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HE morning delicacy to which Lady Austell was so subject was due to the fact that 메이저토토 when staying in other people’s houses she found she saw enough of her hosts and fellow-guests if she denied herself the pleasure of their company at breakfast. In all other respects, she was stronger than most horses, and could go through programmes which would have prostrated all but the most robust without any feeling of unpleasant fatigue, provided only that the programmes interested or amused her or in any way furthered her plans. But she really became tired the moment she was bored, and since sitting at breakfast with ten or twelve cheerful people, with the crude morning sunlight perhaps pouring in at a window directly opposite her, bored her very much, she chose the wiser plan of not joining in those public festivities. But with her excellent tact she knew that at a house like Mrs. Osborne’s everybody was expected to come down, to be in admirable spirits and to eat a great deal of solid food, and so she explained to Mrs. Osborne that she never ate any breakfast. Hence it was that about half-past nine next morning her maid carried upstairs a tray groaning with coffee, hot milk, toast, just one poached egg, and a delicious plate of fruit. Mrs. Osborne had given her a very pleasant sitting room next her bedroom, furnished with Messrs. Linkwater’s No. 1 white boudoir{92} suite, for, like half the house, it had been practically unfurnished; and Austell who had ascertained those comfortable facts when he bade his mother good-night the evening before, caused this particular groaning tray to be brought here also and paddled in to join her in carpet slippers and a dressing gown.

“I call this a devilish comfortable house nowadays,” he observed, “which is far more than could be said for it in our time. What a pity the Osbornes and we can’t run it together. They would pay the bills, and we could give tone. I wish it was possible to be comfortable, though poor. But it isn’t. Everything comfortable costs so much. Now, darling mother, let loose, and tell me what you think of it all. Really your—your absence of breakfast looks quite delicious. They have given me chops and beef and things. May I have a piece of your melon?”

Jim and his mother were rather fond of each other, but they seldom met without having a quarrel, for while both were agreed in the general plan of grabbing at whatever of this world’s goods could be appropriated, each despised and, in private, exposed the methods of the other. He, so his mother was afraid, was one of the very few people who was not afraid of her, and she often wished he was. He had lit a cigarette after the bath, and was standing in front of the fireplace, on the thick, white sheepskin rug, smoking the end of it.

“Dear Jim,” she said, “do you think you had better smoke in here? Mrs. Osborne may not like it.”

“Oh, she will think it is you,” said Jim calmly, “and so won’t dare to say anything. She fears you: I ca{93}n’t think why. Now do tell me how it all strikes you. Can you bear it for three days? I can easily; I could bear it for months and years. It is so comfortable. Now what did you and Mrs. Osborne talk about at dinner? Mr. O. and I talked about the Royal Family. Sir Thomas seems a nice man, doesn’t he?”

Lady Austell gave him a very generous share of her half melon; it looked rather like a bribe. She was going to indulge in what Jim called humbug, and hoped he would let it pass.

“I think, dear, as I said to Dora the other day,” she remarked, “that we are far too apt to judge by the surface. We do not take enough account of the real and sterling virtues—honesty, kindness, hospitality—”

Austell cracked his egg.

“I did not take enough account of the effect of hospitality last night,” he remarked, “because I ate too much supper, and felt uncommonly queer when I awoke this morning——”

“You always were rather greedy, my darling,” said Lady Austell softly, scoring one.

“I know. I suppose I inherited it from my deli—I mean cerebral-hæmorrhage grandfather. But I don’t drink.”

This brought them about level. Jim proceeded with a smart and telling stroke.

“I refer my—my failures to my grandfather,” he said, “so whatever you say about our hosts, dear mother, I shall consider that you are only speaking of their previous generations. Their hospitality is unbounded, their kindness prodigious, but I asked you how long{94} you could stand it? Or perhaps the—the polish, the culture, the breeding of our hosts really does seem to you beyond question. Did you see the stuffed crocodile-lizard in the hall? I will give you one for your birthday.”

“I think you are odiously ungrateful, Jim,” she said. “I have got them to take Grote for seven years at a really unheard-of price, and all I get in return is this.”

Jim opened his pale weak eyes very wide.

“What have I done?” he said. “I have only agreed with you about their kindness, and asked your opinion about their breeding.”

“You are sarcastic and backbiting,” said his mother.

“Only as long as you talk such dreadful nonsense, darling mother,” he said. “You don’t indulge in rhapsodies about the honesty of your housemaid. Honesty in a housemaid is a far finer quality than in a millionaire, because millionaires are not tempted to be dishonest, whereas poor people like housemaids or you and me are. Really, I only wanted to have a pleasant little chat about the Osbornes, only you will make it serious, serious and insincere. Let’s be natural. I’ll begin.”

He took one of his mother’s crisp hot rolls, and buttered it heavily.

“I find Mr. and Mrs. O. quite delightful,” he said, “and should have told you so long ago if you had only been frank. I do really. There isn’t one particle of humbug about them, and they have the perfect ease and naturalness of good breeding.”

Lady Austell tossed her head.

“That word again,” she said. “You seem to judge{95} everybody by the standard of a certain superficial veneer, which you call breeding.”

“I know. One can’t help it. I grant you that lots of well-bred people are rude and greedy, but there is a certain way of being rude and greedy which is all right. I’m greedy, so was the cerebral grandpapa, only he was a gentleman and so am I. I’m rude: I don’t get up when you come into the room and open the door for you, and shut the window. Claude—brother Claude—does all these things, and yet he’s a cad.”

“I consider Claude a perfect gentleman,” said Lady Austell with finality.

“I know: that ‘perfect’ spoils it all,” said Jim meditatively. “Now Mr. Osborne is a frank cad—that’s how I put it—and Claude a subtle one. That’s why I can’t stand him.”

“I daresay you’ll do your best to live on him,” said Lady Austell.

“Certainly; though I shall probably succeed without doing my best. It will be quite easy I expect.”

“And do you think that is a gentlemanly thing to do?” asked his mother, “when behind his back you call him a subtle cad?”

“Oh, yes, quite; though no perfect gentleman would dream of doing it. I think Claude has masses of good points: he simply bristles with them, but he gives one such shocks. He goes on swimmingly for a time, and then suddenly says that somebody is ‘noble looking,’ or that the carpet is ‘tasteful’ or ‘superior.’ Now Mr. Osborne doesn’t give one shocks; you know what to expect, and you get it all the time.{96}”

Lady Austell thought this over for a moment; though Austell was quite unsatisfactory in almost all ways of life, it was impossible to regard him as a fool, and he had the most amazing way of being right. Certainly this view of the frank cad and the subtle cad had an air of intense probability about it, but it was one of those things which his mother habitually chose to ignore and if necessary deny the existence of.

“I hope you will not say any of those ridiculous things to Dora,” she remarked.