughness, and summarily took off her hat, which, on coming into the house, our young lady had not removed. She applied20 a friendly touch to the girl's hair and gave a businesslike pull to her jacket. "I say don't look like an idiot, because you happen not to be one, not the least bit. I'm idiotic21; I've been so, I've just discovered, ever since our first days together. I've been a precious donkey; but that's another affair."
Fleda, as if she humbly22 assented23, went through no form of controverting24 this; she simply stood passive to her companion's sudden refreshment25 of her appearance. "How can I get him away from her?" she presently demanded.
"By letting yourself go."
"By letting myself go?" She spoke26 mechanically, still more like an idiot, and felt as if her face flamed out the insincerity of her question. It was vividly28 back again, the vision of the real way to act upon Mrs. Gereth. This lady's movements were now rapid; she turned off from her as quickly as she had seized her, and Fleda sat down to steady herself for full responsibility.
Her hostess, without taking up her ejaculation, gave a violent poke27 at the fire and then faced her again............
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