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HOME > Inspiring Novel > The Spoils of Poynton > CHAPTER XV
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 Mrs. Brigstock, in the doorway1, stood looking from one of the occupants of the room to the other; then they saw her eyes attach themselves to a small object that had lain hitherto unnoticed on the carpet. This was the biscuit of which, on giving Owen his tea, Fleda had taken a perfunctory nibble2: she had immediately laid it on the table, and that subsequently, in some precipitate4 movement, she should have brushed it off was doubtless a sign of the agitation5 that possessed6 her. For Mrs. Brigstock there was apparently7 more in it than met the eye. Owen at any rate picked it up, and Fleda felt as if he were removing the traces of some scene that the newspapers would have characterized as lively. Mrs. Brigstock clearly took in also the sprawling8 tea-things and the mark as of high water in the full faces of her young friends. These elements made the little place a vivid picture of intimacy9. A minute was filled by Fleda's relief at finding her visitor not to be Mrs. Gereth, and a longer space by the ensuing sense of what was really more compromising in the actual apparition10. It dimly occurred to her that the lady of Ricks had also written to Waterbath. Not only had Mrs. Brigstock never paid her a call, but Fleda would have been unable to figure her so employed. A year before the girl had spent a day under her roof, but never feeling that Mrs. Brigstock regarded this as constituting a bond. She had never stayed in any house but Poynton where the imagination of a bond, one way or the other, prevailed. After the first astonishment11 she dashed gayly at her guest, emphasizing her welcome and wondering how her whereabouts had become known at Waterbath. Had not Mrs. Brigstock quitted that residence for the very purpose of laying her hand on the associate of Mrs. Gereth's misconduct? The spirit in which this hand was to be laid our young lady was yet to ascertain12; but she was a person who could think ten thoughts at once—a circumstance which, even putting her present plight13 at its worst, gave her a great advantage over a person who required easy conditions for dealing14 even with one. The very vibration15 of the air, however, told her that whatever Mrs. Brigstock's spirit might originally have been, it had been sharply affected16 by the sight of Owen. He was essentially17 a surprise: she had reckoned with everything that concerned him but his presence. With that, in awkward silence, she was reckoning now, as Fleda could see, while she effected with friendly aid an embarrassed transit18 to the sofa. Owen would be useless, would be deplorable: that aspect of the case Fleda had taken in as well. Another aspect was that he would admire her, adore her, exactly in proportion as she herself should rise gracefully19 superior. Fleda felt for the first time free to let herself "go," as Mrs. Gereth had said, and she was full of the sense that to "go" meant now to aim straight at the effect of moving Owen to rapture20 at her simplicity21 and tact22. It was her impression that he had no positive dislike of Mona's mother; but she couldn't entertain that notion without a glimpse of the implication that he had a positive dislike of Mrs. Brigstock's daughter. Mona's mother declined tea, declined a better seat, declined a cushion, declined to remove her boa: Fleda guessed that she had not come on purpose to be dry, but that the voice of the invaded room had itself given her the hint.  
"I just came on the mere23 chance," she said. "Mona found yesterday, somewhere, the card of invitation to your sister's marriage that you sent us, or your father sent us, some time ago. We couldn't be present—it was impossible; but as it had this address on it I said to myself that I might find you here."
"I'm very glad to be at home," Fleda responded.
"Yes, that doesn't happen very often, does it?" Mrs. Brigstock looked round afresh at Fleda's home.
"Oh, I came back from Ricks last week. I shall be here now till I don't know when."
"We thought it very likely you would have come back. We knew of course of your having been at Ricks. If I didn't find you I thought I might perhaps find Mr. Vetch," Mrs. Brigstock went on.
"I'm sorry he's out. He's always out—all day long."
Mrs. Brigstock's round eyes grew rounder. "All day long?"
"All day long," Fleda smiled.
"Leaving you quite to yourself?"
"A good deal to myself, but a little, to-day, as you see, to Mr. Gereth,—" and the girl looked at Owen to draw him into their sociability24. For Mrs. Brigstock he had immediately sat down; but the movement had not corrected the sombre stiffness taking possession of him at the sight of her. Before he found a response to the appeal addressed to him Fleda turned again to her other visitor. "Is there any purpose for which you would like my father to call on you?"
Mrs. Brigstock received this question as if it were not to be unguardedly answered; upon which Owen intervened with pale irrelevance25: "I wrote to Mona this morning of Miss Vetch's being in town; but of course the letter hadn't arrived when you left home."
"No, it hadn't arrived. I came up for the night—I've several matters to attend to." Then looking with an intention of fixedness26 from one of her companions to the other, "I'm afraid I've interrupted your conversation," Mrs. Brigstock said. She spoke27 without effectual point, had the air of merely announcing the fact. Fleda had not yet been confronted with the question of the sort of person Mrs. Brigstock was; she had only been confronted with the question of the sort of person Mrs. Gereth scorned her for being. She was really, somehow, no sort of person at all, and it came home to Fleda that if Mrs. Gereth could see her at this moment she would scorn her more than ever. She had a face of which it was impossible to say anything but that it was pink, and a mind that it would be possible to describe only if one had been able to mark it in a similar fashion. As nature had made this organ neither green nor blue nor yellow, there was nothing to know it by: it strayed and bleated28 like an unbranded sheep. Fleda felt for it at this moment much of the kindness of compassion29, since Mrs. Brigstock had brought it with her to do something for her that she regarded as delicate. Fleda was quite prepared to help it to perform, if she should be able to gather what it wanted to do. What she gathered, however, more and more, was that it wanted to do something different from what it had wanted to do in leaving Waterbath. There was still nothing to enlighten her more specifically in the way her visitor continued: "You must be very much taken up. I believe you quite espouse30 his dreadful quarrel."
Fleda vaguely31 demurred32. "His dreadful quarrel?"
"About the contents of the house. Aren't you looking after them for him?"
"She knows how awfully33 kind you've been to me," Owen said. He showed such discomfiture34 that he really gave away their situation; and Fleda found............
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