Mrs Brangwen turned round with a slightly puzzled, exasperated look. `Oh indeed!' she said. `What is there so very funny about me, I should like to know?'

She could not understand that there could be anything amiss with her appearance. She had a perfect calm sufficiency, an easy indifference to any criticism whatsoever, as if she were beyond it. Her clothes were always rather odd, and as a rule slip-shod, yet she wore them with a perfect ease and satisfaction. Whatever she had on, so long as she was barely tidy, she was right, beyond remark; such an aristocrat she was by instinct.

`You look so stately, like a country Baroness,' said Ursula, laughing with a little tenderness at her mother's naive puzzled air.

`Just like a country Baroness!' chimed in Gudrun. Now the mother's natural hauteur became self-conscious, and the girls shrieked again.

`Go home, you pair of idiots, great giggling idiots!' cried the father inflamed with irritation.

`Mm-m-er!' booed Ursula, pulling a face at his crossness.

The yellow lights danced in his eyes, he leaned forward in real rage.

`Don't be so silly as to take any notice of the great gabies,' said Mrs Brangwen, turning on her way.

`I'll see if I'm going to be followed by a pair of giggling yelling jackanapes --' he cried vengefully.

The girls stood still, laughing helplessly at his fury, upon the path beside the hedge.

`Why you're as silly as they are, to take any notice,' said Mrs Brangwen also becoming angry now he was really enraged.

`There are some people coming, father,' cried Ursula, with mocking warning. He glanced round quickly, and went on to join his wife, walking stiff with rage. And the girls followed, weak with laughter.

When the people had passed by, Brangwen cried in a loud, stupid voice:

`I'm going back home if there's any more of this. I'm damned if I'm going to be made a fool of in this fashion, in the public road.'

He was really out of temper. At the sound of his blind, vindictive voice, the laughter suddenly left the girls, and their hearts contracted with contempt. They hated his words `in the public road.' What did they care for the public road? But Gudrun was conciliatory.

`But we weren't laughing to hurt you,' she cried, with an uncouth gentleness which made her parents uncomfortable. `We were laughing because we're fond of you.'

`We'll walk on in front, if they are so touchy,' said Ursula, angry. And in this wise they arrived at Willey Water. The lake was blue and fair, the meadows sloped down in sunshine on one side, the thick dark woods dropped steeply on the other. The little pleasure-launch was fussing out from the shore, twanging its music, crowded with people, flapping its paddles. Near the boat-house was a throng of gaily-dressed persons, small in the distance. And on the high-road, some of the common people were standing along the hedge, looking at the festivity beyond, enviously, like souls not admitted to paradise.

`My eye!' said Gudrun, sotto voce, looking at the motley of guests, `there's a pretty crowd if you like! Imagine yourself in the midst of that, my dear.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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