Anne Severn and the Fieldings (Chapter 6, page 1 of 8)


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Chapter 6

i Something awful had happened. Adeline had told Anne about it.

It seemed that Colin in his second year at Cambridge, when he should
have given his whole mind to reading for the Diplomatic Service, had had
the imprudence to get engaged. And to a girl that Adeline had never
heard of, about whom nothing was known but that she was remarkably
handsome and that her family (Courthopes of Leicestershire) were, in
Adeline's brief phrase, "all right."

From the terrace they could see, coming up the lawn from the goldfish
pond, Colin and his girl.

Queenie Courthope. She came slowly, her short Russian skirt swinging out
from her ankles. The brilliance of her face showed clear at a distance,
vermilion on white, flaming; hard, crystal eyes, sweeping and flashing;
bobbed hair, brown-red, shining in the sun. Then a dominant, squarish
jaw, and a mouth exquisitely formed, but thin, a vermilion thread drawn
between her staring, insolent nostrils and the rise of her round chin.

This face in its approach expressed a profound, arrogant indifference to
Adeline and Anne. Only as it turned towards Colin its grey-black eyes
lowered and were soft dark under the black feathers of their brows.

Colin looked back at it with a shy, adoring tenderness.

Queenie could be even more superbly uninterested than Adeline. In
Adeline's self-absorption there was a passive innocence, a candor that
disarmed you, but Queenie's was insolent and hostile; it took possession
of the scene and challenged every comer.

"Hallo, Anne!" Colin shouted. "How did you get here?"

"Motored down."

"I say, have you got a car?"

"Only just."

"Drove yourself?"

"Rather."

Queenie scowled as if there were something disagreeable to her in the
idea that Anne should have a car of her own and drive it. She endured
the introduction in silence and addressed herself with an air of
exclusiveness to Colin.

"What are we going to do?"

"Anything you like," he said.

"I'll play you singles, then."

"Anne might like to play," said Colin. But he still looked at Queenie,
as she flamed in her beauty.

"Oh, three's a rotten game. You can't play the two of us unless Miss
Severn handicaps me."

"She won't do that. Anne could take us both on and play a decent game."

Queenie picked up her racquet and stood between them, beating her skirts
with little strokes of irritated impatience. Her eyes were fixed on
Colin, trying, you could see, to dominate him.

"We'd better take it in turns," he said.

"Thanks, Col-Col. I'd rather not play. I've driven ninety-seven miles."

"Really rather?"

Queenie backed towards the court.

"Oh, come on, Colin, if you're coming."

He went.

"What do you think of Queenie?" Adeline said.

"She's very handsome."

"Yes, Anne. But it isn't a nice face. Now, is it?"

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