Gentle Julia (Chapter Two, page 1 of 14)


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It was a pretty room, lightly scented with the pink geraniums and blue lobelia and coral fuchsias that poised, urgent with colour, in the window-boxes at the open windows. Sunshine paused delicately just inside, where forms of pale-blue birds and lavender flowers curled up and down the cretonne curtains; and a tempered, respectful light fell upon a cushioned chaise longue; for there fluffily reclined, in garments of tender fabric and gentle colours, the prettiest twenty-year-old girl in that creditably supplied town.

It must be said that no stranger would have taken Florence at first glance to be her niece, though everybody admitted that Florence's hair was pretty. ("I'll say that for her," was the family way of putting it.). Florence did not care for her hair herself; it was dark and thick and long, like her Aunt Julia's; but Florence--even in the realistic presence of a mirror--preferred to think of herself as an ashen blonde, and also as about a foot taller than she was. Persistence kept this picture habitually in her mind, which, of course, helps to explain her feeling that she was justified in wearing that manner of superciliousness deplored by her mother. More middle-aged gentlemen than are suspected believe that they look like the waspen youths in the magazine advertisements of clothes; and this impression of theirs accounts (as with Florence) for much that is seemingly inexplicable in their behaviour.

Florence's Aunt Julia was reading an exquisitely made little book, which bore her initials stamped in gold upon the cover; and it had evidently reached her by a recent delivery of the mail, for wrappings bearing cancelled stamps lay upon the floor beside the chaise longue. It was a special sort of book, since its interior was not printed, but all laboriously written with pen and ink--poems, in truth, containing more references to a lady named Julia than have appeared in any other poems since Herrick's. So warmly interested in the reading as to be rather pink, though not always with entire approval, this Julia nevertheless, at the sound of footsteps, closed the book and placed it beneath one of the cushions assisting the chaise longue to make her position a comfortable one. Her greeting was not enthusiastic.

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