The Odd Women

By George Gissing ; Patricia Ingham | Go to book overview
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13 DISCORD OF LEADERS

A DISAPPOINTMENT awaited him. Miss Barfoot was not well enough to see any one. Had she been suffering long?--he inquired. No; it was only this evening; she had not dined, and was gone to her room. Miss Nunn could not receive him.

He went home, and wrote to his cousin.

The next morning he came upon a passage in the newspaper which seemed to suggest a cause for Miss Barfoot's indisposition. It was the report of an inquest. A girl named Bella Royston had poisoned herself. She was living alone, without occupation, and received visits only from one lady. This lady, her name Miss Barfoot, had been supplying her with money, and had just found her a situation in a house of business; but the girl appeared to have gone through troubles which had so disturbed her mind that she could not make the effort required of her. She left a few lines addressed to her benefactress, just saying that she chose death rather than the struggle to recover her position.

It was Saturday. He decided to call in the afternoon and see whether Mary had recovered.

Again a disappointment. Miss Barfoot was better, and had been away since breakfast; Miss Nunn was also absent.

Everard sauntered about the neighbourhood, and presently found himself in the gardens of Chelsea Hospital. It was a warm afternoon, and so still that he heard the fall of yellow leaves as he walked hither and thither along the alleys. His failure to obtain an interview with Miss Nunn annoyed him; but for her presence in the house he would not have got into this habit of going there. As far as ever from harbouring any serious thoughts concerning Rhoda, he felt himself impelled along the way which he had jokingly indicated in talk with Micklethwaite; he was tempted to make love to her as an interesting pastime, to observe how so strongminded a woman would conduct herself under such circumstances. Had she, or not, a vein of sentiment in her character? Was it impossible to move her as other women are moved?--Meditating thus he looked up, and saw the subject of his thoughts. She was seated a few yards away, and seemingly had not yet become aware

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