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HOME > Inspiring Novel > The Spoils of Poynton > CHAPTER XXI
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 "It looks just like Waterbath; but, after all, we bore that together:" these words formed part of a letter in which, before the 17th, Mrs. Gereth, writing from disfigured Ricks, named to Fleda the day on which she would be expected to arrive there on a second visit. "I sha'n't, for a long time to come," the missive continued, "be able to receive any one who may like it, who would try to smooth it down, and me with it; but there are always things you and I can comfortably hate together, for you're the only person who comfortably understands. You don't understand quite everything, but of all my acquaintance you're far away the least stupid. For action you're no good at all; but action is over, for me, forever, and you will have the great merit of knowing, when I'm brutally1 silent, what I shall be thinking about. Without setting myself up for your equal, I dare say I shall also know what are your own thoughts. Moreover, with nothing else but my four walls, you'll at any rate be a bit of furniture. For that, you know, a little, I've always taken you—quite one of my best finds. So come, if possible, on the 15th."  
The position of a bit of furniture was one that Fleda could conscientiously2 accept, and she by no means insisted on so high a place in the list. This communication made her easier, if only by its acknowledgment that her friend had some thing left: it still implied recognition of the principle of property. Something to hate, and to hate "comfortably," was at least not the utter destitution3 to which, after their last interview, she had helplessly seemed to see Mrs. Gereth go forth4. She remembered indeed that, in the state in which they first saw it, she herself had "liked" the blessed refuge of Ricks; and she now wondered if the tact5 for which she was commended had then operated to make her keep her kindness out of sight. She was at present ashamed of such obliquity6, and made up her mind that if this happy impression, quenched7 in the spoils of Poynton, should revive on the spot, she would utter it to her companion without reserve. Yes, she was capable of as much "action" as that: all the more that the spirit of her hostess seemed, for the time at least, wholly to have failed. Mrs. Gereth's three minutes with Owen had been a blow to all talk of travel, and after her woeful hour at Maggie's she had, like some great moaning, wounded bird, made her way, with wings of anguish8, back to the nest she knew she should find empty. Fleda, on that dire9 day, could neither keep her nor give her up; she had pressingly offered to return with her, but Mrs. Gereth, in spite of the theory that their common grief was a bond, had even declined all escort to the station, conscious apparently10 of something abject11 in her collapse12 and almost fiercely eager, as with a personal shame, to be unwatched. All she had said to Fleda was that she would go back to Ricks that night, and the girl had lived for days after with a dreadful image of her position and her misery13 there. She had had a vision of her now lying prone14 on some unmade bed, now pacing a bare floor like a lioness deprived of her cubs15. There had been moments when her mind's ear was strained to listen for some sound of grief wild enough to be wafted16 from afar. But the first sound, at the end of a week, had been a note announcing, without reflections, that the plan of going abroad had been abandoned. "It has come to me indirectly17, but with much appearance of truth, that they are going—for an indefinite time. That quite settles it; I shall stay where I am, and as soon as I've turned round again I shall look for you." The second letter had come a week later, and on the 15th Fleda was on her way to Ricks.
Her arrival took the form of a surprise very nearly as violent as that of the other time. The elements were different, but the effect, like the other, arrested her on the threshold: she stood there stupefied and delighted at the magic of a passion of which such a picture represented the low-water mark. Wound up but sincere, and passing quickly from room to room, Fleda broke out before she even sat down. "If you turn me out of the house for it, my dear, there isn't a woman in England for whom it wouldn't be a privilege to live here." Mrs. Gereth was as honestly bewildered as she had of old been falsely calm. She looked about at the few sticks that, as she afterwards phrased it, she had gathered in, and then hard at her guest, as if to protect herself against a joke sufficiently18 cruel. The girl's heart gave a leap, for this stare was the sign of an opportunity. Mrs. Gereth was all unwitting; she didn't in the least know what she had done, and as Fleda could tell her Fleda suddenly became the one who knew most. That counted for the moment as a magnificent position; it almost made all the difference. Yet what contradicted it was the vivid presence of the artist's idea. "Where on earth did you put your hand on such beautiful things?"
"Beautiful things?" Mrs. Gereth turned again to the little worn, bleached19 stuffs and the sweet spindle-legs. "They're the wretched things that were here—that stupid, starved old woman's."
"The maiden20 aunt's, the nicest, the dearest old woman that ever lived? I thought you had got rid of the maiden aunt."
"She was stored in an empty barn—stuck away for a sale; a matter that, fortunately, I've had neither time nor freedom of mind to arrange. I've simply, in my extremity21, fished her out again."
"You've simply, in your extremity, made a delight of her." Fleda took the highest line and the upper hand, and as Mrs. Gereth, challenging her cheerfulness, turned again a lustreless22 eye over the contents of the place, she broke into a rapture23 that was unforced, but that she was conscious of an advantage in being a............
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